Support for Free Trade Recovers Despite Recession

  • April 28, 2009

Despite the economic recession, public support for free trade agreements has recovered after declining a year ago. Currently, 44% say that free trade agreements like NAFTA and the policies of the World Trade Organization are good for the country, up from 35% a year ago, according to the Pew Research Center. Slightly more than a third (35%) say that such agreements and policies are bad for the country, down from 48% in April 2008.

The current balance of opinion is more in line with long-term trends when compared with the April 2008 measure. Last year marked the first time in a measure dating to 1997 that a plurality viewed free trade agreements and policies negatively. The current measure is identical to December 2006 and comparable with opinions in 2005 and 2004. Support for NAFTA and other free trade agreements in policies peaked at 49% in early September 2001; at that time, 29% said they were bad for the country.

Other recent national surveys also have found increases in support for foreign trade over the past year. In a survey conducted April 3-5 by CNN/Opinion Research Corp., 56% said they viewed foreign trade “more as an opportunity for economic growth through increased U.S. exports,” while 40% said they viewed foreign trade as “a threat to the economy from foreign imports.” In June 2008, a narrow majority (51%) said that foreign trade represented more of a threat rather than an opportunity for the U.S. economy.

Read the full report Support for Free Trade Recovers Despite Recession on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press' Web site.