POLITICO-Harvard poll: Amid Trump’s rise, GOP voters turn sharply away from free trade
**In a stunning reversal, a large majority of Republicans are repudiating their party’s traditional support for free trade, and falling sharply in line with nominee Donald Trump’s insistence that trade costs Americans more jobs than it creates.
Meanwhile, Democrats, whose representatives in Congress have traditionally been far more skeptical of trade deals — and largely voted against giving President Barack Obama the “fast-track” authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership last year — are now far more apt than Republicans to see the benefit of trade, according to an exclusive poll conducted for POLITICO and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health…**.
Trade has “gone from the gold standard to being something that’s bad,” Stuart Stevens, Mitt Romney’s former chief strategist, told POLITICO. “I think it’s a disaster across the board for the Republican Party, because you’re betting against all these trends [in globalization] that are not going to stop.”
The most striking poll results, however, demonstrate the changing perceptions of trade in a party that has long been identified with support for open markets and low tariffs.
Some Republicans downplay the idea that the party is becoming more protectionist. After all, 49 of 54 Senate Republicans supported legislation to allow fast-track approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
But longtime skeptics of U.S. trade policy think Republican leaders are missing the point: that for years, the GOP voting coalition has not been as pro-trade as their elected leaders in Washington.
“You have a paradox in the Republican party versus the populist sentiments,” says Thea Lee, deputy chief of staff at the AFL-CIO. “For a long time big business has driven Republican members of Congress, and they’ve managed to keep the white working class happy with anti-immigration sentiments or social issues.”
“There’s always been a vulnerability in that position, and Donald Trump blew a massive whole in that position,” she says.