David M Rothschild on Posted on

There is a lot of ignorance and apathy around trade, but those people that care about it, consistently want to shut it down more than keep it going. Starting a trade war would be good short-term politics for Donald Trump. Even if it is terrible long-term economics for the United States (and the world).

Frequently topline support for Trump’s policies fail at the components (i.e., people like the big concept, but hate the details), but for trade it holds up. Of those expressing an opinion, 57 percent support Trump’s position on trade. And, this is backed by 57 percent supporting leaving the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and 51 percent supporting leaving the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Further, 65 percent flat out want to “impose high tariffs on imported goods.”

Figure1

Ignorance is high around trade, even among 2016 voters. 25 percent of voters “Do Not Know” if they support or oppose leaving NAFTA and that goes to 31 percent for TPP. Those numbers are slightly higher with Trump supports: 27 percent “Do Not Know” their position on NAFTA and 33 percent on TPP. It is hard to get people to admit they do not know something in a survey: people really have no idea what they should or should not want on trade. Overall, 14 percent answered “Do Not Know” on the question regarding high tariffs.

Figure2

The expectations are mixed about what Trump will do with trade, but the vast majority of Trump supporters will be surprised if he does not address NAFTA. 48 percent think there will be massive changes and 30 percent think the US will leave. Overall, just 36 percent nothing to happen with 42 percent expecting massive changes and just 22 percent thinking US will leave.

Figure3

Tobias Konitzer is a PhD candidate in communication at Stanford University. Find him on Twitter @KonitzerTobias.

Sam Corbett-Davies is a PhD candidate at Stanford University in computer science. Find him on Twitter @scorbettdavies.

David Rothschild is an economist at Microsoft Research. Find him on Twitter @DavMicRot.