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Survey Topic Proposal

1.  Draft Title: Economics and the View of Free Trade

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2. Introduction: Free trade is a very complex idea, that stems from eliminating all artificial market forces from global trade. This would include government actions such as unequal tariffs, quotas, currency manipulation, and subsidies to name a few. The most prominent free trade agreement the United States in involved with is NAFTA, or the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement, which also included Canada and Mexico. This agreement is under constant scrutiny because many manufacturing jobs were lost to Mexico due to cheaper labor. Free trade also allows multinational corporations to produce goods overseas using cheap labor as well. For example, companies like Apple and Nike produce goods using Chinese labor. With the onset of free trade, many negative realities have come to light, such as sweat shops, where people (even children) are put to work in inhumane environments, and barely paid enough to produce a good that sells for hundreds of dollars somewhere else. Thus, free trade, while it keeps prices low, has fostered its own animosities, which creates a tense environment.

3. Survey Topic: During the past election many candidates, including Hillary Clinton, Berny Sanders, and President Donald Trump, campaigned against free trade policies and agreements. President Trump also withdrew from the TPP, and recent free trade agreement. The anti-free trade sentiments resonated in Midwest and “Rust Belt” states, where President Trump surprisingly won (excluding Illinois and Minnesota).

4. Purpose of the Study: The purpose of this study is to understand how individual economic conditions affect American’s views of free trade policy and agreements.

5. Research Question: How do economic conditions affect American’s views of free trade?

6. Literature Review:

Erixon, F. (2012). Transatlantic free trade: an agenda for jobs, growth and global trade leadership. European View, 11(1), 121-122. doi:10.1007/s12290-012-0194-6

This article by Erixon presents the benefits of a hypothetical trade agreement between the US and the EU. He demonstrates all the positive outcomes such as gains from both sides. Also, from a global perspective this deal could push both trading powers will beyond where they are now. Since the agreement is a “preferential trade agreement” it circumvents the WTO, and would allow for a new trading platform. With the WTO on the decline, large trade deals could be the new norm, and this one could be the start. Also, deregulating trade between the US and EU would decrease the dependence on Chinese goods.

Lemoc, J., Belous, R., & Subrin, L. (1990). The Free-Trade Agreement and Labor – an American View. Labor Law Journal, 41(8), 460-466.

This journal, written by Lemco, Belous, and Subrin, discusses a free trade agreement between the United States and Canada. This was before the WTO, and NAFTA, so it is interesting and important to understand the views of the people. Although GATT was still around (which eventually did turn into the WTO) trade agreements were not as prevalent as they are today. The journal found that trade did increase between the two countries. However, there were some failures, such as the lack of an enforcement policy, or a way to successfully resolve issues.

Levitz, E. (2016, August 18). Donald Trump Has Transformed the Way Republicans View ‘Free Trade’. Daily Intelligencer.

In this article, Levitz seeks to explain why the ideology of Republican voters shifted so rapidly during the campaign of then candidate Trump. As surveys had shown, other attitudes of conservatives also changed during the 2016 campaign. However, Levitz is uncertain of whether views truly changed, or if the rhetoric of Trump was the cause. Using words such as “unfair” to characterize free trade agreements could have shifted the views of voters as well. Also, the TPP, or Trans Pacific Partnership, was an agreement that was at the center of economic discussions during the election, which Trump eventually withdrew from.

7. Hypothesis: Views of free trade policy and agreements stem from individual economic conditions. I expect income and education levels to have a strong link to their free trade view. Free trade has moved many manufacturing plants, thus jobs, out of the country to take advantage of low wages. Thus, it is expected that Americans with lower income and education levels would disapprove of free trade policies and agreements.

8. Draft Abstract: This paper seeks to determine how individual American’s economic condition determine their view of free trade. This paper will study American’s by survey, asking questions that range from individual financial data, to how the national economy affects their thought. With the current political climate in the United States turning away from globalization, to a more isolationist approach, it will be beneficial to understand how Americans feel. Economic conditions, which are a result of free trade, whether it be from loses or gains of jobs, have a significant role in determining people’s opinions about this issue. It is expected that people with a low income will be against free trade, while those will a higher level of income will be for it. These results would be beneficial to politicians seeking to run for or be reelected to office.

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