The American public is looking more favorably at the economic and financial impact of free trade agreements, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center.
The results come as the U.S. aims to conclude and implement free trade agreements with a dozen nations around the Pacific Rim and with the European Union.
The survey of 2,002 adults conducted May 12 to 18 also found a smaller but growing percentage think FTAs have had a positive impact on their personal finances. However, many still believe that FTAs lead to lower wages and job losses.
Among the key findings of the report are that 58 percent of respondents said FTAs have been good for the U.S., up from 48 percent in 2010, while 33 percent said they have not. In addition, 31 percent said FTAs lead to economic growth, up from 19 percent in 2010, while 34 percent think FTAs slow the economy down, compared to 43 percent five years ago.
The report also found that 43 percent of respondents said their family’s finances have been helped by FTAs, up from 26 percent in 2010, while 36 percent said they have been hurt, down from 46 percent. This shift is most pronounced among more educated and higher-income Americans, as well as those who have positive opinions of their own personal financial situations.
In the area of jobs and manufacturing, 46 percent said FTAs lower U.S. workers’ wages, while 11 percent say they lead to higher wages. The same 46 percent said FTAs lead to domestic job losses, down from 55 percent in 2010, while 17 percent said they create jobs, up from 8 percent. As for the impact on consumer prices, 36 percent said FTAs lower prices in the U.S., but 30 percent said they increase them.
These issues are being debated in Congress as it considers legislation to grant presidential Trade Promotion Authority that allows the White House to present trade agreements to the legislative branch without the possibility of amendments. The Senate has passed TPA and it is about to be brought up in the House.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement is said to be in the final stages of negotiations between the U.S. and 11 other countries, while the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is in the early stages of talks with the EU.
Notably, there are only modest partisan differences in views of the impact of FTAs on the country and people’s personal finances. Some 62 percent of independents and 58 percent of Democrats said the free trade pacts have been good for the U.S., as did 53 percent of Republicans. As for whether their family’s finances have been helped by FTAs, 47 percent of independents, 42 percent of Democrats and 39 percent of Republicans said they have.
Most Americans think people in developing countries benefit from free trade agreements — 57 percent said they are good for the people of developing countries, 9 percent said they are bad and 23 percent said they do not make a difference.
Demographically, younger adults and Hispanics continue to be particularly likely to view free trade pacts positively. Today, 69 percent of those under 30 said FTAs have been good for the U.S., while 24 percent said they have been bad. By comparison, 51 percent of Americans 50 and older evaluate trade agreements positively, while 39 percent said they have generally had a negative effect.
While slim majorities of whites (55 percent) and blacks (53 percent) said trade agreements have been good for the country, 71 percent of Hispanics said they have been good for the U.S.
The phone survey was conducted by interviewers at the Princeton Data Source under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International. The Pew Research Center is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts, its primary funder.