PRINCETON, N.J. — More than four in 10 Americans say they don’t know enough to say whether the U.S. should end its participation in free trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Among Americans who do have an opinion, 28% favor withdrawing from trade treaties, and the same percentage oppose it.
[Frank Newport| April 28, 2016 | Gallup]
Gallup measured this proposal as part of a series of tests of how Americans react to ideas that presidential candidates have enunciated this year. Several candidates — particularly Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders — have campaigned on ending these trade agreements. The 28% agreement ranks this issue near the bottom of the list of more than 50 proposals tested, partly reflecting the higher percentage who don’t have an opinion, but also a result of the split opinion.
Trump believes that trade agreements have been poorly negotiated,saying the TPP is “one of the worst trade deals” and “I would rather not have it,” and calling NAFTA a “total disaster.” Sanders has railed against NAFTA and the TPP, arguing that these have a severely negative effect on the U.S. job market. Sanders says the TPP “must be defeated” and that NAFTA “has led to the loss of nearly 700,000 jobs.”
Last fall, Gallup measured reaction to the proposed idea in a different form, asking Americans how effective withdrawing from the free trade treaties would be in improving the U.S. economy. Sixteen percent of Americans in the Sept. 23-27 survey said that removing the U.S. from “the 12-country free trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership” would be very effective in improving the economy. Eighteen percent said the same about ending U.S. participation in free trade deals “such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, or the Central America Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA.” The scores placed these proposals near the bottom of the list of a large number of economic proposals tested, rank-ordered based on perceived effectiveness.
These questions on the trade pacts provide information on how Americans react to the basic idea of the U.S. getting out of the trade treaties, based on how the candidates might phrase the proposal on the campaign trail or in interviews.
A long-standing Gallup trend question provides broader context to Americans’ opinions on trade. The question contrasts the idea that free trade agreements provide more of an economic opportunity because of exports, with the idea that free trade constitutes an economic threat because of imports.
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