Skip to main content

A Referendum on Trade Theory: Voting on Free Trade in Costa Rica

  • Robert Urbatsch (a1)

Research on mass opinion in international political economy overwhelmingly relies on survey data. This poses problems of external validity, especially for a frequently low-salience issue such as trade policy. To examine whether survey findings about attitudes toward economic openness apply outside of surveys, this note considers patterns of voting in the 2007 Costa Rican plebiscite about joining the Central American Free Trade Area. Several extant theories appear to explain voting patterns, but the results are less in line with traditional economic models based on locally important economic sectors.

Hide All
Aguiar-Conraria, Luís, and Magalhães, Pedro C.. 2010. Referendum Design, Quorum Rules and Turnout. Public Choice 144 (1):6381.
Baccini, Leonardo, and Dür, Andreas. 2011. The New Regionalism and Policy Interdependence. British Journal of Political Science 42 (1):5779.
Baker, Andy. 2005. Who Wants to Globalize? Consumer Tastes and Labor Markets in a Theory of Trade Policy Beliefs. American Journal of Political Science 49 (4):924–38.
Baker, Andy, and Greene, Kenneth F.. 2011. The Latin American Left's Mandate: Free-Market Policies and Issue Voting in New Democracies. World Politics 63 (1):4377.
Barabas, Jason, and Jerit, Jennifer. 2010. Are Survey Experiments Externally Valid? American Political Science Review 104 (2):226–42.
Beaulieu, Eugene, Yatawara, Ravindra A., and Wang, Wei Guo. 2005. Who Supports Free Trade in Latin America? World Economy 28 (7):941–58.
Bendor, Jonathan, Diermeier, Daniel, and Ting, Michael. 2003. A Behavioral Model of Turnout. American Political Science Review 97 (2):261–80.
Blonigen, Bruce A. 2011. Revisiting the Evidence on Trade Policy Preferences. Journal of International Economics 85 (1):129–35.
Bochsler, Daniel. 2010. The Marquis de Condorcet Goes to Bern. Public Choice 144 (1):119–31.
Broz, J. Lawrence, Frieden, Jeffry, and Weymouth, Stephen. 2008. Exchange Rate Policy Attitudes: Direct Evidence from Survey Data. IMF Economic Review 55 (3):417–44.
Carty, R. Kenneth, and Eagles, Munroe. 1999. Do Local Campaigns Matter? Campaign Spending, the Local Canvass and Party Support in Canada. Electoral Studies 18 (1):6987.
Crisp, Brian F., Jensen, Nathan M., Rosas, Guillermo, and Zeitzoff, Thomas. 2010. Vote-Seeking Incentives and Investment Environments: The Need for Credit Claiming and the Provision of Protectionism. Electoral Studies 29 (2):221–26.
Cupples, Julie, and Larios, Irving. 2010. A Functional Anarchy: Love, Patriotism, and Resistance to Free Trade in Costa Rica. Latin American Perspectives 37 (6):93108.
Cutler, Fred. 2007. Context and Attitude Formation: Social Interaction, Default Information, or Local Interests? Political Geography 26 (5):575600.
Dobrzynska, Agnieszka, and Blais, André. 2008. Testing Zaller's Reception and Acceptance Model in an Intense Election Campaign. Political Behavior 30 (2):259–76.
Ehrlich, Sean, and Maestas, Cherie. 2010. Risk Orientation, Risk Exposure, and Policy Opinions: The Case of Free Trade. Political Psychology 31 (5):657–84.
Gilbert, John, and Oladi, Reza. 2012. Net Campaign Contributions, Agricultural Interests, and Votes on Liberalizing Trade with China. Public Choice 150 (3):745–69.
Groves, Robert M., Presser, Stanley, and Dipko, Sarah. 2004. The Role of Topic Interest in Survey Participation Decisions. Public Opinion Quarterly 68 (1):231.
Guisinger, Alexandra. 2009. Determining Trade Policy: Do Voters Hold Politicians Accountable? International Organization 63 (3):533–57.
Hainmueller, Jens, and Hiscox, Michael J.. 2006. Learning to Love Globalization: Education and Individual Attitudes Toward International Trade. International Organization 60 (2):469–98.
Hansford, Thomas G., and Gomez, Brad T.. 2010. Estimating the Electoral Effects of Voter Turnout. American Political Science Review 104 (2):268–88.
Hiscox, Michael J. 1999. The Magic Bullet? The RTAA, Institutional Reform, and Trade Liberalization. International Organization 53 (4):669–98.
Hiscox, Michael J. 2006. Through a Glass and Darkly: Attitudes Toward International Trade and the Curious Effects of Issue Framing. International Organization 60 (3):755–80.
Hobolt, Sara B., Spoon, Jae-Jae, and Tilley, James. 2009. A Vote Against Europe? Explaining Defection at the 1999 and 2004 European Parliament Elections. British Journal of Political Science 39 (1):93115.
Hoffman, Michael E.S. 2009. What Explains Attitudes Across U.S. Trade Policies? Public Choice 138 (3):447–60.
Hopkins, Daniel J. 2011. National Debates, Local Responses: The Origins of Local Concern About Immigration in Britain and the United States. British Journal of Political Science 41 (3):499524.
Irwin, Douglas A. 1994. The Political Economy of Free Trade: Voting in the British General Election of 1906. Journal of Law and Economics 37 (1):75108.
Janus, Alexander L. 2010. The Influence of Social Desirability Pressures on Expressed Immigration Attitudes. Social Science Quarterly 91 (4):928–46.
Jupille, Joseph, and Leblang, David. 2007. Voting for Change: Calculation, Community, and Euro Referendums. International Organization 61 (4):763–82.
Kahler, Miles. 1985. European Protectionism in Theory and Practice. World Politics 37 (4):475502.
Kaltenthaler, Karl C., Gelleny, Ronald D., and Ceccoli, Stephen J.. 2004. Explaining Citizen Support for Trade Liberalization. International Studies Quarterly 48 (4):829–52.
Keele, Luke. 2005. The Authorities Really Do Matter: Party Control and Trust in Government. Journal of Politics 67 (3):873–86.
King, Gary. 1996. Why Context Should Not Count. Political Geography 15 (2):159–64.
Kingstone, Peter, and Young, Joseph. 2009. Partisanship and Policy Choice: What's Left for the Left in Latin America? Political Research Quarterly 62 (1):2941.
Lassen, David Dreyer. 2005. The Effect of Information on Voter Turnout: Evidence from a Natural Experiment. American Journal of Political Science 49 (1):103–18.
Lavine, Howard, Borgida, Eugene, Sullivan, John L., and Thomsen, Cynthia J.. 1996. The Relationship of National and Personal Issue Salience to Attitude Accessibility on Foreign and Domestic Policy Issues. Political Psychology 17 (2):293316.
Leduc, Lawrence. 2002. Opinion Change and Voting Behaviour in Referendums. European Journal of Political Research 41 (6):711–32.
Lohmann, Susanne, and O'Halloran, Sharyn. 1994. Divided Government and U.S. Trade Policy: Theory and Evidence. International Organization 48 (4):595632.
Magee, Christopher S.P., Davidson, Carl, and Matusz, Steven J.. 2005. Trade, Turnover, and Tithing. Journal of International Economics 66 (1):157–76.
Mansfield, Edward D., and Mutz, Diana C.. 2009. Support for Free Trade: Self-Interest, Sociotropic Politics, and Out-Group Anxiety. International Organization 63 (3):425–57.
Mayda, Anna Maria. 2008. Why Are People More Pro-Trade Than Pro-Migration? Economics Letters 101 (3):160–63.
Mayda, Anna Maria, and Rodrik, Dani. 2005. Why Are Some People (and Countries) More Protectionist Than Others? European Economic Review 49 (6):1393–430.
McCarty, Christopher, Killworth, Peter D., Bernard, H. Russell, Johnsen, Eugene C., and Shelley, Gene A.. 2001. Comparing Two Methods for Estimating Network Size. Human Organization 60 (1):2839.
Milner, Helen V., and Tingley, Dustin H.. 2011. Who Supports Global Economic Engagement? The Sources of Preferences in American Foreign Economic Policy. International Organization 65 (1):3768.
Naoi, Megumi, and Kume, Ikuo. 2011. Explaining Mass Support for Agricultural Protectionism: Evidence from a Survey Experiment During the Global Recession. International Organization 65 (4):771–95.
O'Rourke, Kevin H., and Sinnott, Richard. 2001. The Determinants of Individual Trade Policy Preferences: International Survey Evidence. In Brookings Trade Forum: 2001, edited by Collins, Susan M. and Rodrik, Dani, 157206. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution.
Pandya, Sonal S. 2010. Labor Markets and the Demand for Foreign Direct Investment. International Organization 64 (3):389409.
Scheve, Kenneth F., and Slaughter, Matthew J.. 2001. What Determines Individual Trade-Policy Preferences? Journal of International Economics 54 (2):267–92.
Seligson, Mitchell A. 2002. The Renaissance of Political Culture or the Renaissance of the Ecological Fallacy? Comparative Politics 34 (3):273–92.
Stratmann, Thomas. 2006. Is Spending More Potent For or Against a Proposition? Evidence from Ballot Measures. American Journal of Political Science 50 (3):788801.
Takacs, Wendy E. 1981. Pressures for Protectionism: An Empirical Analysis. Economic Inquiry 19 (4):687–93.
Walter, Stefanie. 2010. Globalization and the Welfare State: Testing the Microfoundations of the Compensation Hypothesis. International Studies Quarterly 54 (2):403–26.
Webb, Eugene J., Campbell, Donald T., Schwartz, Richard D., and Sechrest, Lee. 2000. Unobtrusive Measures. Rev. ed. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage.
Weller, Nicholas. 2009. Trading Policy: Constituents and Party in U.S. Trade Policy. Public Choice 141 (1):87101.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

International Organization
  • ISSN: 0020-8183
  • EISSN: 1531-5088
  • URL: /core/journals/international-organization
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 7
Total number of PDF views: 118 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 426 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 22nd March 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.