November 20, 2003

Support for Free Trade

The anti-globalization protesters who have clogged the streets of Miami voicing opposition to negotiations to create a free trade area in the Western Hemisphere are not speaking for the strong majorities throughout the region who believe trade is both good for their countries and for them personally.

A survey of 8,000 people in 10 countries in North, South and Central America by the Pew Global Attitudes Project also revealed significantly less enthusiasm for more trade in Brazil than in the United States, differences that have been manifested in U.S.-Brazilian tensions over how to proceed in Miami in the formal negotiations to create a Free Trade Area of the Americas.

Overwhelming majorities in all 10 countries told Pew in 2002 that growing trade and business ties were very or somewhat good for their country, and similarly strong majorities felt that such commercial globalization was good for them and their families. Canada and Mexico, two countries with free trade agreements with the United States, are among the most enthusiastic in the region about trade. More than three-quarters in Canada and Mexico said growing trade was good for their countries (86%, 79% respectively) and comparable percentages said it was good for them and their families (87% Canada, 76% Mexico).

Yet the intensity in positive feelings about increased trade varied widely. While 14% of Brazilians thought greater trade and business ties were very good for their country, just 9% said this trend was very good for them personally. By comparison, roughly one-in-five Americans said growing trade was very good both for the country and themselves (21%, 20%).

In most cases, despite the presence of youthful protesters in Miami, the young and the old hold similar, supportive views of trade. Differences in the intensity of that support reveal some age differences, but show that older people are less likely to express strong support for increased trade. In the United States, 27% of younger people (age 18-29) thought trade was very good for them and their families. Just 16% of older people (age 50 and older) agreed. There was a similar generation gap in Canada, where younger people were more likely than older people to believe that increased trade is very good for them personally (36% vs. 29%). Older people are similarly less enthusiastic in Argentina, Bolivia and Peru.

In several countries, there is a gender gap in the intensity of positive feelings about increased trade. More than four-in-ten Canadian men (44%) said growing trade ties were a very good thing for the country, compared with 29% of women. In the U.S. the gap is smaller but still notable; 26% of men said more trade was very good for the country compared with 15% of women.

These findings are drawn from the Pew Global Attitudes Project’s surveys of 38,000 people in 44 nations, conducted during the summer-fall 2002 under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International.

Full Question Wording:

What do you think about the growing trade and business ties between (survey country) and other countries – do you think it is a very good thing, somewhat good, somewhat bad or a very bad thing for our country?

Now thinking about you and your family – do you think the growing trade and business ties between our country and other countries are very good, somewhat good, somewhat bad or very bad for you and your family?

These results are drawn from polls conducted by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, a series of worldwide public opinion surveys. The project has issued two major reports, “What the World Thinks in 2002” – based upon 38,000 interviews in 44 nations – and “Views of a Changing World, June 2003″ – based on 16,000 interviews in 20 nations and the Palestinian Authority. Surveys were conducted by local organizations under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates. Full details about the surveys, and the project more generally, are available at people-press.org.