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Through a Glass and Darkly: Attitudes Toward International Trade and the Curious Effects of Issue Framing

  • Michael J. Hiscox (a1)

Are most voters opposed to globalization? A growing body of empirical research, using data from available surveys of public opinion, suggests that antiglobalization sentiments are strong, especially among blue-collar workers. This article reports the findings from a survey experiment aimed at measuring the impact of issue framing on individuals' stated attitudes toward international trade. Respondents given an antitrade introduction to the survey question, linking trade to the possibility of job losses, were 17 percent less likely to favor increasing trade with other countries than were those asked the same question without any introduction at all. Curiously, respondents who were given a protrade introduction to the question, suggesting that trade can lead to lower prices for consumers, were not more likely to express support for trade than those who received no introduction. In addition, the responses of less educated individuals were more sensitive to framing effects than those of highly educated individuals. Without measuring and taking these types of framing effects into account, opinion surveys offer unreliable guides to gauging the extent (and distribution) of opposition to trade among voters. Results from a second experiment reveal that knowledge of the endorsement of trade openness by economists mitigates framing effects and raises overall support for trade liberalization by a substantial degree.I would like to thank Adam Berinsky, Mac Destler, Jeffry Frieden, Judith Goldstein, Jens Hainmueller, Helen Milner, Diana Mutz, Dani Rodrik, Ken Scheve, Mike Tomz, and seminar participants at Harvard, Duke, Columbia, Stanford, Princeton, Berkeley, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Pennsylvania for helpful comments on earlier drafts. My thanks also go to Lisa Martin and two anonymous IO reviewers.

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International Organization
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  • EISSN: 1531-5088
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