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Values and Interests in Attitudes toward Trade and Globalization: The Continuing Compromise of Embedded Liberalism

  • Robert Wolfe (a1) and Matthew Mendelsohn (a1)

Abstract. Many analyses of public opinion regarding global integration, and by implication global governance, are based on the material factors or interests driving individual and collective political preferences. In contrast, we show that values and ideology offer a better explanation of attitudes toward trade liberalization than do economic interests, and that the material self-interest factors that do influence opinion about trade are not relevant for opinion about globalization. We use regression analysis of original Canadian public opinion data to show that individuals of whatever skill or educational level who trust multinational corporations and the market, who like the United States, who support more immigration, who oppose a larger welfare state, and who support Canada taking a more active role in the world are more likely to support globalization. We conclude that Canadians' continued support of free trade agreements but wariness about globalization indicates that the compromise of embedded liberalism, a compelling metaphor about the foundation of twentieth-century international organization, continues to shape their understanding of the world.

Résumé. De nombreuses analyses de l'opinion publique concernant l'intégration mondiale, et logiquement la gouvernance mondiale, reposent sur les facteurs ou les intérêts matériels qui influencent les préférences politiques individuelles ou collectives. Par contraste, nous démontrons que les valeurs et l'idéologie offrent une meilleure explication des attitudes à l'égard de la libéralisation des échanges commerciaux que les intérêts économiques. Nous prouvons également que les facteurs matériels d'intérêt personnel modelant l'opinion des gens à l'égard du commerce n'ont aucun impact sur leur opinion à l'égard de la mondialisation. Nous recourons à l'analyse de régression des données originales sur l'opinion publique canadienne pour démontrer qu'indépendamment de leur niveau d'aptitudes ou d'instruction, les personnes, qui font confiance aux multinationales et au marché, qui aiment les États-Unis, qui soutiennent l'immigration, qui s'opposent à l'élargissement de l'État-providence, et qui encouragent la participation du Canada aux affaires mondiales, sont des partisans plus probables de la mondialisation. Nous concluons que le soutien continu des Canadiens pour les accords de libre-échange ainsi que leurs hésitations à l'égard de la mondialisation prouvent que le compromis du libéralisme tacitement enchâssé, métaphore puissante de la fondation de l'organisation internationale du 20e siècle, continue de façonner leur compréhension du monde.

Corresponding author
Robert Wolfe, Associate Professor, School of Policy Studies, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, K7L 3N6;
Matthew Mendelsohn, Associate Professor, Department of Political Studies, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, K7L 3N6;
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Canadian Journal of Political Science/Revue canadienne de science politique
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