Poll: Majorities of Americans Support TPP, Say Trade is Good for US Economy

September 7, 2016

As President Obama reiterates his plan to send the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal to Congress before the end of his term, new data from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs show that American public support for globalization is at one of the highest levels the Council survey has ever registered.

The survey, conducted June 10-27, finds that—despite anti-trade positions of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton—a majority of the American public believes free trade is beneficial to the U.S. economy and consumers. The main concern for many Americans—as it has been in the past—is concentrated on the threat trade poses to job security. 

Bipartisan Public Support for Globalization

  • Two out of three Americans (65 percent) say that globalization, especially the increasing connections of our economy with others around the world, is mostly good for the United States (compared to 34 percent who say that it is mostly bad), with majorities across the political spectrum expressing a positive view.
  • Three in four (74 percent) self-described Democrats say that globalization is mostly good—a high water mark and similar to 2014. These views are similar among core Clinton and Sanders supporters (76 percent vs. 75 percent).
  • A smaller overall majority of self-described Republicans (59 percent) say globalization is mostly good, though only 50 percent of core Trump supporters are positive versus 62 percent of Republicans who preferred other candidates.
  • Independents’ views are similar to Republicans, with 61 percent saying globalization is mostly good, continuing an upward trend dating back to 2010.


Six in Ten Overall Support the Trans-Pacific Partnership

  • Six in ten Americans (60 percent) support the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), down slightly from support in 2015 (64 percent) and 2014 (63 percent).
  • Specifically, 71 percent of Democrats, 58 percent of Republicans and 52 percent of Independents support the trade deal.
  • Among Democrats, fewer core Sanders supporters, but still a majority, favor the TPP (56 percent, vs. 74 percent of core Clinton supporters).
  • Among Republicans, only 47 percent of core Trump supporters support the TPP, while 58 percent of those who supported another candidate favor signing the deal.


Americans Say Trade Good for U.S. Economy, Bad for Job Security

  • About six in ten Americans say that international trade is good for the U.S. economy (59 percent), American companies (57 percent) and their own standard of living (64 percent). An even larger majority say that international trade is good for American consumers (70 percent).
  • However, only 35 percent say it is good for job security for American workers, and 40 percent say the same about creating jobs in the United States.
  • Younger Americans, the college-educated, those with higher incomes and non-whites are generally more likely than other groups to say that free trade is good for the U.S. economy, U.S. companies, consumers and standard of living. There are little to no demographic differences on evaluations of free trade’s impact on jobs and job security. See full brief for details.


Republicans Less Supportive of Trade Than Democrats

  • The survey shows that roughly two in three Democrats and half of Republicans say that trade benefits the U.S. economy (Democrats: 68 percent, Republicans: 51 percent) and American companies (Democrats: 65 percent, Republicans: 50 percent).
  • Larger majorities of Democrats than Republicans also say that trade has been good for U.S. consumers (Democrats: 75 percent, Republicans: 66 percent) as well as their own standard of living (Democrats: 72 percent, Republicans: 60 percent).
  • Moreover, larger minorities of Democrats than Republicans say that trade is good for creating jobs (Democrats: 47 percent, Republicans: 34 percent) and job security for American workers (Democrats: 41 percent, Republicans: 30 percent).
  • Core Trump supporters are considerably less likely than Republicans who supported a non-Trump candidate to say that international trade is good for the U.S. economy (40 percent core Trump vs. 57 percent other candidate), consumers like them (54 percent vs. 73 percent) and their own standard of living (49 percent vs. 65 percent).


About the Chicago Council Survey

The analysis in this report is based on data from the 2016 Chicago Council Survey of the American public on foreign policy. The 2016 Chicago Council Survey was conducted by GfK Custom Research using their large-scale, nationwide online research panel between June 10-27, 2016 among a national sample of 2,061 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

The margin of error ranges ±2.2 to ±3.5 percentage points, depending on the specific question. The margin of error is higher for partisan subgroups (Republicans ±5.8, Democrats ±5.1, Independents ±5.3) and for analysis of core candidate supporters (±7.2 to 10.3 points among Democrats; ±7.9 to 11.2 points among Republicans). Partisan identification is based on respondents’ answer to a standard partisan self-identification question: “Generally speaking, do you usually think of yourself as a Republican, a Democrat, an independent, or what?”

Respondents were asked two separate questions about voting preferences. The first asked “If the presidential election were being held today and the candidates were Hillary Clinton, the Democrat or Donald Trump, the Republican, for whom would you vote? The response categories were randomized. The second question, which we used to determine core Clinton, Sanders, and Trump supporters asked “Regardless of your voting preference in the previous question, who was your top choice for president among the following candidates – Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, or other (specify)?” These response options were also randomized.

The 2016 Chicago Council Survey is made possible by the generous support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Korea Foundation, and the personal support of Lester Crown and the Crown family.