Most Americans See Value in International Trade
While the US public believes trade is good for the economy, it does favors some restrictions—especially on goods such as semiconductors.
The 2023 Chicago Council Survey, conducted September 7-18, 2023, finds Americans of both parties continue to support international trade. Although international trade is central to the American economy and is a key pillar of US foreign policy, it is often assumed to be contentious among the general public due in part to perceptions that it poses risks to American jobs. However, Council polling shows bipartisan support for international trade, as Americans across the board widely recognize its benefits for themselves, the economy, and American workers. Even so, Americans support some restrictions, especially on goods such as semiconductors.
- Support for international trade remains robust and bipartisan.
- Three-quarters (74%) of Americans say trade is good for the US economy.
- Eight in 10 (82%) say it is good for consumers like themselves.
- Six in 10 (63%) say it is good for creating jobs in the United States.
- Eight in 10 (80%) say it is good for their own standard of living.
- At the same time, Americans favor some trade restrictions. While 66 percent favor restrictions on imported foreign goods to protect American jobs, 32 percent say the United States should have no restrictions to enable American consumers to have the most choices and the lowest prices.
- When it comes to semiconductors, there is broad support for industrial policy.
- Eight in 10 (82%) favor subsidizing American companies to produce semiconductor chips in the United States.
- Eight in 10 (80%) favor buying chips from allies and friendly partner countries.
- Just 29 percent think the United States should buy chips from any country that produces them, including China.
Majorities of Democrats and Republicans See Benefits from International Trade
A majority of Americans continue to see positives in international trade not only in their daily lives but for the United States as a whole. Three-quarters (74%) say that international trade is good for the US economy, including 64 percent of Republicans, 83 percent of Democrats, and 73 percent of Independents. This is virtually unchanged from 2021 when it was 75 percent but is down from a high of 87 percent in 2019.
Six in 10 Americans (63%) think international trade is good for creating jobs in the United States, including 52 percent of Republicans, 74 percent of Democrats, and 61 percent of Independents. That is down slightly from the high of 67 percent in 2018 but stands in stark contrast to 2004 when just 38 percent agreed.
Americans also see benefits in their personal lives from international trade. A strong majority of Americans (82%) say international trade is good for consumers like themselves, along with 75 percent of Republicans, 88 percent of Democrats, and 81 percent of Independents.
And 80 percent think international trade is good for their own standard of living. Again, there is strong bipartisan agreement among Republicans (73%), Democrats (87%), and Independents (79%).
International Trade Does Not Mean Unfettered Free Trade
Even as Americans show strong support for international trade, this does not mean that the public supports unchecked free trade. Two-thirds of Americans (66%) think US trade policy should have restrictions on imported foreign goods to protect American jobs. One-third (32%) say US trade policy should have no restrictions to enable American consumers to have the most choices and the lowest prices. Again, Republicans and Democrats largely agree.
Industrial Policy on Semiconductors Popular among Both Parties
One of the premier legislative victories for the Biden administration has been the CHIPS and Science Act, which will provide $39 billion in subsidies to promote the manufacture of semiconductors in the United States. This type of industrial policy is a broadly supported by the American public. Eight in 10 (82%) Americans favor the United States subsidizing American companies to produce semiconductor chips in the United States. A further 80 percent say the United States should buy chips from allies and friendly partner countries, like Germany or Taiwan. Meanwhile, just 29 percent think the United States should buy chips from any country that produces them, including China. There is little partisan variation on any of these response options.
This analysis is based on data from the 2023 Chicago Council Survey of the American public on foreign policy, a project of the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy. The 2023 Chicago Council Survey was conducted September 7-18, 2023 by Ipsos using its large-scale nationwide online research panel, KnowledgePanel, in both English and Spanish among a weighted national sample of 3,242 adults aged 18 or older living in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia.
The margin of sampling error for the full sample is ±2.0 percentage points. The margin of error is higher for partisan subgroups or for partial-sample items.
Partisan identification is based on how respondents answered a standard partisan self-identification question: “Generally speaking, do you think of yourself as a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent, or what?”
The 2023 Chicago Council Survey is made possible by the generous support of the Crown family, the Korea Foundation, and the United States-Japan Foundation.
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