Taking a Step Back: Economic Performance and Issue Salience of International Trade Policy

Taking a Step Back: Economic Performance and Issue Salience of International Trade Policy Abstract Contesting schools of literature argue that trade policy issues are either highly salient or nonsalient to perspective voters. These divergent views obfuscate the fact that trade salience varies significantly over time. This study focuses on the role of citizens’ perceptions of their economic performance relative to national economic trends by combining individual pocketbook perceptions and individual sociotropic considerations of national economic performance to analyze the conditions that cause trade policy to become salient to voters. Using cross-sectional data from multiple waves of the American National Election Studies survey (1992–2012), this study shows that voters are more likely to voice an opinion on trade if they perceive their economic situation to be worse off than the national average. President Donald Trump credited his surprise election victory to his vigorous stance on trade policy when he stated that trade policy is “probably one of the major reasons I’m here today”.1 Does trade policy really have electoral consequences? The existing literature is ambiguous. Some studies argue that public opinion acts as a domestic constraint in trade policymaking (Jensen, Quinn, & Weymouth, 2017; Kono, 2008). In particular, the extensive literature on individual trade policy preferences assumes that citizens are fundamentally interested in trade policy, through which they derive specific preferences for trade liberalization (Hainmueller & Hiscox, 2006; Mansfield & Mutz, 2009; Mayda & Rodrik, 2005; Scheve & Slaughter, 2001). On the other hand, Guisinger (2009) finds that voters are both ignorant and indifferent toward trade policy. Voters neither constrain foreign trade decisions nor hold individual decision makers accountable for their attitudes toward free trade. These findings call into question the underlying assumption of trade models, which argue that trade policies reflect voter interests (Kono, 2008; Mansfield & Pevehouse, 2000; Milner & Kubota, 2005). Both sides take extreme positions on the theorized salience of trade policy. The first strand of literature assumes that citizens consistently care about foreign trade, while the second strand of literature argues that the mass polity is notoriously uninterested in trade issues, making them electorally irrelevant to prospective voters. In reality, the issue salience of trade policy varies significantly over time. While trade policy looms largely in certain eras, as demonstrated by recent protests against the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, at other times, trade policy plays virtually no role in the public discourse. Indeed, the conditions under which trade policy is likely to become salient to voters is little understood. This article focuses on the role of individual economic perceptions to investigate the factors that drive citizens to take a stance on free trade policy. While existing studies typically focus exclusively on either individuals’ perceptions of their pocketbook or their sociotropic considerations of their country’s economic condition, this study examines the joint effects of pocketbook perceptions and sociotropic considerations on trade policy salience. Specifically, this study examines how relative economic performance, that is, a person’s perception of his/her economic situation compared with his/her evaluation of the country’s economy, influences the extent to which that person cares about international trade. Using cross-sectional data from multiple waves of the American National Election Studies (ANES) survey (1992–2012), the findings indicate that relative economic performance plays a significant role in determining trade policy salience. Results from the empirical analysis show that perceptions of personal economic stagnation and deterioration, compared with the performance of the rest of the country, increase the salience of trade policy among voters. Salience is relevant in the context of international trade policy. A number of studies show that salience impacts many political processes, in particular the public opinion–policy nexus.2 Salience can affect public opinion and the relationship between public opinion and policy. Much of the trade literature implicitly assumes that trade policies are influenced by the electorate, suggesting that politicians are constrained by, and act in, the interests of their constituents. This article argues that voter trade preferences may not constrain decision makers in all circumstances. Instead, the salience of a particular policy strongly influences whether public opinion can constrain decision makers and, in the context of this study, whether public preferences influence government trade policy. This article is organized as follows. The first section reviews the relevant literature and embeds the research question into the existing scholarly debate. Section 2 outlines the mechanism through which perceptions of personal and national economic conditions influence how much importance individuals place on trade issues. Section 3 presents the data and describes the procedures used to test the article’s hypotheses. The fourth section presents the results. The final section concludes and discusses potential avenues for future research. Salience of Trade Policy Issue salience refers to the relative importance that an actor places on a certain issue. It is a measure of the level of attentiveness that individuals devote to particular issues relative to others. The degree of attention indicates the overall prominence that an issue takes in the mind of an actor (Soroka, 2006, p. 28–29). The literature on the salience of trade policy is both undertheorized and little tested. This is surprising, considering that trade models are often based on the assumption that voters have specific trade preferences for varying levels of liberalization and protectionism, which in turn constrain decision makers. The literature largely explains variations in individual preferences for economic integration as a result of material self-interest. Scholars argue that preferences develop from the expected personal gains or losses that accrue to individuals through economic openness. These arguments are usually derived from the traditional Heckscher–Ohlin or Ricardo–Viner models, both of which focus on the distributive consequences of economic integration (Hays, Ehrlich, & Peinhardt, 2005; Irwin, 1994; Mayda & Rodrik, 2005; O’Rourke & Sinnott, 2001; Scheve & Slaughter, 2001). These models posit that trade policy changes affect the job prospects and incomes of individuals, where different levels of trade liberalization either increase or decrease income and employment opportunities, and, therefore, drive divergent preferences toward trade policies. Models of individual trade preferences therefore imply that voters care enough about the topic of trade to award (punish) governments for (un)desirable trade policy decisions. Additionally, a number of studies demonstrate that individual trade preferences act as a domestic constraint on policymakers. Recent work by Jensen, Quinn, and Weymouth (2017) shows that increasing imports negatively affect the incumbent party’s vote shares in U.S. presidential elections. Incumbents are electorally rewarded for increasing exports and punished for increasing imports, which demonstrates that trade variables can account for national presidential voting outcomes. Margalit (2011) shows that the incumbent’s vote share in recent U.S. presidential elections is more negatively affected by local job losses resulting from foreign competition, such as offshoring, than other factors. Thus, voters have a propensity to hold policymakers electorally accountable for their trade policies. Kono (2008) finds that public support for free trade leads to lower tariffs in democratic countries. At the same time, there is a widespread perception that trade policy is a low-salience issue among the general public.3Guisinger (2009) shows that voters in the 2006 U.S. midterm congressional elections did not hold Senate incumbents accountable for their votes on the Central American Free Trade Agreement. According to Guisinger (2009), this is because a majority of voters are unaware of the trade policy position of their politicians, and voters do not withdraw their support for their representatives for taking a view on trade that differs from their own. Accordingly, Guisinger concludes that trade policy is a low-salient issue both in terms of stated importance as well as in its effect on a voter’s decision. Two contrasting views concerning the salience of trade policy emerge from this review of the literature. One strand of the literature puts forward that trade policy is a low-salient issue (Blonigen, 2011; Cobb & Nance, 2011; Guisinger, 2009). If trade policy is not salient, one would expect that voters are apathetic about the trade policy decisions made by their governments. However, a large body of literature argues that voters have specific trade preferences (Hainmueller & Hiscox, 2006; Mansfield & Mutz, 2009; Mayda & Rodrik, 2005; Scheve & Slaughter, 2001). Recent studies also show that trade-induced job losses have electoral consequences, indicating that trade issues are salient enough to motivate voters to punish policymakers (Jensen, Quinn, & Weymouth, 2017; Kono, 2008; Margalit, 2011). While these views take extreme positions on the salience of trade policy, following Taylor (2015), this article argues that trade policies are neither always salient nor are they constantly low or nonsalient. Economic Condition and Trade Salience While the way citizens perceive the state of the economy has been identified as an important factor in explaining variations in levels of public support for international trade, little attention has been paid to the question of whether such perceptions affect a person’s likelihood to place importance on trade policy issues. The relationship between individual evaluations of economic performance and political salience has been primarily explored in the voting literature. The majority of these studies are framed mainly by the work of Rosenstone (1982), who outlines three competing hypotheses on the relationship between economic hardship conditions (or individuals’ perception thereof) and electoral turnout. The mobilization hypothesis states that adverse economic conditions increase the likelihood of voter participation, as citizens seek to voice their grievances through their vote. Milbrath and Goel (1977) note that voters who witness or perceive negative changes in the economic stability of their nation or their own finances are more likely to feel that their civic participation can change the course of the economy. In contrast, the withdrawal hypothesis postulates that individuals who are experiencing economic pressure do not vote because they are too absorbed by their economic difficulties to pay attention to politics. Rosenstone contends that “when a person suffers economic adversity his scarce resources are spent holding body and soul together, not on remote concerns like politics” (Rosenstone, 1982, p. 25). This is because deteriorating financial conditions make it less feasible for voters to meet the costs of political participation. A third possibility, the no effect hypothesis, argues that there is no correlation between economic adversity and voters’ turnout decisions. This suggests that as the perceived state of the economy continues to falter, most people do not seek political solutions for what they view primarily as personal problems (Feldman, 1982). Empirical evidence for the three hypotheses is mixed. While Rosenstone (1982) finds weak evidence in support of the withdrawal hypothesis,4 the analysis by Schlozman and Verba (1979) lends support to the mobilization hypothesis by demonstrating that poor economic circumstances increase voter turnout.5 Other studies provide empirical evidence for the third hypothesis, suggesting that economic considerations have no effect on turnout decisions (Arcelus & Meltzer, 1975; Fiorina, 1978). In the context of trade salience, this implies that perceptions of economic hardship may increase the relative importance of trade issues and thus raise the likelihood that citizens take a stance on trade policy. Alternatively, citizens may find themselves more occupied with the day-to-day struggle to provide for their wants and needs during periods of economic hardship, leading to a decrease in trade policy salience. Citizens may also feel that their political influence has little impact on the course of the economy. Perceptions of Relative Economic Performance While there is broad consensus among scholars on the influence of perceived economic outcomes on individual political preferences, disagreement exists over the particular types of economic conditions likely to influence citizens’ decision-making (Fordham & Kleinberg, 2012; Mansfield & Mutz, 2009; Schaffer & Spilker, 2014). In particular, the literature on individual trade preferences continues to disagree on whether voters evaluate the economic effects of international trade through their pocketbooks, or whether their assessments are based on sociotropic perceptions of the country’s economic performance. As a result, individuals’ egotropic perceptions of their personal economic situation and their subjective evaluation of their nation’s economy commonly enter into the analysis as separate factors. The possibility that pocketbook and sociotropic economic considerations operate in tandem to shape individual views on international trade has not been adequately addressed in the existing literature. This is surprising given the growing number of studies on the impact of social or “other-regarding” preferences on individuals’ preferences and decision-making (Charness & Rabin, 2002; Fehr & Schmidt, 1999; Sobel, 2005). For example, Lü, Scheve, and Slaughter (2012) show that individuals are concerned about the relative distribution of the economic benefits of international trade insofar as it affects their own economic standing vis-à-vis others. Their results from survey experiments in China and the United States suggest that such considerations have a significant impact on people’s trade preferences. Graham and Pettinato (2002) also find evidence for reference-dependent evaluations of subjective well-being in a study of self-reported levels of happiness before and after market integration in Peru and Russia. The authors report that citizens living in recently liberalized economies often evaluate their subjective well-being in a more negative light in comparison with the preliberalization period, despite experiencing real income gains following the transition. The analysis indicates that the “frustrated achievers” phenomenon may be driven by negative perceptions of one’s economic standing relative to the average citizen’s economic standing, rather than by losses or gains in absolute terms. Killian, Schoen, and Dusso (2008) introduce a reference-dependent model to examine the joint impact of pocketbook and sociotropic evaluations on electoral behavior. They argue that voters compare their individual economic well-being with perceptions of the country’s economic performance, and that this comparison shapes their voting decisions (Killian, Schoen, & Dusso, 2008, p. 324). Specifically, perceptions of falling behind economically relative to the rest of the country increases voters’ likelihood to turn out and vote. Building on Killian et al.’s (2008) model of voter turnout, for this study, a framework is developed that integrates sociotropic and pocketbook evaluations to examine whether individuals’ propensity to take a stance on international trade is driven by their perceived economic well-being relative to others in society. Accordingly, the issue salience of international trade is determined by an individual’s subjective assessment of his/her personal economic condition relative to his/her perception of the country’s economic performance. Individuals who perceive the economy to be performing well attribute a positive national-level impact to trade on the basis of this belief. In contrast, individuals who perceive that the economy is performing less well may conclude that trade has a negative effect on the economy. Individuals then derive an overall judgment of the economic implications of trade liberalization by comparing their personal economic condition against their country’s economic performance (McMann, 2012). Individuals who infer that most people have benefited from trade, but see no improvement in their personal economic situation, will feel that they have lost out under trade liberalization. This is true even if they have, in fact, experienced individual gains from trade. Economic improvements perceived at the personal level can also cause feelings of underachievement if the individual believes that these gains are less than the country average. This negative perception of one’s economic status is likely to encourage people to speak out against the status quo. The mobilization hypothesis accordingly predicts that individuals who perceive their household finances to be performing worse than the country average are more likely to voice their opinion about international trade. Alternatively, individuals who feel that they are faring worse than the rest of the country may decrease the level of attention they assign to distant political matters (such as trade policy) and instead retreat to the private sphere. Thus, the withdrawal hypothesis predicts that individuals who perceive their household finances to be performing worse than the country average are less likely to voice their opinion about international trade. Individuals may also believe that their relative economic situation is unaffected by any policy intervention. Consequently, the no effect hypothesis predicts that individuals’ perceptions of their household finances compared with the country average have no effect on their likelihood to voice an opinion about international trade. Empirical Strategy These theoretical arguments are tested using data from the ANES survey. The United States has been at the forefront of the creation of the post-World War II global trading regime. The significance of international trade to the U.S. economy is large and has steadily increased since the 1950s. Today, U.S. exports and imports are valued at more than 30% of the U.S. gross domestic product, up from <10 per cent in the immediate postwar era. The Department of Commerce (2015) estimates that U.S. exports are worth $2.3 trillion, directly supporting 11.7 million jobs. The role of foreign trade to the U.S. economy has also not gone by unnoticed by the American public. This is captured in several public polls.6 This study uses data from six ANES survey waves (1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012) with a pooled sample of over 15,400 respondents. Attitudes Toward International Trade Since 1992, the ANES survey has asked its respondents to report their attitudes toward international trade using the following question: Some people have suggested placing new limits on foreign imports in order to protect American jobs. Others say that such limits would raise consumer prices and hurt American exports. Do you favor or oppose placing new limits on imports, or haven’t you thought much about this? Since then, the ANES has featured this trade attitude item in several survey rounds, allowing researchers to trace opinions on foreign trade over time. While most survey questions on people’s opinions about free trade only allow respondents to choose between support for and opposition to free trade, the ANES item includes a third option that captures free trade policy issue salience by asking respondents whether they have thought much about this issue. Existing studies that use ANES data traditionally code this category as missing. Table 1 presents the descriptive statistics of all variables included in the main analysis. Over the 20 years under study, “haven’t thought much about trade” was the most preferred response option (42.98%) to the trade policy question. Thus, simply ignoring nonattitudes presents an incomplete picture of an individual’s trade preferences, and it overestimates the actual support for or against free trade. Because this study examines the impact of citizens’ perceptions of economic conditions on the probability of taking a stance on trade issues, nonattitudes toward foreign trade are included as a separate response category. The binary measure, trade salience, is coded as 1 if the respondent either favors or opposes limiting foreign imports, and thus indicates a clear opinion about trade. Responses stating that the respondent hasn’t thought much about trade are coded as 0. Table 1 List of Variables and Descriptive Statistics Variable description  Observation  Mean  SD  Min  Max  Trade salience                Do you favor or oppose placing new limits on imports, or haven’t you thought much about this?  13,389  0.57  0.495  0  1      0 = Haven't thought much about this  5,755 (42.98%)              1 = Favor  4,835 (36.11%)              2 = Oppose  2,799 (20.91%)          Economic perception                Respondents' perception of the personal economic situation compared with country's economy  15,122  1.868  0.896  1  3      1 = Same as country  7,205 (47.65%)              2 = Worse than country  2,715 (17.95%)              3 = Better than country  5,202 (34.4%)          Gender                [0 = Male; 1 = Female]  15,454  0.5389  0.4985  0  1  Employment status                “We’d like to know if YOU are working now, temporarily laid off, or are you unemployed, retired, permanently disabled, a homemaker, a student, or what?”  15,454  0.5889  0.492  0  1      [0 = Not working (includes temporarily laid off, unemployed, retired, permanently disabled, homemaker, student); 1 = Working]            Family income                “Please look at the booklet and tell me the letter of the income group that includes the income of all members of your family living here in 2003 before taxes. This figure should include salaries, wages, pensions, dividends, interest, and all other income.” (collapsed)  14284  2.8044  1.1505  1  5  Age                “What is the month, day and year of your birth”  15,334  47.8937  17.2014  18  96  Variable description  Observation  Mean  SD  Min  Max  Trade salience                Do you favor or oppose placing new limits on imports, or haven’t you thought much about this?  13,389  0.57  0.495  0  1      0 = Haven't thought much about this  5,755 (42.98%)              1 = Favor  4,835 (36.11%)              2 = Oppose  2,799 (20.91%)          Economic perception                Respondents' perception of the personal economic situation compared with country's economy  15,122  1.868  0.896  1  3      1 = Same as country  7,205 (47.65%)              2 = Worse than country  2,715 (17.95%)              3 = Better than country  5,202 (34.4%)          Gender                [0 = Male; 1 = Female]  15,454  0.5389  0.4985  0  1  Employment status                “We’d like to know if YOU are working now, temporarily laid off, or are you unemployed, retired, permanently disabled, a homemaker, a student, or what?”  15,454  0.5889  0.492  0  1      [0 = Not working (includes temporarily laid off, unemployed, retired, permanently disabled, homemaker, student); 1 = Working]            Family income                “Please look at the booklet and tell me the letter of the income group that includes the income of all members of your family living here in 2003 before taxes. This figure should include salaries, wages, pensions, dividends, interest, and all other income.” (collapsed)  14284  2.8044  1.1505  1  5  Age                “What is the month, day and year of your birth”  15,334  47.8937  17.2014  18  96  Table 1 List of Variables and Descriptive Statistics Variable description  Observation  Mean  SD  Min  Max  Trade salience                Do you favor or oppose placing new limits on imports, or haven’t you thought much about this?  13,389  0.57  0.495  0  1      0 = Haven't thought much about this  5,755 (42.98%)              1 = Favor  4,835 (36.11%)              2 = Oppose  2,799 (20.91%)          Economic perception                Respondents' perception of the personal economic situation compared with country's economy  15,122  1.868  0.896  1  3      1 = Same as country  7,205 (47.65%)              2 = Worse than country  2,715 (17.95%)              3 = Better than country  5,202 (34.4%)          Gender                [0 = Male; 1 = Female]  15,454  0.5389  0.4985  0  1  Employment status                “We’d like to know if YOU are working now, temporarily laid off, or are you unemployed, retired, permanently disabled, a homemaker, a student, or what?”  15,454  0.5889  0.492  0  1      [0 = Not working (includes temporarily laid off, unemployed, retired, permanently disabled, homemaker, student); 1 = Working]            Family income                “Please look at the booklet and tell me the letter of the income group that includes the income of all members of your family living here in 2003 before taxes. This figure should include salaries, wages, pensions, dividends, interest, and all other income.” (collapsed)  14284  2.8044  1.1505  1  5  Age                “What is the month, day and year of your birth”  15,334  47.8937  17.2014  18  96  Variable description  Observation  Mean  SD  Min  Max  Trade salience                Do you favor or oppose placing new limits on imports, or haven’t you thought much about this?  13,389  0.57  0.495  0  1      0 = Haven't thought much about this  5,755 (42.98%)              1 = Favor  4,835 (36.11%)              2 = Oppose  2,799 (20.91%)          Economic perception                Respondents' perception of the personal economic situation compared with country's economy  15,122  1.868  0.896  1  3      1 = Same as country  7,205 (47.65%)              2 = Worse than country  2,715 (17.95%)              3 = Better than country  5,202 (34.4%)          Gender                [0 = Male; 1 = Female]  15,454  0.5389  0.4985  0  1  Employment status                “We’d like to know if YOU are working now, temporarily laid off, or are you unemployed, retired, permanently disabled, a homemaker, a student, or what?”  15,454  0.5889  0.492  0  1      [0 = Not working (includes temporarily laid off, unemployed, retired, permanently disabled, homemaker, student); 1 = Working]            Family income                “Please look at the booklet and tell me the letter of the income group that includes the income of all members of your family living here in 2003 before taxes. This figure should include salaries, wages, pensions, dividends, interest, and all other income.” (collapsed)  14284  2.8044  1.1505  1  5  Age                “What is the month, day and year of your birth”  15,334  47.8937  17.2014  18  96  Perceptions of Economic Performance The main independent variable—individuals’ combined ego and sociotropic economic evaluations—is generated by comparing respondents’ current personal economic situation with their economic situation from the previous year and their perceptions of their country’s economic performance from the previous year. Responses to both survey questions are measured on a 3-point scale indicating subjective perceptions of improvement (“better”), deterioration (“worse”), or no change (“the same”). A Pearson’s correlation coefficient of .13 confirms that the two questions are not highly correlated. Respondents conceptually distinguish between their evaluation of their economic situation and their assessment of their country’s economic performance.7 This study follows Killian et al.’s (2008) approach of combining responses from respondents’ pocketbook assessments and sociotropic evaluations to capture their perceptions of their households’ financial performance relative to the country’s economic performance. Each pocketbook evaluation category is paired with a possible response to the sociotropic question, resulting in nine possible pairings that measure relative performance. Table 2 provides an overview of the matched categories. These nine pairings are then combined into three categories that indicate respondent perceptions of being economically worse (1) off, on the same (2) track, and better (3) off than the country average.8 The latter category is used as the base category for comparison. The largest group (47.65%) across the entire study period consists of respondents who perceive that they are faring economically the same as the national economy (Table 1). A larger number of respondents perceive their personal financial situation to be better off (34.4%) than the number of respondents who perceive their personal financial situation to be worse off economically than the national average (17.95%). Table 2 Combined Pocketbook and Sociotropic Evaluation of Economic Performance Matched categories of pocketbook and sociotropic evaluations   Sociotropic evaluation   “Now thinking about the economy in the country as a whole, would you say that over the past year the nation’s economy has gotten better, stayed about the same, or gotten worse?”   Better  Same  Worse  Pocketbook evaluation  “We are interested in how people are getting along financially these days. Would you say that you (and your family living here) are better off, worse off, or just about the same financially as you were a year ago?”  Worse  Worse–Better  Worse–Same  Worse–Worse  Same  Same–Better  Same–Same  Same–Worse  Better  Better–Better  Better–Same  Better–Worse  Matched categories of pocketbook and sociotropic evaluations   Sociotropic evaluation   “Now thinking about the economy in the country as a whole, would you say that over the past year the nation’s economy has gotten better, stayed about the same, or gotten worse?”   Better  Same  Worse  Pocketbook evaluation  “We are interested in how people are getting along financially these days. Would you say that you (and your family living here) are better off, worse off, or just about the same financially as you were a year ago?”  Worse  Worse–Better  Worse–Same  Worse–Worse  Same  Same–Better  Same–Same  Same–Worse  Better  Better–Better  Better–Same  Better–Worse  Table 2 Combined Pocketbook and Sociotropic Evaluation of Economic Performance Matched categories of pocketbook and sociotropic evaluations   Sociotropic evaluation   “Now thinking about the economy in the country as a whole, would you say that over the past year the nation’s economy has gotten better, stayed about the same, or gotten worse?”   Better  Same  Worse  Pocketbook evaluation  “We are interested in how people are getting along financially these days. Would you say that you (and your family living here) are better off, worse off, or just about the same financially as you were a year ago?”  Worse  Worse–Better  Worse–Same  Worse–Worse  Same  Same–Better  Same–Same  Same–Worse  Better  Better–Better  Better–Same  Better–Worse  Matched categories of pocketbook and sociotropic evaluations   Sociotropic evaluation   “Now thinking about the economy in the country as a whole, would you say that over the past year the nation’s economy has gotten better, stayed about the same, or gotten worse?”   Better  Same  Worse  Pocketbook evaluation  “We are interested in how people are getting along financially these days. Would you say that you (and your family living here) are better off, worse off, or just about the same financially as you were a year ago?”  Worse  Worse–Better  Worse–Same  Worse–Worse  Same  Same–Better  Same–Same  Same–Worse  Better  Better–Better  Better–Same  Better–Worse  Control Variables ANES’ detailed information on respondent socioeconomic backgrounds is used to test whether the hypothesized relationship between people’s perceptions of their relative economic performance and the likelihood that they will state an opinion on free trade is robust across a range of individual characteristics. Taylor (2015) argues that foreign trade policy issue salience is determined by (1) the extent that trade affects voter welfare and (2) the complexity of the proposed policy. First, the distributional effects of trade policy are felt differently by different segments of society. The Heckscher–Ohlin and Ricardo–Viner models of trade theory predict that certain groups benefit from international trade and others lose from it. According to Taylor (2015), trade policy salience is influenced by whether a voter is positively or negatively affected by international trade. The literature on individual trade preferences has examined a range of socioeconomic factors that may increase or decrease the likelihood that an individual will benefit from international trade. For example, previous studies show that individuals who are younger, better educated, and have higher occupational skills are more likely to profit from free trade (Kaltenthaler, Geleeny, & Ceccoli, 2004; Mayda & Rodrik, 2005; O’Rourke & Sinnott, 2001). Individuals who are elderly, female, and less educated are less likely to benefit from free trade, and are often categorized as the “losers” of economic integration. The subsequent analyses control for several implicated socioeconomic factors. Gender is denoted as a binary variable. Female respondents are coded as 1 and males as 0. Work status indicates whether the respondent is employed (=1) or unemployed (=0). Age is included as a continuous variable calculated from the respondent’s birthdate to control for potential age effects.9 Income tests the robustness of relative income considerations on individual attitudes. Real reported income levels are assigned to one of five percentile categories, where higher values represent higher income groups. Trade policy complexity is the second determinant of trade policy salience pointed out by Taylor (2015). Perceptions of general trade policy complexity vary across the electorate, even though the actual complexity of trade policy is not likely to vary across individuals or groups.10 Individuals with higher levels of political sophistication are more likely to discern the implications of the government’s trade policy and are less likely to be influenced by its level of complexity. Political sophistication is measured by the respondent’s educational attainment.11 Education is included as a 7-point scale that ranges from: 1 = eight grades or fewer completed (“grade school”) to 7 = advanced university degrees attained. Integrating the time dimension into the analysis is especially relevant within the context of this study’s research question. It is important to consider changes in the dynamics of economic perceptions on trade issue salience across changes in country-level economic conditions. Consequently, a year variable is included to control for potential differences in the relationship between respondents’ perceived relative economic performance and their likelihood to voice an opinion on foreign trade policy across the different survey waves. Results Since the dependent variable, trade salience, is constructed as a binary variable, a binomial logistic regression is used to estimate the likelihood that respondents’ perceptions of their relative economic conditions influences the level of importance they assign to trade policy. The estimated coefficients of the logistic regression indicate the change in the probability (log odds) of taking an opinion on trade policy given a one unit increase in the predictor variable. First, the effect of the relative performance variable on the likelihood that a respondent will voice an opinion about foreign trade is estimated. The results presented in Table 3 (Column 1) lend support to a “mobilization effect” among respondents who feel that they are not keeping up economically with the rest of the country. In particular, respondents who perceive themselves to be doing worse than the national average are significantly more likely to take a stance on free trade than respondents who think that they are relatively better off (p = .048). The positive coefficient suggests that respondents who consider their economic situation to be just as good or as bad as the country average are more likely to favor or oppose trade limits than respondents who think that they are doing better than the rest of the country. However, the estimated effect in this model is not statistically significant (p = .136). Table 3 Logit Estimates of Perceptions of Relative Economic Performance on Likelihood of Taking a Stance on Foreign Trade Policy Variables  (1)  (2)  Relative performance: same  0.071  0.074  (0.048)  (0.050)  Relative performance: worse  0.126**  0.122*  (0.064)  (0.068)  Female    −0.003    (0.046)  Working    −0.020    (0.023)  Income    0.001    (0.023)  Education    −0.007    (0.015)  Age    0    (0.001)  1996  −0.528***  −0.531***  (0.093)  (0.095)  2000  −0.579***  −0.573***  (0.111)  (0.115)  2004  −0.447***  −0.457***  (0.101)  (0.105)  2008  −0.926***  −0.959***  (0.078)  (0.081)  2012  −0.720***  −0.729***  (0.066)  (0.068)  Constant  0.807***  0.845***  (0.067)  (0.132)  Observations  13,097  11,996  Variables  (1)  (2)  Relative performance: same  0.071  0.074  (0.048)  (0.050)  Relative performance: worse  0.126**  0.122*  (0.064)  (0.068)  Female    −0.003    (0.046)  Working    −0.020    (0.023)  Income    0.001    (0.023)  Education    −0.007    (0.015)  Age    0    (0.001)  1996  −0.528***  −0.531***  (0.093)  (0.095)  2000  −0.579***  −0.573***  (0.111)  (0.115)  2004  −0.447***  −0.457***  (0.101)  (0.105)  2008  −0.926***  −0.959***  (0.078)  (0.081)  2012  −0.720***  −0.729***  (0.066)  (0.068)  Constant  0.807***  0.845***  (0.067)  (0.132)  Observations  13,097  11,996  Note: (1) The reported coefficients from the logit regression give the change in the log odds of Pr(y = 1 (Oppose/Favor new limits on foreign imports)) given a one unit increase in the predictor variable, with all other variables held constant. (2) Standard errors in parentheses. (3) ***p < .01, **p < .05, *p < .1. Table 3 Logit Estimates of Perceptions of Relative Economic Performance on Likelihood of Taking a Stance on Foreign Trade Policy Variables  (1)  (2)  Relative performance: same  0.071  0.074  (0.048)  (0.050)  Relative performance: worse  0.126**  0.122*  (0.064)  (0.068)  Female    −0.003    (0.046)  Working    −0.020    (0.023)  Income    0.001    (0.023)  Education    −0.007    (0.015)  Age    0    (0.001)  1996  −0.528***  −0.531***  (0.093)  (0.095)  2000  −0.579***  −0.573***  (0.111)  (0.115)  2004  −0.447***  −0.457***  (0.101)  (0.105)  2008  −0.926***  −0.959***  (0.078)  (0.081)  2012  −0.720***  −0.729***  (0.066)  (0.068)  Constant  0.807***  0.845***  (0.067)  (0.132)  Observations  13,097  11,996  Variables  (1)  (2)  Relative performance: same  0.071  0.074  (0.048)  (0.050)  Relative performance: worse  0.126**  0.122*  (0.064)  (0.068)  Female    −0.003    (0.046)  Working    −0.020    (0.023)  Income    0.001    (0.023)  Education    −0.007    (0.015)  Age    0    (0.001)  1996  −0.528***  −0.531***  (0.093)  (0.095)  2000  −0.579***  −0.573***  (0.111)  (0.115)  2004  −0.447***  −0.457***  (0.101)  (0.105)  2008  −0.926***  −0.959***  (0.078)  (0.081)  2012  −0.720***  −0.729***  (0.066)  (0.068)  Constant  0.807***  0.845***  (0.067)  (0.132)  Observations  13,097  11,996  Note: (1) The reported coefficients from the logit regression give the change in the log odds of Pr(y = 1 (Oppose/Favor new limits on foreign imports)) given a one unit increase in the predictor variable, with all other variables held constant. (2) Standard errors in parentheses. (3) ***p < .01, **p < .05, *p < .1. The model estimated in Column 2 includes the set of control variables described above. These findings suggest that the mobilization of respondents who feel that they are falling behind relative to the rest of the country is robust after controlling for perceived welfare effects and trade policy complexity (p = .071). The positive coefficient estimate also suggests that the perception of average economic performance, compared with the perception of above average economic performance, increases the likelihood that a person will speak up for or against trade liberalization. However, as in the first model, the estimated effect is not statistically significant (p = .141). Column 2 also shows that the demographic characteristics included in this analysis are not statistically significant. The year variable is statistically significant in all three models, which indicates that the likelihood a respondent will take a stance on free trade issues has decreased in subsequent waves since 1992. Discussion Consistent with the mobilization effect, the results from this analysis suggest that respondents are most likely to express an opinion on foreign trade when they perceive their “pocketbook” to be in worse condition than the country’s economy. Perceptions of falling behind financially relative to the rest of the country serve as a catalyst for increasing trade issue salience. These findings do not support the theory of withdrawal or no effect in times of economic distress. Assuming that citizens are also more likely to engage politically when they attribute importance to a policy issue, these results may be read as good news for democratic efficacy. An increase in trade salience among voters during economic hardship suggests that citizens feel that they can bring about a change to the (negative) status quo by participating, rather than by withdrawing, from the political sphere. This study also addresses the question of whether voters are similarly affected by positive economic perceptions as they are by negative economic perceptions. Numerous studies in attribution psychology have documented a negativity bias in how individuals evaluate and make decisions under negative circumstances (Arceneaux, 2003; Hewstone, 1989). Individuals tend to assign more weight to negative information than positive information. This typically results in an increased propensity for individuals to express blame instead of credit (Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Finkenauer, & Vohs, 2001; Jensen & Rosas, 2014). The results from the main analysis indicate that citizens are indeed more affected by their negative economic perceptions than by their positive perceptions. This suggests that voters are more likely to take a stance on foreign trade policy by blaming incumbents for poor economic performance. However, voters are not likely to express their satisfaction when they perceive their economic situation to be in good condition. While this study is exclusively concerned with the probability of taking a stance on trade policy given a certain perceived economic condition, one key shortcoming of the current analysis is that the main outcome variable, trade salience, has been used in the literature as a measure of trade preferences by simply deleting the responses indicating that the respondent has not thought much about trade issues. As noted above, trade salience and trade preferences are conceptually distinct from one another. It would have been ideal to have two separate survey items in the ANES that asked respondents about the level of importance they assign to trade issues, along with a distinct item to capture people’s specific trade preferences. However, this distinction is not made in any of the publicly accessible surveys that examine individual attitudes toward international trade.12 This study argues that variation in trade salience among voters is driven by how citizens perceive their economic performance compared with the country’s economy. The results from the main analysis show that perceived personal economic hardship, when compared with the rest of the country, makes citizens more likely to take a stance on trade. Such economic considerations are not likely to affect an individual’s preference for a specific type of trade policy. This hypothesis is tested with the logistic regression model specification described in Table 3 with trade preference as the outcome variable. Trade preference is a dichotomous variable coded as 0 if the respondent opposes trade import restrictions, and 1 if the respondents favors trade import restrictions. Respondents who answer that they “have not thought much about trade” are coded as missing. The results from this analysis show that perceptions of relative economic performance do not affect an individual’s specific trade preferences. These findings lend support to the notion that trade salience and trade preference are conceptually distinguishable, and as such are also driven by different types of economic perception. In addition, it could be the case that trade salience is not driven by individuals’ perceived relative deprivation in comparison with the rest of the country, but instead by their perceived economic performance vis-à-vis other groups. Additional analysis controls for respondents’ attitudes toward other groups to test the possibility that the impact of relative performance measure may be capturing a respondent’s economic comparison with other out-groups.13 The results from this analysis show that outgroup sentiments are, to some extent, correlated with the respondent’s likelihood to think about trade issues. However, the inclusion of these variables does not render the overall effect of people’s economic performance compared with the rest of the country insignificant. Conclusion While the voting literature has paid considerable attention to how economic perceptions affect how an individual votes (Gomez & Wilson, 2001; Kramer 1971; Lewis-Beck & Paldam, 2000; Markus, 1988), only more recently have a handful of scholars begun to examine how economic perceptions affect whether an individual will vote (Gomez & Hansford, 2015; Hansford & Gomez, 2011; Killian, Schoen, & Dusso, 2008). Similarly, although the majority of the research on individual trade preference focuses on the impact of economic evaluations on people’s specific trade policy preferences (Fordham & Kleinberg, 2012; Kaltenthaler, Geleeny, & Ceccoli, 2004; Lü, Scheve, & Slaughter, 2012; Mansfield & Mutz, 2009; Mayda & Rodrik, 2005; Scheve & Slaughter, 2001), the question of how perceived changes in economic performance affect trade salience among voters has largely been ignored. However, the connection between economic evaluations and the probability that citizens will take a stance on important policy issues, including trade policy, has significant implications for electoral accountability. Studying the relationship between economic perceptions and trade salience allows us to shed light not only on “whether voters pass judgment for economic variability, but also which voters sit in judgment” (Gomez & Hansford, 2015, p. 310). Thus, the conceptualized interaction between (perceived) economic conditions and voter mobilization in Rosenstone’s (1982) framework remains highly relevant almost 10 years after the peak of the global financial crisis. This study builds on the economic voting literature to test whether and how an individual’s likelihood to take a stance on international trade varies with their economic evaluations. This study investigates whether negative economic outcomes—captured by respondents’ perceptions of their economic situation relative to how they think the nation’s economy is faring—have a mobilization effect, thus increasing the probability that citizens will speak up for or against free trade. The findings from the empirical analysis lend support to the existence of a mobilization effect during difficult economic times. Respondents are most likely to voice an opinion about trade if they perceive their economic situation to be worse than the average economic situation in their country’s economy. In contrast, when individuals think that they are relatively better off than the rest of the country, they are less likely to take a stance on trade issues. The empirical results align with recent findings from other studies that trade is a low-salience issue (Cobb & Nance, 2011; Guisinger, 2009), and that the lack of public interest in trade policy is more persistent and prevalent than the existing literature has thus far acknowledged. Future research in this field should pay closer attention to individual nonattitudes, and go beyond the simple binary distinction between support for and opposition to international trade. It is vital to extend existing theories of individual trade preferences by including the possibility that individuals may not consider trade issues to be important in the first place. This study takes an important step in this direction by accounting for the factors that drive voters to think about trade issues, instead of only focusing on what determines whether individuals like or dislike international trade. Future research may also examine scope conditions under which Rosenstone’s hypotheses are likely to prevail. For instance, it would be interesting to study the role of physical security (in interaction with economic security) under the growing (perceived) risk of terrorist attacks. Quynh Nguyen is a research fellow at the Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik/German Development Institute and a research associate at the Center for Comparative and International Studies at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich). Footnotes 1Cited in The Hill. Trump signs executive orders ramping up trade enforcement. http://thehill.com/policy/finance/326803-trump-signs-executive-orders-ramping-up-trade-enforcement. 03/31/2017. 2This includes, for example, the impact of salience on the behavior of interest groups (Rasmussen, Carroll, & Lowery, 2014), the effect of lobbying (Mahoney, 2007), and voting behavior (Edwards, Mitchell, & Welch, 2011; Fournier, Blais, Nadeau, Gidengil, & Nevitte, 2003). 3See, for example, Blonigen (2011), Cobb & Nance (2011), Egan (2015). 4This finding has also been reported by others drawing on data from both the United States and abroad (Brody & Sniderman, 1977; Caldeira, Patterson, & Markko, 1985; Pacek, 1994). 5Arceneaux (2003) shows that mobilization may be conditional on contextual or psychological factors. 6For example, the polls conducted by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, the International Social Survey Program, the World Values Survey, etc. However, the ANES is the only survey that allows respondents to submit an explicit a nonattitude to the question about their opinion on international trade. 7The two questions also do not appear immediately one after the other in the survey. 8The worse off (=1) category includes respondents who view their personal financial situation as worsening while the country’s economy is considered to have improved or stayed the same. This category also includes respondents who see no change in their pocketbook while the country’s economic performance has improved. Respondents assigned to the same (=2) category are those who have identical pocketbook and sociotropic evaluations. Better off (=3) are respondents who think that their personal economic situation has improved while the country’s economy has performed worse or stayed the same. This also includes respondents whose economic situation are perceived to have stayed the same, but believe that the nation’s economy has deteriorated. 9January 1st of the respective survey year is used as the reference date. 10Taylor (2015) examines specific preferential trade agreements. Given their differentiated design, scope, and members, these agreements naturally vary in their complexity and welfare effects. 11Although it is a common approach in the literature to operationalize political sophistication via education, it would have certainly been ideal to have a more direct measure of political sophistication that captures, for instance, respondents’ political knowledge. One survey item in the ANES asks respondents to report how often they follow politics and public affairs in a week. Unfortunately, however, this item was only asked in three (2004, 2008, 2012) out of the six survey rounds under study. 12This includes the Eurobarometer, the International Social Survey Programme, the Cooperative Congressional Election Survey, or the World Values Survey. 13Five different survey items are used to measure respondents’ attitudes toward other ethnic groups. 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Taking a Step Back: Economic Performance and Issue Salience of International Trade Policy

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Oxford University Press
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© The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The World Association for Public Opinion Research. All rights reserved.
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0954-2892
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1471-6909
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Abstract

Abstract Contesting schools of literature argue that trade policy issues are either highly salient or nonsalient to perspective voters. These divergent views obfuscate the fact that trade salience varies significantly over time. This study focuses on the role of citizens’ perceptions of their economic performance relative to national economic trends by combining individual pocketbook perceptions and individual sociotropic considerations of national economic performance to analyze the conditions that cause trade policy to become salient to voters. Using cross-sectional data from multiple waves of the American National Election Studies survey (1992–2012), this study shows that voters are more likely to voice an opinion on trade if they perceive their economic situation to be worse off than the national average. President Donald Trump credited his surprise election victory to his vigorous stance on trade policy when he stated that trade policy is “probably one of the major reasons I’m here today”.1 Does trade policy really have electoral consequences? The existing literature is ambiguous. Some studies argue that public opinion acts as a domestic constraint in trade policymaking (Jensen, Quinn, & Weymouth, 2017; Kono, 2008). In particular, the extensive literature on individual trade policy preferences assumes that citizens are fundamentally interested in trade policy, through which they derive specific preferences for trade liberalization (Hainmueller & Hiscox, 2006; Mansfield & Mutz, 2009; Mayda & Rodrik, 2005; Scheve & Slaughter, 2001). On the other hand, Guisinger (2009) finds that voters are both ignorant and indifferent toward trade policy. Voters neither constrain foreign trade decisions nor hold individual decision makers accountable for their attitudes toward free trade. These findings call into question the underlying assumption of trade models, which argue that trade policies reflect voter interests (Kono, 2008; Mansfield & Pevehouse, 2000; Milner & Kubota, 2005). Both sides take extreme positions on the theorized salience of trade policy. The first strand of literature assumes that citizens consistently care about foreign trade, while the second strand of literature argues that the mass polity is notoriously uninterested in trade issues, making them electorally irrelevant to prospective voters. In reality, the issue salience of trade policy varies significantly over time. While trade policy looms largely in certain eras, as demonstrated by recent protests against the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, at other times, trade policy plays virtually no role in the public discourse. Indeed, the conditions under which trade policy is likely to become salient to voters is little understood. This article focuses on the role of individual economic perceptions to investigate the factors that drive citizens to take a stance on free trade policy. While existing studies typically focus exclusively on either individuals’ perceptions of their pocketbook or their sociotropic considerations of their country’s economic condition, this study examines the joint effects of pocketbook perceptions and sociotropic considerations on trade policy salience. Specifically, this study examines how relative economic performance, that is, a person’s perception of his/her economic situation compared with his/her evaluation of the country’s economy, influences the extent to which that person cares about international trade. Using cross-sectional data from multiple waves of the American National Election Studies (ANES) survey (1992–2012), the findings indicate that relative economic performance plays a significant role in determining trade policy salience. Results from the empirical analysis show that perceptions of personal economic stagnation and deterioration, compared with the performance of the rest of the country, increase the salience of trade policy among voters. Salience is relevant in the context of international trade policy. A number of studies show that salience impacts many political processes, in particular the public opinion–policy nexus.2 Salience can affect public opinion and the relationship between public opinion and policy. Much of the trade literature implicitly assumes that trade policies are influenced by the electorate, suggesting that politicians are constrained by, and act in, the interests of their constituents. This article argues that voter trade preferences may not constrain decision makers in all circumstances. Instead, the salience of a particular policy strongly influences whether public opinion can constrain decision makers and, in the context of this study, whether public preferences influence government trade policy. This article is organized as follows. The first section reviews the relevant literature and embeds the research question into the existing scholarly debate. Section 2 outlines the mechanism through which perceptions of personal and national economic conditions influence how much importance individuals place on trade issues. Section 3 presents the data and describes the procedures used to test the article’s hypotheses. The fourth section presents the results. The final section concludes and discusses potential avenues for future research. Salience of Trade Policy Issue salience refers to the relative importance that an actor places on a certain issue. It is a measure of the level of attentiveness that individuals devote to particular issues relative to others. The degree of attention indicates the overall prominence that an issue takes in the mind of an actor (Soroka, 2006, p. 28–29). The literature on the salience of trade policy is both undertheorized and little tested. This is surprising, considering that trade models are often based on the assumption that voters have specific trade preferences for varying levels of liberalization and protectionism, which in turn constrain decision makers. The literature largely explains variations in individual preferences for economic integration as a result of material self-interest. Scholars argue that preferences develop from the expected personal gains or losses that accrue to individuals through economic openness. These arguments are usually derived from the traditional Heckscher–Ohlin or Ricardo–Viner models, both of which focus on the distributive consequences of economic integration (Hays, Ehrlich, & Peinhardt, 2005; Irwin, 1994; Mayda & Rodrik, 2005; O’Rourke & Sinnott, 2001; Scheve & Slaughter, 2001). These models posit that trade policy changes affect the job prospects and incomes of individuals, where different levels of trade liberalization either increase or decrease income and employment opportunities, and, therefore, drive divergent preferences toward trade policies. Models of individual trade preferences therefore imply that voters care enough about the topic of trade to award (punish) governments for (un)desirable trade policy decisions. Additionally, a number of studies demonstrate that individual trade preferences act as a domestic constraint on policymakers. Recent work by Jensen, Quinn, and Weymouth (2017) shows that increasing imports negatively affect the incumbent party’s vote shares in U.S. presidential elections. Incumbents are electorally rewarded for increasing exports and punished for increasing imports, which demonstrates that trade variables can account for national presidential voting outcomes. Margalit (2011) shows that the incumbent’s vote share in recent U.S. presidential elections is more negatively affected by local job losses resulting from foreign competition, such as offshoring, than other factors. Thus, voters have a propensity to hold policymakers electorally accountable for their trade policies. Kono (2008) finds that public support for free trade leads to lower tariffs in democratic countries. At the same time, there is a widespread perception that trade policy is a low-salience issue among the general public.3Guisinger (2009) shows that voters in the 2006 U.S. midterm congressional elections did not hold Senate incumbents accountable for their votes on the Central American Free Trade Agreement. According to Guisinger (2009), this is because a majority of voters are unaware of the trade policy position of their politicians, and voters do not withdraw their support for their representatives for taking a view on trade that differs from their own. Accordingly, Guisinger concludes that trade policy is a low-salient issue both in terms of stated importance as well as in its effect on a voter’s decision. Two contrasting views concerning the salience of trade policy emerge from this review of the literature. One strand of the literature puts forward that trade policy is a low-salient issue (Blonigen, 2011; Cobb & Nance, 2011; Guisinger, 2009). If trade policy is not salient, one would expect that voters are apathetic about the trade policy decisions made by their governments. However, a large body of literature argues that voters have specific trade preferences (Hainmueller & Hiscox, 2006; Mansfield & Mutz, 2009; Mayda & Rodrik, 2005; Scheve & Slaughter, 2001). Recent studies also show that trade-induced job losses have electoral consequences, indicating that trade issues are salient enough to motivate voters to punish policymakers (Jensen, Quinn, & Weymouth, 2017; Kono, 2008; Margalit, 2011). While these views take extreme positions on the salience of trade policy, following Taylor (2015), this article argues that trade policies are neither always salient nor are they constantly low or nonsalient. Economic Condition and Trade Salience While the way citizens perceive the state of the economy has been identified as an important factor in explaining variations in levels of public support for international trade, little attention has been paid to the question of whether such perceptions affect a person’s likelihood to place importance on trade policy issues. The relationship between individual evaluations of economic performance and political salience has been primarily explored in the voting literature. The majority of these studies are framed mainly by the work of Rosenstone (1982), who outlines three competing hypotheses on the relationship between economic hardship conditions (or individuals’ perception thereof) and electoral turnout. The mobilization hypothesis states that adverse economic conditions increase the likelihood of voter participation, as citizens seek to voice their grievances through their vote. Milbrath and Goel (1977) note that voters who witness or perceive negative changes in the economic stability of their nation or their own finances are more likely to feel that their civic participation can change the course of the economy. In contrast, the withdrawal hypothesis postulates that individuals who are experiencing economic pressure do not vote because they are too absorbed by their economic difficulties to pay attention to politics. Rosenstone contends that “when a person suffers economic adversity his scarce resources are spent holding body and soul together, not on remote concerns like politics” (Rosenstone, 1982, p. 25). This is because deteriorating financial conditions make it less feasible for voters to meet the costs of political participation. A third possibility, the no effect hypothesis, argues that there is no correlation between economic adversity and voters’ turnout decisions. This suggests that as the perceived state of the economy continues to falter, most people do not seek political solutions for what they view primarily as personal problems (Feldman, 1982). Empirical evidence for the three hypotheses is mixed. While Rosenstone (1982) finds weak evidence in support of the withdrawal hypothesis,4 the analysis by Schlozman and Verba (1979) lends support to the mobilization hypothesis by demonstrating that poor economic circumstances increase voter turnout.5 Other studies provide empirical evidence for the third hypothesis, suggesting that economic considerations have no effect on turnout decisions (Arcelus & Meltzer, 1975; Fiorina, 1978). In the context of trade salience, this implies that perceptions of economic hardship may increase the relative importance of trade issues and thus raise the likelihood that citizens take a stance on trade policy. Alternatively, citizens may find themselves more occupied with the day-to-day struggle to provide for their wants and needs during periods of economic hardship, leading to a decrease in trade policy salience. Citizens may also feel that their political influence has little impact on the course of the economy. Perceptions of Relative Economic Performance While there is broad consensus among scholars on the influence of perceived economic outcomes on individual political preferences, disagreement exists over the particular types of economic conditions likely to influence citizens’ decision-making (Fordham & Kleinberg, 2012; Mansfield & Mutz, 2009; Schaffer & Spilker, 2014). In particular, the literature on individual trade preferences continues to disagree on whether voters evaluate the economic effects of international trade through their pocketbooks, or whether their assessments are based on sociotropic perceptions of the country’s economic performance. As a result, individuals’ egotropic perceptions of their personal economic situation and their subjective evaluation of their nation’s economy commonly enter into the analysis as separate factors. The possibility that pocketbook and sociotropic economic considerations operate in tandem to shape individual views on international trade has not been adequately addressed in the existing literature. This is surprising given the growing number of studies on the impact of social or “other-regarding” preferences on individuals’ preferences and decision-making (Charness & Rabin, 2002; Fehr & Schmidt, 1999; Sobel, 2005). For example, Lü, Scheve, and Slaughter (2012) show that individuals are concerned about the relative distribution of the economic benefits of international trade insofar as it affects their own economic standing vis-à-vis others. Their results from survey experiments in China and the United States suggest that such considerations have a significant impact on people’s trade preferences. Graham and Pettinato (2002) also find evidence for reference-dependent evaluations of subjective well-being in a study of self-reported levels of happiness before and after market integration in Peru and Russia. The authors report that citizens living in recently liberalized economies often evaluate their subjective well-being in a more negative light in comparison with the preliberalization period, despite experiencing real income gains following the transition. The analysis indicates that the “frustrated achievers” phenomenon may be driven by negative perceptions of one’s economic standing relative to the average citizen’s economic standing, rather than by losses or gains in absolute terms. Killian, Schoen, and Dusso (2008) introduce a reference-dependent model to examine the joint impact of pocketbook and sociotropic evaluations on electoral behavior. They argue that voters compare their individual economic well-being with perceptions of the country’s economic performance, and that this comparison shapes their voting decisions (Killian, Schoen, & Dusso, 2008, p. 324). Specifically, perceptions of falling behind economically relative to the rest of the country increases voters’ likelihood to turn out and vote. Building on Killian et al.’s (2008) model of voter turnout, for this study, a framework is developed that integrates sociotropic and pocketbook evaluations to examine whether individuals’ propensity to take a stance on international trade is driven by their perceived economic well-being relative to others in society. Accordingly, the issue salience of international trade is determined by an individual’s subjective assessment of his/her personal economic condition relative to his/her perception of the country’s economic performance. Individuals who perceive the economy to be performing well attribute a positive national-level impact to trade on the basis of this belief. In contrast, individuals who perceive that the economy is performing less well may conclude that trade has a negative effect on the economy. Individuals then derive an overall judgment of the economic implications of trade liberalization by comparing their personal economic condition against their country’s economic performance (McMann, 2012). Individuals who infer that most people have benefited from trade, but see no improvement in their personal economic situation, will feel that they have lost out under trade liberalization. This is true even if they have, in fact, experienced individual gains from trade. Economic improvements perceived at the personal level can also cause feelings of underachievement if the individual believes that these gains are less than the country average. This negative perception of one’s economic status is likely to encourage people to speak out against the status quo. The mobilization hypothesis accordingly predicts that individuals who perceive their household finances to be performing worse than the country average are more likely to voice their opinion about international trade. Alternatively, individuals who feel that they are faring worse than the rest of the country may decrease the level of attention they assign to distant political matters (such as trade policy) and instead retreat to the private sphere. Thus, the withdrawal hypothesis predicts that individuals who perceive their household finances to be performing worse than the country average are less likely to voice their opinion about international trade. Individuals may also believe that their relative economic situation is unaffected by any policy intervention. Consequently, the no effect hypothesis predicts that individuals’ perceptions of their household finances compared with the country average have no effect on their likelihood to voice an opinion about international trade. Empirical Strategy These theoretical arguments are tested using data from the ANES survey. The United States has been at the forefront of the creation of the post-World War II global trading regime. The significance of international trade to the U.S. economy is large and has steadily increased since the 1950s. Today, U.S. exports and imports are valued at more than 30% of the U.S. gross domestic product, up from <10 per cent in the immediate postwar era. The Department of Commerce (2015) estimates that U.S. exports are worth $2.3 trillion, directly supporting 11.7 million jobs. The role of foreign trade to the U.S. economy has also not gone by unnoticed by the American public. This is captured in several public polls.6 This study uses data from six ANES survey waves (1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012) with a pooled sample of over 15,400 respondents. Attitudes Toward International Trade Since 1992, the ANES survey has asked its respondents to report their attitudes toward international trade using the following question: Some people have suggested placing new limits on foreign imports in order to protect American jobs. Others say that such limits would raise consumer prices and hurt American exports. Do you favor or oppose placing new limits on imports, or haven’t you thought much about this? Since then, the ANES has featured this trade attitude item in several survey rounds, allowing researchers to trace opinions on foreign trade over time. While most survey questions on people’s opinions about free trade only allow respondents to choose between support for and opposition to free trade, the ANES item includes a third option that captures free trade policy issue salience by asking respondents whether they have thought much about this issue. Existing studies that use ANES data traditionally code this category as missing. Table 1 presents the descriptive statistics of all variables included in the main analysis. Over the 20 years under study, “haven’t thought much about trade” was the most preferred response option (42.98%) to the trade policy question. Thus, simply ignoring nonattitudes presents an incomplete picture of an individual’s trade preferences, and it overestimates the actual support for or against free trade. Because this study examines the impact of citizens’ perceptions of economic conditions on the probability of taking a stance on trade issues, nonattitudes toward foreign trade are included as a separate response category. The binary measure, trade salience, is coded as 1 if the respondent either favors or opposes limiting foreign imports, and thus indicates a clear opinion about trade. Responses stating that the respondent hasn’t thought much about trade are coded as 0. Table 1 List of Variables and Descriptive Statistics Variable description  Observation  Mean  SD  Min  Max  Trade salience                Do you favor or oppose placing new limits on imports, or haven’t you thought much about this?  13,389  0.57  0.495  0  1      0 = Haven't thought much about this  5,755 (42.98%)              1 = Favor  4,835 (36.11%)              2 = Oppose  2,799 (20.91%)          Economic perception                Respondents' perception of the personal economic situation compared with country's economy  15,122  1.868  0.896  1  3      1 = Same as country  7,205 (47.65%)              2 = Worse than country  2,715 (17.95%)              3 = Better than country  5,202 (34.4%)          Gender                [0 = Male; 1 = Female]  15,454  0.5389  0.4985  0  1  Employment status                “We’d like to know if YOU are working now, temporarily laid off, or are you unemployed, retired, permanently disabled, a homemaker, a student, or what?”  15,454  0.5889  0.492  0  1      [0 = Not working (includes temporarily laid off, unemployed, retired, permanently disabled, homemaker, student); 1 = Working]            Family income                “Please look at the booklet and tell me the letter of the income group that includes the income of all members of your family living here in 2003 before taxes. This figure should include salaries, wages, pensions, dividends, interest, and all other income.” (collapsed)  14284  2.8044  1.1505  1  5  Age                “What is the month, day and year of your birth”  15,334  47.8937  17.2014  18  96  Variable description  Observation  Mean  SD  Min  Max  Trade salience                Do you favor or oppose placing new limits on imports, or haven’t you thought much about this?  13,389  0.57  0.495  0  1      0 = Haven't thought much about this  5,755 (42.98%)              1 = Favor  4,835 (36.11%)              2 = Oppose  2,799 (20.91%)          Economic perception                Respondents' perception of the personal economic situation compared with country's economy  15,122  1.868  0.896  1  3      1 = Same as country  7,205 (47.65%)              2 = Worse than country  2,715 (17.95%)              3 = Better than country  5,202 (34.4%)          Gender                [0 = Male; 1 = Female]  15,454  0.5389  0.4985  0  1  Employment status                “We’d like to know if YOU are working now, temporarily laid off, or are you unemployed, retired, permanently disabled, a homemaker, a student, or what?”  15,454  0.5889  0.492  0  1      [0 = Not working (includes temporarily laid off, unemployed, retired, permanently disabled, homemaker, student); 1 = Working]            Family income                “Please look at the booklet and tell me the letter of the income group that includes the income of all members of your family living here in 2003 before taxes. This figure should include salaries, wages, pensions, dividends, interest, and all other income.” (collapsed)  14284  2.8044  1.1505  1  5  Age                “What is the month, day and year of your birth”  15,334  47.8937  17.2014  18  96  Table 1 List of Variables and Descriptive Statistics Variable description  Observation  Mean  SD  Min  Max  Trade salience                Do you favor or oppose placing new limits on imports, or haven’t you thought much about this?  13,389  0.57  0.495  0  1      0 = Haven't thought much about this  5,755 (42.98%)              1 = Favor  4,835 (36.11%)              2 = Oppose  2,799 (20.91%)          Economic perception                Respondents' perception of the personal economic situation compared with country's economy  15,122  1.868  0.896  1  3      1 = Same as country  7,205 (47.65%)              2 = Worse than country  2,715 (17.95%)              3 = Better than country  5,202 (34.4%)          Gender                [0 = Male; 1 = Female]  15,454  0.5389  0.4985  0  1  Employment status                “We’d like to know if YOU are working now, temporarily laid off, or are you unemployed, retired, permanently disabled, a homemaker, a student, or what?”  15,454  0.5889  0.492  0  1      [0 = Not working (includes temporarily laid off, unemployed, retired, permanently disabled, homemaker, student); 1 = Working]            Family income                “Please look at the booklet and tell me the letter of the income group that includes the income of all members of your family living here in 2003 before taxes. This figure should include salaries, wages, pensions, dividends, interest, and all other income.” (collapsed)  14284  2.8044  1.1505  1  5  Age                “What is the month, day and year of your birth”  15,334  47.8937  17.2014  18  96  Variable description  Observation  Mean  SD  Min  Max  Trade salience                Do you favor or oppose placing new limits on imports, or haven’t you thought much about this?  13,389  0.57  0.495  0  1      0 = Haven't thought much about this  5,755 (42.98%)              1 = Favor  4,835 (36.11%)              2 = Oppose  2,799 (20.91%)          Economic perception                Respondents' perception of the personal economic situation compared with country's economy  15,122  1.868  0.896  1  3      1 = Same as country  7,205 (47.65%)              2 = Worse than country  2,715 (17.95%)              3 = Better than country  5,202 (34.4%)          Gender                [0 = Male; 1 = Female]  15,454  0.5389  0.4985  0  1  Employment status                “We’d like to know if YOU are working now, temporarily laid off, or are you unemployed, retired, permanently disabled, a homemaker, a student, or what?”  15,454  0.5889  0.492  0  1      [0 = Not working (includes temporarily laid off, unemployed, retired, permanently disabled, homemaker, student); 1 = Working]            Family income                “Please look at the booklet and tell me the letter of the income group that includes the income of all members of your family living here in 2003 before taxes. This figure should include salaries, wages, pensions, dividends, interest, and all other income.” (collapsed)  14284  2.8044  1.1505  1  5  Age                “What is the month, day and year of your birth”  15,334  47.8937  17.2014  18  96  Perceptions of Economic Performance The main independent variable—individuals’ combined ego and sociotropic economic evaluations—is generated by comparing respondents’ current personal economic situation with their economic situation from the previous year and their perceptions of their country’s economic performance from the previous year. Responses to both survey questions are measured on a 3-point scale indicating subjective perceptions of improvement (“better”), deterioration (“worse”), or no change (“the same”). A Pearson’s correlation coefficient of .13 confirms that the two questions are not highly correlated. Respondents conceptually distinguish between their evaluation of their economic situation and their assessment of their country’s economic performance.7 This study follows Killian et al.’s (2008) approach of combining responses from respondents’ pocketbook assessments and sociotropic evaluations to capture their perceptions of their households’ financial performance relative to the country’s economic performance. Each pocketbook evaluation category is paired with a possible response to the sociotropic question, resulting in nine possible pairings that measure relative performance. Table 2 provides an overview of the matched categories. These nine pairings are then combined into three categories that indicate respondent perceptions of being economically worse (1) off, on the same (2) track, and better (3) off than the country average.8 The latter category is used as the base category for comparison. The largest group (47.65%) across the entire study period consists of respondents who perceive that they are faring economically the same as the national economy (Table 1). A larger number of respondents perceive their personal financial situation to be better off (34.4%) than the number of respondents who perceive their personal financial situation to be worse off economically than the national average (17.95%). Table 2 Combined Pocketbook and Sociotropic Evaluation of Economic Performance Matched categories of pocketbook and sociotropic evaluations   Sociotropic evaluation   “Now thinking about the economy in the country as a whole, would you say that over the past year the nation’s economy has gotten better, stayed about the same, or gotten worse?”   Better  Same  Worse  Pocketbook evaluation  “We are interested in how people are getting along financially these days. Would you say that you (and your family living here) are better off, worse off, or just about the same financially as you were a year ago?”  Worse  Worse–Better  Worse–Same  Worse–Worse  Same  Same–Better  Same–Same  Same–Worse  Better  Better–Better  Better–Same  Better–Worse  Matched categories of pocketbook and sociotropic evaluations   Sociotropic evaluation   “Now thinking about the economy in the country as a whole, would you say that over the past year the nation’s economy has gotten better, stayed about the same, or gotten worse?”   Better  Same  Worse  Pocketbook evaluation  “We are interested in how people are getting along financially these days. Would you say that you (and your family living here) are better off, worse off, or just about the same financially as you were a year ago?”  Worse  Worse–Better  Worse–Same  Worse–Worse  Same  Same–Better  Same–Same  Same–Worse  Better  Better–Better  Better–Same  Better–Worse  Table 2 Combined Pocketbook and Sociotropic Evaluation of Economic Performance Matched categories of pocketbook and sociotropic evaluations   Sociotropic evaluation   “Now thinking about the economy in the country as a whole, would you say that over the past year the nation’s economy has gotten better, stayed about the same, or gotten worse?”   Better  Same  Worse  Pocketbook evaluation  “We are interested in how people are getting along financially these days. Would you say that you (and your family living here) are better off, worse off, or just about the same financially as you were a year ago?”  Worse  Worse–Better  Worse–Same  Worse–Worse  Same  Same–Better  Same–Same  Same–Worse  Better  Better–Better  Better–Same  Better–Worse  Matched categories of pocketbook and sociotropic evaluations   Sociotropic evaluation   “Now thinking about the economy in the country as a whole, would you say that over the past year the nation’s economy has gotten better, stayed about the same, or gotten worse?”   Better  Same  Worse  Pocketbook evaluation  “We are interested in how people are getting along financially these days. Would you say that you (and your family living here) are better off, worse off, or just about the same financially as you were a year ago?”  Worse  Worse–Better  Worse–Same  Worse–Worse  Same  Same–Better  Same–Same  Same–Worse  Better  Better–Better  Better–Same  Better–Worse  Control Variables ANES’ detailed information on respondent socioeconomic backgrounds is used to test whether the hypothesized relationship between people’s perceptions of their relative economic performance and the likelihood that they will state an opinion on free trade is robust across a range of individual characteristics. Taylor (2015) argues that foreign trade policy issue salience is determined by (1) the extent that trade affects voter welfare and (2) the complexity of the proposed policy. First, the distributional effects of trade policy are felt differently by different segments of society. The Heckscher–Ohlin and Ricardo–Viner models of trade theory predict that certain groups benefit from international trade and others lose from it. According to Taylor (2015), trade policy salience is influenced by whether a voter is positively or negatively affected by international trade. The literature on individual trade preferences has examined a range of socioeconomic factors that may increase or decrease the likelihood that an individual will benefit from international trade. For example, previous studies show that individuals who are younger, better educated, and have higher occupational skills are more likely to profit from free trade (Kaltenthaler, Geleeny, & Ceccoli, 2004; Mayda & Rodrik, 2005; O’Rourke & Sinnott, 2001). Individuals who are elderly, female, and less educated are less likely to benefit from free trade, and are often categorized as the “losers” of economic integration. The subsequent analyses control for several implicated socioeconomic factors. Gender is denoted as a binary variable. Female respondents are coded as 1 and males as 0. Work status indicates whether the respondent is employed (=1) or unemployed (=0). Age is included as a continuous variable calculated from the respondent’s birthdate to control for potential age effects.9 Income tests the robustness of relative income considerations on individual attitudes. Real reported income levels are assigned to one of five percentile categories, where higher values represent higher income groups. Trade policy complexity is the second determinant of trade policy salience pointed out by Taylor (2015). Perceptions of general trade policy complexity vary across the electorate, even though the actual complexity of trade policy is not likely to vary across individuals or groups.10 Individuals with higher levels of political sophistication are more likely to discern the implications of the government’s trade policy and are less likely to be influenced by its level of complexity. Political sophistication is measured by the respondent’s educational attainment.11 Education is included as a 7-point scale that ranges from: 1 = eight grades or fewer completed (“grade school”) to 7 = advanced university degrees attained. Integrating the time dimension into the analysis is especially relevant within the context of this study’s research question. It is important to consider changes in the dynamics of economic perceptions on trade issue salience across changes in country-level economic conditions. Consequently, a year variable is included to control for potential differences in the relationship between respondents’ perceived relative economic performance and their likelihood to voice an opinion on foreign trade policy across the different survey waves. Results Since the dependent variable, trade salience, is constructed as a binary variable, a binomial logistic regression is used to estimate the likelihood that respondents’ perceptions of their relative economic conditions influences the level of importance they assign to trade policy. The estimated coefficients of the logistic regression indicate the change in the probability (log odds) of taking an opinion on trade policy given a one unit increase in the predictor variable. First, the effect of the relative performance variable on the likelihood that a respondent will voice an opinion about foreign trade is estimated. The results presented in Table 3 (Column 1) lend support to a “mobilization effect” among respondents who feel that they are not keeping up economically with the rest of the country. In particular, respondents who perceive themselves to be doing worse than the national average are significantly more likely to take a stance on free trade than respondents who think that they are relatively better off (p = .048). The positive coefficient suggests that respondents who consider their economic situation to be just as good or as bad as the country average are more likely to favor or oppose trade limits than respondents who think that they are doing better than the rest of the country. However, the estimated effect in this model is not statistically significant (p = .136). Table 3 Logit Estimates of Perceptions of Relative Economic Performance on Likelihood of Taking a Stance on Foreign Trade Policy Variables  (1)  (2)  Relative performance: same  0.071  0.074  (0.048)  (0.050)  Relative performance: worse  0.126**  0.122*  (0.064)  (0.068)  Female    −0.003    (0.046)  Working    −0.020    (0.023)  Income    0.001    (0.023)  Education    −0.007    (0.015)  Age    0    (0.001)  1996  −0.528***  −0.531***  (0.093)  (0.095)  2000  −0.579***  −0.573***  (0.111)  (0.115)  2004  −0.447***  −0.457***  (0.101)  (0.105)  2008  −0.926***  −0.959***  (0.078)  (0.081)  2012  −0.720***  −0.729***  (0.066)  (0.068)  Constant  0.807***  0.845***  (0.067)  (0.132)  Observations  13,097  11,996  Variables  (1)  (2)  Relative performance: same  0.071  0.074  (0.048)  (0.050)  Relative performance: worse  0.126**  0.122*  (0.064)  (0.068)  Female    −0.003    (0.046)  Working    −0.020    (0.023)  Income    0.001    (0.023)  Education    −0.007    (0.015)  Age    0    (0.001)  1996  −0.528***  −0.531***  (0.093)  (0.095)  2000  −0.579***  −0.573***  (0.111)  (0.115)  2004  −0.447***  −0.457***  (0.101)  (0.105)  2008  −0.926***  −0.959***  (0.078)  (0.081)  2012  −0.720***  −0.729***  (0.066)  (0.068)  Constant  0.807***  0.845***  (0.067)  (0.132)  Observations  13,097  11,996  Note: (1) The reported coefficients from the logit regression give the change in the log odds of Pr(y = 1 (Oppose/Favor new limits on foreign imports)) given a one unit increase in the predictor variable, with all other variables held constant. (2) Standard errors in parentheses. (3) ***p < .01, **p < .05, *p < .1. Table 3 Logit Estimates of Perceptions of Relative Economic Performance on Likelihood of Taking a Stance on Foreign Trade Policy Variables  (1)  (2)  Relative performance: same  0.071  0.074  (0.048)  (0.050)  Relative performance: worse  0.126**  0.122*  (0.064)  (0.068)  Female    −0.003    (0.046)  Working    −0.020    (0.023)  Income    0.001    (0.023)  Education    −0.007    (0.015)  Age    0    (0.001)  1996  −0.528***  −0.531***  (0.093)  (0.095)  2000  −0.579***  −0.573***  (0.111)  (0.115)  2004  −0.447***  −0.457***  (0.101)  (0.105)  2008  −0.926***  −0.959***  (0.078)  (0.081)  2012  −0.720***  −0.729***  (0.066)  (0.068)  Constant  0.807***  0.845***  (0.067)  (0.132)  Observations  13,097  11,996  Variables  (1)  (2)  Relative performance: same  0.071  0.074  (0.048)  (0.050)  Relative performance: worse  0.126**  0.122*  (0.064)  (0.068)  Female    −0.003    (0.046)  Working    −0.020    (0.023)  Income    0.001    (0.023)  Education    −0.007    (0.015)  Age    0    (0.001)  1996  −0.528***  −0.531***  (0.093)  (0.095)  2000  −0.579***  −0.573***  (0.111)  (0.115)  2004  −0.447***  −0.457***  (0.101)  (0.105)  2008  −0.926***  −0.959***  (0.078)  (0.081)  2012  −0.720***  −0.729***  (0.066)  (0.068)  Constant  0.807***  0.845***  (0.067)  (0.132)  Observations  13,097  11,996  Note: (1) The reported coefficients from the logit regression give the change in the log odds of Pr(y = 1 (Oppose/Favor new limits on foreign imports)) given a one unit increase in the predictor variable, with all other variables held constant. (2) Standard errors in parentheses. (3) ***p < .01, **p < .05, *p < .1. The model estimated in Column 2 includes the set of control variables described above. These findings suggest that the mobilization of respondents who feel that they are falling behind relative to the rest of the country is robust after controlling for perceived welfare effects and trade policy complexity (p = .071). The positive coefficient estimate also suggests that the perception of average economic performance, compared with the perception of above average economic performance, increases the likelihood that a person will speak up for or against trade liberalization. However, as in the first model, the estimated effect is not statistically significant (p = .141). Column 2 also shows that the demographic characteristics included in this analysis are not statistically significant. The year variable is statistically significant in all three models, which indicates that the likelihood a respondent will take a stance on free trade issues has decreased in subsequent waves since 1992. Discussion Consistent with the mobilization effect, the results from this analysis suggest that respondents are most likely to express an opinion on foreign trade when they perceive their “pocketbook” to be in worse condition than the country’s economy. Perceptions of falling behind financially relative to the rest of the country serve as a catalyst for increasing trade issue salience. These findings do not support the theory of withdrawal or no effect in times of economic distress. Assuming that citizens are also more likely to engage politically when they attribute importance to a policy issue, these results may be read as good news for democratic efficacy. An increase in trade salience among voters during economic hardship suggests that citizens feel that they can bring about a change to the (negative) status quo by participating, rather than by withdrawing, from the political sphere. This study also addresses the question of whether voters are similarly affected by positive economic perceptions as they are by negative economic perceptions. Numerous studies in attribution psychology have documented a negativity bias in how individuals evaluate and make decisions under negative circumstances (Arceneaux, 2003; Hewstone, 1989). Individuals tend to assign more weight to negative information than positive information. This typically results in an increased propensity for individuals to express blame instead of credit (Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Finkenauer, & Vohs, 2001; Jensen & Rosas, 2014). The results from the main analysis indicate that citizens are indeed more affected by their negative economic perceptions than by their positive perceptions. This suggests that voters are more likely to take a stance on foreign trade policy by blaming incumbents for poor economic performance. However, voters are not likely to express their satisfaction when they perceive their economic situation to be in good condition. While this study is exclusively concerned with the probability of taking a stance on trade policy given a certain perceived economic condition, one key shortcoming of the current analysis is that the main outcome variable, trade salience, has been used in the literature as a measure of trade preferences by simply deleting the responses indicating that the respondent has not thought much about trade issues. As noted above, trade salience and trade preferences are conceptually distinct from one another. It would have been ideal to have two separate survey items in the ANES that asked respondents about the level of importance they assign to trade issues, along with a distinct item to capture people’s specific trade preferences. However, this distinction is not made in any of the publicly accessible surveys that examine individual attitudes toward international trade.12 This study argues that variation in trade salience among voters is driven by how citizens perceive their economic performance compared with the country’s economy. The results from the main analysis show that perceived personal economic hardship, when compared with the rest of the country, makes citizens more likely to take a stance on trade. Such economic considerations are not likely to affect an individual’s preference for a specific type of trade policy. This hypothesis is tested with the logistic regression model specification described in Table 3 with trade preference as the outcome variable. Trade preference is a dichotomous variable coded as 0 if the respondent opposes trade import restrictions, and 1 if the respondents favors trade import restrictions. Respondents who answer that they “have not thought much about trade” are coded as missing. The results from this analysis show that perceptions of relative economic performance do not affect an individual’s specific trade preferences. These findings lend support to the notion that trade salience and trade preference are conceptually distinguishable, and as such are also driven by different types of economic perception. In addition, it could be the case that trade salience is not driven by individuals’ perceived relative deprivation in comparison with the rest of the country, but instead by their perceived economic performance vis-à-vis other groups. Additional analysis controls for respondents’ attitudes toward other groups to test the possibility that the impact of relative performance measure may be capturing a respondent’s economic comparison with other out-groups.13 The results from this analysis show that outgroup sentiments are, to some extent, correlated with the respondent’s likelihood to think about trade issues. However, the inclusion of these variables does not render the overall effect of people’s economic performance compared with the rest of the country insignificant. Conclusion While the voting literature has paid considerable attention to how economic perceptions affect how an individual votes (Gomez & Wilson, 2001; Kramer 1971; Lewis-Beck & Paldam, 2000; Markus, 1988), only more recently have a handful of scholars begun to examine how economic perceptions affect whether an individual will vote (Gomez & Hansford, 2015; Hansford & Gomez, 2011; Killian, Schoen, & Dusso, 2008). Similarly, although the majority of the research on individual trade preference focuses on the impact of economic evaluations on people’s specific trade policy preferences (Fordham & Kleinberg, 2012; Kaltenthaler, Geleeny, & Ceccoli, 2004; Lü, Scheve, & Slaughter, 2012; Mansfield & Mutz, 2009; Mayda & Rodrik, 2005; Scheve & Slaughter, 2001), the question of how perceived changes in economic performance affect trade salience among voters has largely been ignored. However, the connection between economic evaluations and the probability that citizens will take a stance on important policy issues, including trade policy, has significant implications for electoral accountability. Studying the relationship between economic perceptions and trade salience allows us to shed light not only on “whether voters pass judgment for economic variability, but also which voters sit in judgment” (Gomez & Hansford, 2015, p. 310). Thus, the conceptualized interaction between (perceived) economic conditions and voter mobilization in Rosenstone’s (1982) framework remains highly relevant almost 10 years after the peak of the global financial crisis. This study builds on the economic voting literature to test whether and how an individual’s likelihood to take a stance on international trade varies with their economic evaluations. This study investigates whether negative economic outcomes—captured by respondents’ perceptions of their economic situation relative to how they think the nation’s economy is faring—have a mobilization effect, thus increasing the probability that citizens will speak up for or against free trade. The findings from the empirical analysis lend support to the existence of a mobilization effect during difficult economic times. Respondents are most likely to voice an opinion about trade if they perceive their economic situation to be worse than the average economic situation in their country’s economy. In contrast, when individuals think that they are relatively better off than the rest of the country, they are less likely to take a stance on trade issues. The empirical results align with recent findings from other studies that trade is a low-salience issue (Cobb & Nance, 2011; Guisinger, 2009), and that the lack of public interest in trade policy is more persistent and prevalent than the existing literature has thus far acknowledged. Future research in this field should pay closer attention to individual nonattitudes, and go beyond the simple binary distinction between support for and opposition to international trade. It is vital to extend existing theories of individual trade preferences by including the possibility that individuals may not consider trade issues to be important in the first place. This study takes an important step in this direction by accounting for the factors that drive voters to think about trade issues, instead of only focusing on what determines whether individuals like or dislike international trade. Future research may also examine scope conditions under which Rosenstone’s hypotheses are likely to prevail. For instance, it would be interesting to study the role of physical security (in interaction with economic security) under the growing (perceived) risk of terrorist attacks. Quynh Nguyen is a research fellow at the Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik/German Development Institute and a research associate at the Center for Comparative and International Studies at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich). Footnotes 1Cited in The Hill. Trump signs executive orders ramping up trade enforcement. http://thehill.com/policy/finance/326803-trump-signs-executive-orders-ramping-up-trade-enforcement. 03/31/2017. 2This includes, for example, the impact of salience on the behavior of interest groups (Rasmussen, Carroll, & Lowery, 2014), the effect of lobbying (Mahoney, 2007), and voting behavior (Edwards, Mitchell, & Welch, 2011; Fournier, Blais, Nadeau, Gidengil, & Nevitte, 2003). 3See, for example, Blonigen (2011), Cobb & Nance (2011), Egan (2015). 4This finding has also been reported by others drawing on data from both the United States and abroad (Brody & Sniderman, 1977; Caldeira, Patterson, & Markko, 1985; Pacek, 1994). 5Arceneaux (2003) shows that mobilization may be conditional on contextual or psychological factors. 6For example, the polls conducted by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, the International Social Survey Program, the World Values Survey, etc. However, the ANES is the only survey that allows respondents to submit an explicit a nonattitude to the question about their opinion on international trade. 7The two questions also do not appear immediately one after the other in the survey. 8The worse off (=1) category includes respondents who view their personal financial situation as worsening while the country’s economy is considered to have improved or stayed the same. This category also includes respondents who see no change in their pocketbook while the country’s economic performance has improved. Respondents assigned to the same (=2) category are those who have identical pocketbook and sociotropic evaluations. Better off (=3) are respondents who think that their personal economic situation has improved while the country’s economy has performed worse or stayed the same. This also includes respondents whose economic situation are perceived to have stayed the same, but believe that the nation’s economy has deteriorated. 9January 1st of the respective survey year is used as the reference date. 10Taylor (2015) examines specific preferential trade agreements. 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Published: Feb 3, 2018

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