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By Thomas Phippen
Republican voters’ support for free trade between the U.S. and other countries rose slightly in the first months of Donald Trump’s presidency, according to a report published Tuesday by the Pew Research Center.
More than 50 percent of Americans believe free trade between the U.S. and other nations is a positive thing for the economy, according to the poll, but Republicans and Democrats are still sharply divided on the issue.
When President Donald Trump slammed America’s trade deals with other nations as unfair to U.S. workers during his presidential campaign, Republicans apparently listened. Those who likely voted for Trump are starting view trade favorably again. The percentage of Republicans who view trade favorably dropped considerably during the presidential campaign, but of trade among Republicans increased in the first few months of 2017, according to Pew.
Democrats have increasingly viewed free trade favorably since President Barack Obama took office in 2009. Before that, slightly more Republicans thought trade was a positive thing for the U.S.
Only 29 percent of Republicans and right-leaning independents viewed free trade favorably at the peak of the election last October, down from 56 percent at the beginning of 2015.
Minority Americans are more likely to believe trade deals are a positive thing, Pew found. Fully two thirds of black and Hispanic Americans believe trade is a good thing. “By contrast, whites are divided in their views of the impact of free trade agreements,” Pew said.
Pew also found a correlation between favorable views on trade policy and education. People with college education were slightly more likely to say trade deals benefitted their families. Among those with advanced graduate degrees, nearly two thirds believe free trade is a good thing, and 29 percent said it was a bad thing.
Trump has repeatedly slammed trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and promised that he will renegotiate or scrap multi-country trade agreements outright and replace them with deals more favorable to American workers. Pew’s report comes after Trump announced he wants to impose a 20 percent tariff on soft lumber imported from Canada Monday evening. (RELATED: Trump Announces 20 Percent Tax On Canadian Softwood Lumber Imports)
Trump also kept his promise to end negotiations for Obama’s massive Trans-Pacific Partnership, which advocates said would open up trade with a dozen Asian nations, and make the U.S. more competitive against China in the region.