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Sensitivity to Issue Framing on Trade Policy Preferences: Evidence from a Survey Experiment

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 April 2013

Martin Ardanaz
Institutions for Development Department ofInter-American Development Bank (IDB), Washington, D.C. E-mail:
M. Victoria Murillo
Columbia University, New York City. E-mail:
Pablo M. Pinto
Columbia University, New York City. E-mail:
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We explore the impact of issue framing on individual attitudes toward international trade. Based on a survey experiment fielded in Argentina during 2007, which reproduces the setup of earlier studies in the United States, we show that individuals' position in the economy and their material concerns define the strength of their prior beliefs about international trade, and thereby mitigate their sensitivity to the new dimensions introduced in informational cues. Extending the analysis beyond the United States to a country with different skill endowments allows us to better explore the role of material and nonmaterial attributes on individual attitudes toward trade. We find that skill is a central predictor of support for openness. The effect is strongest for individuals in the service sector and in cities that cater to the producers of agricultural commodities. Our findings suggest that the pattern of support for economic integration reflects the predictions from recent literature in international economics that emphasizes trade's impact on the relative demand for skilled labor regardless of factor endowments. Our findings also amend recent empirical contributions that suggest socialization is the main factor explaining individual sensitivity to issue framing on trade preferences. We suggest that material conditions associated with income and price effects are crucial, both in shaping trade preferences and in affecting the malleability of attitudes to issue framing. Hence, our results provide a crucial contribution to our general understanding of the attributes shaping susceptibility to political framing in policy debates.

Research Article
Copyright © The IO Foundation 2013

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