Winners and Losers in International Trade: The Effects on U.S. Presidential Voting
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.
Some of the analysis in the paper was conducted at the Center for Economic Studies at the U.S. Census Bureau. Any opinions and conclusions expressed herein are those of the authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Census Bureau. All results have been reviewed to ensure that no confidential information is disclosed. We thank James Vandeventer for excellent research assistance and Annalisa Quinn for editorial assistance. Kent Carlson, Brian Saba, and Jennifer Yan participated in a student working group on economic voting in spring 2012, and we thank them as well. Alexis Antoniades, Quynh Nguyen, and Pietra Rivoli offered helpful comments on drafts. We thank participants at the Mortara Georgetown Political Economy series, the University of Rochester, an American Political Science Association 2015 panel, the Center for International Studies seminar at ETH/University of Zurich, an International Political Economy Society 2015 panel, New York University-Abu Dhabi, Georgetown-Qatar, and a World Trade Institute (Bern) seminar for helpful comments on earlier drafts. All remaining errors of fact and analysis are our own. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
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