The way ordinary Americans think about trade is very different from the way economists and policy wonks think about it. Most people do not have accurate knowledge of how trade affects them personally: they do not support trade if they stand to gain from it or oppose it because it will hurt them economically. Instead, Americans’ views are shaped by trade’s perceived effects on the United States as a whole, their feelings about the trading partner country and U.S. political party in power, and their general outlook on the world beyond their country’s borders.   

Put simply, most Americans’ opinions about trade are rooted in the psychology of human interaction. Their attitudes toward people and countries they see as dissimilar to themselves significantly influence their opinions. The basic distinction boils down to whether they believe it is possible to cooperate for mutual benefit or whether they view with suspicion those…

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