NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Winners and Losers in International Trade: The Effects on U.S. Presidential Voting

J. Bradford Jensen, Dennis P. Quinn, Stephen Weymouth

NBER Working Paper No. 21899
Issued in January 2016
NBER Program(s):   ITI   POL

This paper studies how international trade influences U.S. presidential elections. We expect the positive employment effects of expanding exports to increase support for the incumbent’s party, and job insecurity from import competition to diminish such support. Our national-level models show for the first time that increasing imports are associated with decreasing incumbent vote shares, and increasing exports correlate with increasing vote shares for incumbents. These effects are large and politically consequential. We also construct U.S. county-level measures of employment in high- and low-skill tradable activities. We find increases in incumbent vote shares in counties with concentrations of employment in high-skilled tradable goods and services, and decreases in counties with concentrations of employment in low-skilled manufactured goods. Incumbent parties are particularly vulnerable to losing votes in swing states with high concentrations of low-skilled manufacturing workers with increasing trade exposure. Thus there is an Electoral College incentive to protect this sector.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21899

Published: Jensen, J. Bradford & Quinn, Dennis P. & Weymouth, Stephen, 2017. "Winners and Losers in International Trade: The Effects on US Presidential Voting," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 71(03), pages 423-457, June. citation courtesy of

 
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