Winners and Losers in International Trade: The Effects on U.S. Presidential Voting

Posted: 12 Oct 2018

See all articles by J. Bradford Jensen

J. Bradford Jensen

Georgetown University - Department of Strategy/Economics/Ethics/Public Policy; Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics

Dennis P. Quinn

Georgetown University - Department of Strategy/Economics/Ethics/Public Policy

Stephen Weymouth

Georgetown University

Date Written: September 20, 2018

Abstract

International trade directly influences US presidential elections. We explore the electoral implications of the increasing tradability of services and the large US surplus in services trade. Our paper builds on prior work showing that job insecurity from import competition in manufacturing diminishes political support for incumbents. We construct novel measures of the tradability of an industry using establishment-level data covering nearly all US economic activity. We find increases in incumbent party vote shares in counties with large numbers of workers in high-skilled tradable services as well as goods, and decreases in counties with high employment in low-skilled manufacturing. Incumbent parties are particularly vulnerable to losing votes in swing states with many low-skilled manufacturing workers. In national-level models, we show for the first time that increasing imports (exports) are associated with decreasing (increasing) presidential incumbent vote shares. The national-level effects are large and politically consequential. We also find an Electoral College incentive to protect the manufacturing sector and to oppose trade agreements.

Keywords: International Trade, U.S. Presidential Elections, Services Trade

JEL Classification: F1, F5, D72

Suggested Citation

Jensen, J. Bradford and Quinn, Dennis P. and Weymouth, Stephen, Winners and Losers in International Trade: The Effects on U.S. Presidential Voting (September 20, 2018). International Organization, Vol. 71, No. 3, 423-457, Summer 2017; doi:10.1017/S0020818317000194; Georgetown McDonough School of Business Research Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3252612

J. Bradford Jensen

Georgetown University - Department of Strategy/Economics/Ethics/Public Policy ( email )

Washington, DC 20057
United States

Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics ( email )

1750 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
United States

Dennis P. Quinn (Contact Author)

Georgetown University - Department of Strategy/Economics/Ethics/Public Policy ( email )

Washington, DC 20057
United States

Stephen Weymouth

Georgetown University

Washington, DC 20057
United States

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