Featuring Bruce Stokes, Director of Economic Attitudes, Pew Research Center

Special to Politico 

Exposing the real politics of trade

If and when the new Congress considers implementing legislation for the TPP, that legislative fight might expose the dirty little secret of current American trade politics: both Democrats and Republicans in Congress seem to be out of touch with their own political bases on trade issues.

The conventional Washington narrative on trade is that Democrats are protectionists and Republicans are free traders. But Pew Research Center data suggests this perception might be more reflective of interest group politics on Capitol Hill—where big business backs Republicans and organized labor supports Democrats—than it is of the inclinations of Republicans and Democrats within the general public.

The contrast among conservatives is particularly striking. The Pew Research Center political typology survey, published in June, found that 51 percent of socially conservative populists say trade agreements are bad for the country, compared to 39 percent who say they are good.

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