Poll: Despite Anti-Trade Rhetoric, Record Majorities See Benefits of Trade for US

August 14, 2017

Despite anti-trade rhetoric over the last year, record numbers of people in the United States think trade is good for the economy, jobs, and consumers, according to new public opinion data from the 2017 Chicago Council Survey. These results mark the first time that a majority of U.S. residents have said that trade creates jobs.

Ahead of renegotiation between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, a narrow majority of the U.S. public supports the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). While a solid majority Americans believe that Canada practices trade fairly with the United States, public perceptions of Mexico's trading practices are mixed. Meanwhile, public attitudes toward NAFTA have become extremely partisan: Over the past decade, the percentage of Democrats who think the deal is good for the U.S. economy has soared to 71 percent while the percentage of Republicans who agree has dropped to 34 percent.

The full report is available online.

Key Trade Findings from the 2017 Chicago Council Survey:

  • Record numbers say that international trade is good for the U.S. economy (72 percent) and U.S. consumers (78 percent). For the first time in the Chicago Council Survey, a majority of U.S. residents now state that trade is good for creating jobs in the United States (57 percent).
  • A majority thinks NAFTA is good for the U.S. economy (53 percent).
  • Partisan divides on NAFTA have widened significantly, largely due to Democrats’ increase in support for the agreement (from 41 percent in 2008 to 71 percent today). To a lesser extent, Republican support has decreased (from 43 percent in 2008 to 34 percent today).
  • Half of the U.S. public thinks that trade deals benefit both the United States and other countries (50 percent). But a third say that such deals mainly benefit other countries (34 percent). Only seven percent think trade deals mostly benefit the United States.

Perspectives on Mexico and Canada's Trading Practices

  • Majorities describe Canada’s trade practices with the United States as fair (79 percent), though Republicans are now less likely to feel this way than before (75 percent today compared to 92 percent when asked in 2012). Eight in ten Democrats (83 percent) view Canada as practicing free trade.
  • Americans are divided between those who say they believe that Mexico is practicing fair (47 percent) or unfair (46 percent) trade with the United States.
  • Just 28 percent of Republicans think Mexico practices fair trade with the United States, the lowest level since 2002. In contrast, 60 percent of Democrats believe Mexico is a fair trader, the highest proportion ever recorded in the past 15 years.
  • Core Trump supporters are the least likely to view Mexico as practicing fair trade (20 percent). Their views are similar to the views of Republicans in general on Canadian trade practices (73 percent fair).

For the complete report, including partisan breakdowns and graphics, please click here.