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How Much is One American Worth? How Competition Affects Trade Preferences

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 August 2020

University of Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania
Diana C. Mutz Samuel A. Stouffer Professor of Political Science and Communication, Department of Political Science and Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania,
Amber Hye-Yon Lee Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Political Science and Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania,


When forming opinions, mass publics may implicitly or explicitly value some people’s well-being more than others. Here we examine how two forms of this phenomenon—ethnocentric valuation and moral exclusion—affect attitudes toward international trade. We hypothesize that attitudes toward competition and believing that trade is a competition moderate the extent of ethnocentric valuation and moral exclusion; although all citizens value their co-nationals’ livelihoods systematically more than those of people in trading partner countries, greater ethnocentric valuation and moral exclusion occur when trade is seen as a competition and when individuals hold more positive attitudes toward competition.

Using two survey experiments conducted on representative samples of both Americans and Canadians, we examine how differential valuation of in-country and out-country job gains and losses influences trade policy preferences. We test a series of hypotheses using multiple variables tied to competitive attitudes across two countries that differ in their attitudes toward competition.

Research Article
© The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the American Political Science Association

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The authors thank The Carnegie Foundation (#G-F-17-54246) and the Institute for the Study of Citizens and Politics at the University of Pennsylvania for financial support for this study. For suggestions toward improving the manuscript, in addition to anonymous reviewers, we are grateful to colleagues at the Radcliffe Institute, the New York University School of Law, Université de Laval, Université de Montréal and the Privy Council Office of the Canadian Government. Replication materials can be found on Dataverse at:


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