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Trade Policy Opinions at the State Level

Despite economists' nearly universal support for free trade policies, the general public has serious reservations about free trade. To understand this opposition, one must understand the preferences of individuals as they relate to the policy choices of policymakers. Ideally, one would like to know how these preferences differ across regions because legislators who represent their constituents in the U.S. Congress cast the actual votes on trade policies. The present study produces estimates by state of trade preferences linked directly to individual preferences. Scheve and Slaughter (2001a) found that the lower the skill level of a worker, the stronger the support for additional trade restrictions. I generate estimates by state for 1992 and 1996 using Scheve and Slaughter's estimates. The estimates are generated in two steps. First, an average level of educational attainment for each state is constructed. Second, this educational attainment variable is inserted into Scheve and Slaughter's estimate of the relationship between educational attainment and an individual's support for additional trade restrictions to produce an average probability of state support for additional trade restrictions. Generally speaking, states in the South have the highest levels of support for additional trade restrictions. Support for additional trade restrictions is lower in 1996 than in 1992. A verdict on the usefulness of these estimates has yet to be delivered; however, in the context of voting on NAFTA by U.S. Senators the estimates for 1992 yield plausible results.

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