There’s a Major Disconnect Between Voters and Beltway Types on Trade, New Poll Finds

A majority of poll respondents support the China tariffs or giving them more time.

[ELIZABETH BROTHERTON-BUNCH | September 20, 2018 | Alliance for American Manufacturing ]

It’s fair to say that many D.C. insiders — particularly establishment Republicans — aren’t particularly fond of President Trump’s tariffs on Chinese imports.

But outside the beltway, a sizable majority of likely voters — particularly Republican voters — favor the tariffs or think they should be given more time to work.

A 63 percent majority of the 2018 electorate supports the tariffs or giving them more time, according to a just released poll conducted for the Alliance for American Manufacturing by The Mellman Group, Inc., and Public Opinion Strategies. The poll, conducted from Aug. 28 to Sept. 9, also found that more voters are more concerned about addressing China’s unfair trade practices than the potential for a trade war.

About 33 percent of poll respondents said we should keep the China tariffs, while 30 percent said we should give them more time. But breaking things down by demographics, the findings become even more interesting:

  • 78 percent of respondents who said they will vote for a Republican candidate in the upcoming midterm elections want to keep the tariffs (49 percent) or give them more time (28 percent);
  • 76 percent of undecided voters support the tariffs (35 percent) or want to give them more time (41 percent);
  • 47 percent of respondents supporting the Democratic candidate want to keep the tariffs (19 percent) or support them (27 percent);
  • 67 percent of white working-class voters said we should at least give the tariffs more time, while 59 percent of Hispanic and 58 percent of African-American voters agreed;

On a more general question of whether to get tough on China and other countries that practice unfair trade, a whopping 81 percent of poll respondents agreed with the statement, “We must be willing to get tough with trade restrictions on countries like China who cheat in international trade.”

Republicans are the most supportive of that statement — with 94 percent in agreement! — but 78 percent on independents and 70 percent of Democrats also voiced their support.

And when it came to the issue of a trade war, 54 percent of respondents said it’s more important to take steps to “protect American companies and workers against China’s continued violations of trade laws” versus 37 percent who said that the “tariffs will spark a global trade war.”

Phew. That’s a lot of data.

So, what does all this actually mean? It suggests that the conventional wisdom in D.C. circles about how voters perceive the tariffs is rather misplaced. On the contrary, the data finds that likely voters of all persuasions — even plenty of Democrats who probably disagree with Trump on many, many things — think we need to give a tougher trade strategy a chance to work.

“There’s a major disconnect between some media portrayals and inside-the-Beltway chatter, and what American voters actually think about China, unfair trade practices, and pushing back with tariffs,” AAM President Scott Paul said.  “Even in this era of upended politics, pushing back against unfair trade practices is an issue that largely unites American voters.”


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