Does the U.S. Congress Respond to Public Opinion on Trade?


Boram Lee, Michael Pomirchy, and Bryan Schonfeld

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Lee, B., Pomirchy, M., & Schonfeld, B. (2023). Does the U.S. Congress Respond to Public Opinion on Trade? American Politics Research, 51(6), 731-748. DOI:10.1177/1532673X231174854
Are U.S. legislators responsive to public opinion on trade? Despite the prevalence of preference-based approaches to international trade, not much work has directly assessed the relationship between constituency opinion and positioning by members of Congress on trade bills. We assess dynamic responsiveness (whether shifting constituency opinion on trade yields corresponding changes among legislators) by exploiting an original dataset on the positions of members of Congress on the North American Free Trade Agreement at various points leading up to the November 1993 roll-call vote. We find no evidence of dynamic re-sponsiveness to shifting constituency opinion on even a highly salient piece of trade legislation. We provide qualitative evidence that interest group influence may instead be the predominant source of shifting legislator positioning on trade.
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