Interpreting American Public Opinion on International Trade: How Should Asia Respond?


Marcus Noland

East-West Wire


Honolulu, HI: East-West Center

Publication Date: 23 August 2019
Binding: electronic
Pages: 2
Free Download: PDF


Since he was elected, President Trump's protectionist moves have been supported by many Americans. There are two broad interpretations of why Americans have become increasingly hostile toward both trade and immigration. The first emphasizes economic distress. The second focuses on cultural factors, specifically anxiety among white Americans about their group’s position within the U.S. and about America’s standing abroad. If the turn toward protectionism is being driven by conventional economic factors, then it is possible that public policy interventions could mitigate the impact of negative trade shocks and support the re-establishment of a political consensus in the U.S. for open trade. If, however, the drivers of public opinion are less-malleable identity or cultural issues, then the scope for constructive policy intervention becomes much less clear.