In 2016, the United States elected an avowedly protectionist candidate president. Analysis of county-level electoral data indicates that exposure to trade competition encouraged a shift toward the Republican candidate, but this effect was mediated by race, diversity, education, and age. If the turn toward protectionism is due to economic dislocation, then public policy interventions could mitigate the impact and support the re-establishment of a political consensus for open trade. If, however, the drivers are identity or cultural values, then the scope for constructive policy intervention is unclear.
Marcus Noland is Executive Vice President and Director of Studies at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and a non-resident Senior Fellow at the East-West Center. Previously, he served as a Senior Economist at the Council of Economic Advisers in the Executive Office of the President of the United States, and has held research or teaching positions at Yale University, the Johns Hopkins University, the University of Southern California, Tokyo University, the (Japanese) National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, the University of Ghana, and the Korea Development Institute.