The polls demonstrate that the Democratic Party will need to change its policy on trade if it wants to win elections. The available data shows that most Americans like the idea of free trade and support it.
Most American adults; around 56%, said free trade agreements were a “good thing” for the country, a May 10, 2018, Pew Research Center Survey indicates. Only 30% of Americans said free trade agreements were a “bad thing.” The number of Americans that support free-trade is actually growing around 52% of Americans called free trade a “good thing” in 2016, according to an early Pew survey.
Both Democrats and Trump are Out of Touch on Trade
The Pew numbers demonstrate that President Donald J. Trump’s (R-New York) trade policies are a minority position in America. Strangely enough, it is a minority composed of largely of Democrats.
Around 67% of Democrats said “free trade” was a bad thing, which is clearly a minority position. Only 26% of Democrats said “free trade” was a good thing which puts the party at odds with the majority position.
Most Republicans disagree with Trump’s position on trade, 58% of them or six in ten called free trade agreements are a good thing. That means Trump is out of touch with the mainstream position in his party.
The only good news for Republicans and Trump is that most voters are unaware of the President’s proposed tariff increases. Pew found that only 29% of voters had heard of Trump’s plans for increased tariffs.
Why Democrats Need to Learn to Love Free Trade
This indicates that Democrats might pick up a lot of votes by moderating their positions on trade. It also means that Democratic candidates would be vulnerable to free-trade Republicans that took moderate positions on social issues such as backing legalized marijuana or increased Social Security.
My guess is that trade will only become a major issue in American elections if tariffs lead to higher prices on consumer goods. That would effectively be a tax increase for the working and middle classes. Higher tariffs on consumer goods would also be a career death sentence for any politician that promoted it.
If Democrats are smart they will change their party agenda to one of increased spending on social programs and education and increased free trade. That seems to be what voters want these days. Unfortunately, the leaders of neither party can see it.