Poll: Trade is popular in swing states, among Democrats

Trade is more popular with voters in swing states than the presumptive Democratic and Republican presidential nominees might think, especially among Democrats, according to a new poll.

Voters in four battleground states — Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Ohio — expressed positive views about the U.S. expanding trade, even while Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump call for major changes to the nation’s global commercial outreach.

{mosads}A new Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) poll on Wednesday shows that by a 55 to 32 percent margin swing-state voters say that new high-standard trade deals can help the U.S. economy and support good-paying jobs.

Democrats are particularly supportive, 66 to 25 percent. 

All four states will play an out-sized role in who wins the presidency in November. 

President Obama is trying to convince Congress to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) before he leaves office but he faces widespread Democratic opposition on Capitol Hill and among major labor unions.

In an article for RealClearPolicy, PPI’s Will Marshall and Ed Gerwin argue that voters roundly reject the idea that the United States can prosper by walling off its borders from the global economy. They also don’t believe that ending current trade agreements will make the nation’s manufacturers or workers better off. 

Trump has said he would slap high tariffs on countries like China and would scrap all U.S. trade agreements and renegotiate them to get better terms for workers. 

Marshall and Gerwin said the poll revealed that voters understand that American companies and workers face intense competition in a complex global economy and know that there are no simple solutions. 

“As we’ve detailed, protectionism is bad economics,” Marshall and Gerwin wrote.

“But, apparently, it’s been good politics for Trump as well as Bernie Sanders, both of whom used trade-bashing populism to energize angry voters during primary elections, where extreme partisans often play an outsized role,” they wrote.

“And Trump promises to double down on opposition to trade as he pivots toward November.”

Marshall and Gerwin say that as time ticks away toward the general election in November that “Trump — and Hillary Clinton — will face a different political calculus on trade.”

Clinton has said she opposes the TPP in its current form and that she wants a better deal for the U.S. economy and workers. 

The new poll, conducted by Democratic pollster Peter Brodnitz, shows that these voters want the United States to step up its global game, not pull back. 

The poll shows that 75 percent, including 73 percent of swing voters and 82 percent of Democrats, said that a strong economy requires a reliance on heavy trade with other countries.

“Our poll’s findings suggest that to prevail with swing voters and in swing states, Democrats, in particular, will need to craft messages and support policies that transcend protectionism — that recognize trade’s role in supporting American prosperity, acknowledge the complexity of global competition and highlight the benefits of high-standard trade agreements,” Marshall and Gerwin wrote.

On overwhelming majority — 90 percent — say the United States must create an environment that enables companies here to compete against foreign businesses, “and a strong majority believe that workers can and should benefit from company success.”

Of the voters concerned about U.S. manufacturing jobs moving overseas, about 66 percent, and 72 percent of Democrats, say the biggest threat to job losses comes primarily from greater foreign competition rather than from the “bad trade agreements” that Trump and Sanders often discuss. 

Similarly, when asked to choose among policies to keep jobs in America, 67 percent chose either lowering corporate tax rates or educating more highly skilled workers.

Only 19 percent said that ending trade agreements was the solution.

More than 85 percent said that higher levels of education and training and increased investment in infrastructure are keys to advancing the U.S. economy.

When asked to evaluate trade agreements with strong labor and environmental standards, 55 percent said they believe these agreements can help the economy and create good paying jobs; only 32 percent felt that the costs of high-standard deals outweigh the benefits. 

“To address this legitimate frustration and build a stronger economy for all, it’s critical that the nation do more to help alienated Americans left behind by the global economy,” they wrote.

“This will require stronger backing for real, broadly supported solutions — such as enhancing job training and improving infrastructure — that can help assure that trade’s undeniable benefits are more widely shared.”

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