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Record Number of Americans Say International Trade Is Good for the US Economy

RESEARCH Public Opinion Survey by Brendan Helm, Alexander Hitch, and Dina Smeltz
Flags outside of NATO Headquarters
Reuters

This survey finds that though Republicans and Democrats differ on whether President Trump’s strategy is an effective approach to trade policy, the American public is more likely than ever to say that international trade benefits the US.

Key Findings

President Donald Trump has embarked on an ambitious and disruptive trade agenda, driven by his belief that the United States has lost “many billions of dollars” to trading partners and that “trade wars are good, and easy to win.”1 During his term, the president has escalated trade tensions with China; has renegotiated trade agreements with countries such as Mexico, Canada, and South Korea; and has withdrawn US involvement in trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The 2019 Chicago Council Survey finds that though Republicans and Democrats differ on whether President Trump’s strategy is an effective approach to trade policy, the American public is more likely than ever to say that international trade benefits the United States.

  • 83 percent of Americans think international trade is good for American companies, a 25 percentage point increase from when it was last asked in 2016.
  • Nearly nine in ten Americans (87%) say that international trade is good for the US economy, the highest recorded in Chicago Council Surveys since the question was first asked in 2004.
  • 63 percent of Americans now believe trade deals between the United States and other countries benefit both sides, up from 50 percent in 2017.
  • Americans are deeply divided on whether to increase tariffs on Chinese products with 47 percent supporting it and 51 percent opposing it.
  • 77 percent of Americans favor complying with World Trade Organization (WTO) rulings against the United States.

Methodology

The analysis in this report is based on data from the 2019 Chicago Council Survey of the American public on foreign policy, a project of the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy. The 2019 Chicago Council Survey was conducted June 7-20, 2019 by IPSOS using their large-scale nationwide online research panel, KnowledgePanel, among a weighted national sample of 2,059 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is ±2.3, including a design effect of 1.1607. The margin of error is higher for partisan subgroups or for partial-sample items.

About the Authors
Research Assistant
Council expert Brendan Helm
Brendan Helm is a research assistant for the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy and Public Opinion teams at the Council. After earning his undergraduate degree in international relations from the College of William and Mary, he worked at Teaching, Research, and International Policy—a survey project which examined the gap between academia and policymaking.
Council expert Brendan Helm
Research Associate
Council expert Alexander Hitch
Alexander Hitch is a research associate for the Global Cities team at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. His expertise is in the global economy. He coordinates various projects at the Council, focusing mainly on global economic and trade policy, and contributes to work on the importance of cities in global affairs and Midwestern economic development.
Council expert Alexander Hitch
Senior Fellow, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy
Headshot for Dina Smeltz
Dina Smeltz, a polling expert, has more than 25 years experience designing and fielding international social and political surveys. Prior to joining the Council to lead its annual survey of American attitudes on US foreign policy, she served in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the US State Department's Office of Research from 1992 to 2001.
Headshot for Dina Smeltz