Learning About Trade

49 Pages Posted: 7 May 2024

Date Written: April 22, 2024


How do citizens form their opinions on international trade? A growing body of literature in international political economy has employed informational experiments to explore whether personal economic well-being or non-economic concerns shape trade views, yet these studies often target incorrect parameters and rely on imprecise information treatments. I introduce a comprehensive framework for studying trade opinion formation that diverges from conventional experimental methods by explicitly measuring beliefs, documenting the entire trajectory of belief and opinion changes, and providing precise information interventions. Using a survey experiment on a nationally representative sample of Americans, I show that, despite widespread misperceptions, respondents are able to form more accurate beliefs, in a manner consistent with rational (Bayesian) updating, when given expert information about the economic consequences of trade. Moreover, information affects stated support for trade policies only through its impact on beliefs. I further offer the evidence that the impact of economic self-interest on trade opinion is at least as significant as that of non-economic factors. In addition, I find that non-economic factors like party affiliation, race, and the identity of the trading partner do not result in biased information processing.

Keywords: Trade Preference; Experimental Design; Survey Experiment; Public Opinion

Suggested Citation

She, Hongyi, Learning About Trade (April 22, 2024). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4803318 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4803318

Hongyi She (Contact Author)

University of Rochester ( email )

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