Monday, July 20, 2009

Perception and Misperception in Trade Politics

. Monday, July 20, 2009

From a new article by Mansfield and Mutz in International Organization:

At one level, these results might seem curious. For example, why does a belief that the US should play the role of “world policeman” in preventing human rights abuses in other countries have anything to do with trade preferences? And why should how blacks feel about whites and Hispanics (or vice-versa) have anything to do with trade liberalization? Activist foreign policy attitudes, a positive attitude toward out-groups, and a preference for open trade, however, all reflect a sense of cosmopolitanism and inclusion. Isolationism, a negative attitude toward out-groups, and antipathy toward open trade all reflect a sense of insularity and separatism. In short, trade preferences are driven less by economic considerations and more by an individual’s psychological world view.

This article argues that the two dominant models of trade politics -- the Heckscher-Olin "factor endowments" model and the Ricardo-Viner "specific factors" model -- are both wrong because they both model individuals as motivated by their own individual self-interest. Instead, Mansfield and Mutz find that support for trade is more closely related to beliefs about how trade will affect one's group (and how people perceive which "group" they belong to).

This is the most interesting article on trade I've read in quite some time, and I suspect that it will find its way onto many IPE syllabi in the near future. I am very interested to see if the result holds up across issue areas and if these public attitudes have a direct effect on policy.

An ungated version is here (pdf). Ht to John Sides at The Monkey Cage.


Perception and Misperception in Trade Politics




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