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The Political Backlash Against Globalization? Framing Effects, Information, and Attitudes Toward Internation Trade


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*Part of TESS 2003 Telephone Survey

Download Telephone Survey Data (includes materials for all surveys in module)



Principal Investigator(s):

Michael J. Hiscox
Harvard University
Email: hiscox@fas.harvard.edu
Home page: http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~hiscox/

Sample size: 1610
Field period: 10/2003-11/2003

 

Abstract:

How much opposition is there among voters to globalization? And which groups of voters, specifically, are most opposed to trade liberalization? In the wake of recent political debates surrounding the North American Free Trade Agreement and protests aimed at disrupting meetings of the World Trade Organization, these questions have become increasingly salient. A growing body of empirical research, using data from available surveys of public opinion, suggests that anti-globalization sentiments are very strong, especially among blue-collar workers. But the results derived from these surveys may be profoundly affected by the ways in which questions about globalization are worded or framed. It is not just problematic that respondents� views in general are influenced by question framing, it matters too if some groups of individuals tend to be more susceptible to question wording than others. To make reliable inferences about the preferences of voters on trade issues, and about the connection between particular characteristics of individuals and their views about trade, we need a much better understanding of the impact of framing on responses to survey questions about this issue. This new survey experiment is aimed at measuring the impact of issue framing on individuals� stated attitudes toward international trade.

Hypotheses:

Issue framing in surveys has large effects on stated attitudes toward international trade. Specifically anti-trade question framing that mentions job losses and the need to protect the national economy sharply reduces measured support for trade openness when compared to more neutral or pro-trade question framing.

More educated survey respondents are less sensitive to issue framing when answering questions about trade.

Older survey respondents are less sensitive to issue framing when answering questions about trade.

Male survey respondents are less sensitive to issue framing when answering questions about trade.

Framing effects are reduced among respondents who can observe that experts (economists) favor increasing trade.

Experimental Manipulations:

For the core experiment, respondents were randomly allocated to 4 groups, with each group receiving different introductions to the survey questions about international trade. These introductions (read by the interviewer) mentioned some possible beneficial effects of trade, some possible costs, or both types of effects (the fourth group received no introduction at all). The exact wordings are shown below, with percentages indicating the size of the group in relation to the entire sample:

Group 1 (15%): Pro-trade introduction.
Many people believe that increasing trade with other nations creates jobs and allows Americans to buy more types of goods at lower prices.

Group 2 (15%): Anti-trade introduction.
Many people believe that increasing trade with other nations leads to job losses and exposes American producers to unfair competition.

Group 3 (15%): Both introductions.
Many people believe that increasing trade with other nations creates jobs and allows Americans to buy more types of goods at lower prices. Others believe that increasing trade with other nations leads to job losses and exposes American producers to unfair competition.

Group 4 (15%): No introduction.

In addition to these core experimental groups, 4 separate groups (each comprising 10% of the sample) were assigned the same set of �frames� as above, but were also read an introduction that described the consensus view among experts (economists) that favors increasing trade:

According to the New York Times, almost 100 percent of American economists support increasing trade with other nations. In 1993 over a thousand economists, including all living winners of the Nobel Prize in economics, signed an open letter to the New York Times urging people to support efforts to increase trade between the United States and neighboring countries.

This separate experiment was aimed at testing whether advice from an expert third-party source might make a difference to respondents and to their susceptibility to other types of issue framing.

Key Dependent Variables:

Favor increasing trade (�tradeB�). Binary variable coded 1=favor and 0=oppose increasing trade from answers to the question:

Do you favor or oppose increasing trade with other nations?

Additional Information:

A Stata program file (HiscoxTessRecodes.do), included in the "relevant material" file available above, generates and labels all the variables used in the analysis from the raw data file for the TESS module.

The program file (HiscoxGlassDarkly.do) generates all the results described here and reported in the paper (HiscoxGlassDarkly.PDF). Both the program file and the paper are in the "relevant material" file available above.

Summary of Findings:

Respondents given an anti-trade introduction to the survey question, linking trade to the possibility of job losses, were 17% less likely to favor increasing trade with other countries than were those asked the same question without any introduction at all. Curiously, respondents who were given a pro-trade introduction to the question, suggesting that trade can lead to lower prices for consumers, were not more likely to express support for trade than those who received no introduction. The experiment also reveals that not all types of respondents are equally susceptible to issue framing. In particular, the responses of less-educated individuals are far more sensitive to issue framing than are those of highly educated individuals.

A separate experiment showed that support for trade was significantly higher across the board, and framing effects were reduced, among respondents who had read a statement describing the consensus view among experts (economists).

Conclusion:

Research that relies upon available survey data to examine the level and determinants of opposition to trade liberalization thus appears to rest on a very unstable foundation. The findings reported here suggest that recent studies have overstated the extent of opposition to international trade among voters, as well as the concentration of that opposition among the low skilled workers, due to biases in the ways in which questions about trade are posed in standard surveys.

References:

Both papers are included in the "additional materials" file.

Hiscox, Michael J. 2004. Through a Glass and Darkly: Attitudes Toward International Trade and the Curious Effects of Issue Framing. Paper presented at the Annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago, September 2nd-5th 2004.

Burgoon, Brian, and Michael J. Hiscox. 2003. The Mysterious Case of Female Protectionism: Gender Bias in Attitudes Toward International Trade. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Philadelphia, PA, August 28th-31st, 2003.

Hiscox, Michael J. 2006. Through a Glass and Darkly: Framing Effects and Individuals' Attitudes towards International Trade, International Organization. 60:755-780.


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