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Donald Trump is counting on an anti-trade backlash that doesn't appear to exist

Donald Trump offers largely orthodox conservative policy solutions on economic issues, with the important exception of trade. On the question of trade deals, Trump is offering a right-wing nationalist spin on a backlash against elite-led globalization that's mostly been associated with the political left in the United States. Both Trump fans and, for separate reasons, labor union leaders would like you to believe that Trump could ride this growing tide of anti-trade sentiment all the way to the White House.

But Gallup historical data strongly suggests there isn't a growing tide of anti-trade sentiment to ride:


What's happened instead is that over the course of the Obama administration, Democrats and independents have become more enthusiastic about trade than ever before, while Republicans have developed mixed feelings:

Since Republican Party politicians are almost uniformly in favor of business-friendly trade deals, this created an exploitable opportunity for an anti-deal Republican to win primaries against a divided field. But the overall direction of public opinion is moving in the opposite direction.

You can also usefully break this down along class lines. You'll see that working-class Americans are divided about evenly on trade, while better-educated Americans are enthusiastic:


By the way, while public views about various aspects of immigration are complicated, there's also no sign of a generalized backlash against foreigners moving here:

In the wake of nearly everyone underestimating Trump's prospects in the GOP primary, pundits all across the land are hesitant to make confident claims about his prospects as a general election candidate. But basically everywhere you look, the available evidence suggests that he would be a really bad one. Taking the Republican Party in an ideologically innovative direction makes sense, but he's steering them toward a brand of economic nationalism that's less popular than ever before.

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