Everyone Hates Obamatrade

A new bipartisan poll shows an overwhelming majority of Americans of all political stripes oppose giving the president fast-track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Yet despite the public's disapproval, leaders of both parties, from President Obama to John Boehner, continue to push it.

Last month, Democratic polling firm Hart Research Associates and Republican pollsters Chesapeake Beach Consulting conducted a national survey among 816 registered voters. They found broad opposition to fast track Trade Promotion Authority that would enable President Obama to ram the TPP through Congress. (Results attached.)

By more than two to one, voters say they oppose (62%) rather than favor passage of fast-track negotiating authority for the TPP deal. Among those with a strong opinion, the ratio climbs to more than three to one (43% strongly opposed, just 12% strongly favorable). Demographically, opposition is very broad, with no more than one-third of voters in any region of the country or in any age cohort favoring fast track. Sixty percent (60%) of voters with household incomes under $50,000 oppose fast track, as do 65% of those with incomes over $100,000.

The findings are line with previous surveys that show voters have a negative view of so-called "free trade" deals. 

This explains why politicians including Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden are wary about pushing the issue before the mid-term elections when they have to face voters.

But contrary to the popular media narrative that paints Obamatrade opponents as card-carrying, union-dues-paying Democratic base voters, the survey shows Republican and conservative voters oppose fast track in even greater numbers than Democrats:

the survey data reveals a sharp partisan divide on the issue. Republicans overwhelmingly oppose giving fast-track authority to the president (8% in favor, 87% opposed), as do independents (20%-66%), while a narrow majority (52%) of Democrats are in favor (35% opposed).

In fact, Republicans should be afraid, very afraid of voting for fast track if they want to keep their jobs:

Two-thirds (68%) of Republicans say they are less likely to vote for a Member of Congress who votes to give President Obama fast-track authority. Among the conservative Republicans who dominate many primary electorates, this figure is an extraordinary 74%.

By revealing the reasons voters oppose fast track and the TransPacific Partnership, the poll shows it's no surprise conservatives find Obamatrade particularly repellant. Here’s the argument voters found most convincing:

“Fast track gives the president too much power. Congress should meet its constitutional responsibility to review trade agreements carefully and make sure they are in the best interests of American workers and consumers.” Fully 69% of voters say this is a convincing reason to oppose fast-track authorization.

That number rose to an astonishing 87% among Republicans.

But opposition cannot be dismissed as simply antipathy to the president.  Voters across the board believe so-called ‘free trade’ deals are bad for Americans:

Two-thirds (66%) say a convincing reason to oppose fast-track authority for TPP is that “workers in countries like Vietnam and Malaysia are exploited and paid as little as 28 cents an hour, which creates unfair competition that drives down wages for American workers.” 
By a 35-point margin, the voting public believes the TPP deal would make things worse (56%) rather than better (21%) in terms of American wages and salaries.
Three in five voters (62%) feel this is a convincing argument against fast- track authority: “This is a NAFTA-style trade deal, and since NAFTA, the United States has run up an eight-trillion-dollar trade deficit, resulting in millions of lost manufacturing jobs.
”Voters are three times as likely to say that preventing U.S. jobs moving overseas should be a top goal for trade deals as they are to cite opening foreign markets to U.S. exports.
By a five-to-three ratio, voters anticipate that the TPP deal would make things worse (52%) rather than better (30%) for American jobs.

Voters understand who Obamatrade hurts and who it helps:

American voters overwhelmingly expect TPP to be a good deal for large corporations: 72% say it will help these corporations and just 17% say it will hurt them.

However, voters have the opposite expectation when it comes to a vastly more popular institution: America’s small businesses. Just 24% feel that TPP would help small firms, while 64% think TPP will mostly hurt small businesses.

Significantly, voters in small business households (in which a voter either owns or works for a small business) believe that TPP will harm small firms: 61% say they expect TPP to hurt more than help small businesses.

The administration acknowledges that if the public knew what is in the TransPacific Partnership they would oppose it. But keeping it secret hasn’t helped.

Americans know from experience that these deals aren’t free and they aren’t about trade: they are a rigged game that hurts the little guy and helps Wall Street bailout babies and corporatist insiders who grow fat at the trough of Big Government.

These special interests will never give up. They will try to ram fast track through Congress, if not tomorrow, then after the November elections. 

We must contact Congress and tell our representatives to vote No on Trade Promotion Authority.

Read poll results here and here.