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Effects of the Great Recession on American Attitudes toward Trade

Did the American public become more protectionist during the Great Recession of 2007-2009?  If so, why? During this period, many observers expressed concern that rising unemployment would stimulate protectionist pressures. Our results indicate that although increased unemployment did not have an across-the board effect on trade preferences, individuals working in import-competing industries who lost their jobs during the Great Recession did grow more hostile to trade. However, even greater rising hostility to overseas commerce stemmed from a variety of non-material factors. Increasing ethnocentrism and opposition to involvement in world affairs between 2007 and 2009 help to account for growing antipathy toward trade. Further, increasing concern that foreign commerce would harm people in the future, even if it had not done so thus far, contributed to growing opposition to trade among the American public during the economic downturn.