1.1.2

Social Foundations of Trade Preferences

This project relies on large population-based surveys and survey-embedded experiments to better understand the factors affecting the formation of individuals’ trade policy preferences.

Depending on the theoretical trade model, different variables should influence individuals’ attitudes towards globalisation. Whereas the factor endowment model highlights skill level and capital ownership as the drivers behind a person’s trade preferences, the specific sector model points to sectoral employment as the important explanatory variable. Researchers have come to different conclusions as to whether individuals’ trade preferences depend on their skills (i.e. their education), their income or the sector in which they are employed.

 

This lack of coherent findings indicates that there are considerable shortcomings in the existing literature on individuals’ attitudes towards trade. First, from a methodological stance, the existing research points to the need to collect systematic data that measure how individuals think about trade liberalisation. Second, from a theoretical perspective, while most research to date has focused on economic factors to explain people’s views on trade liberalisation, it has increasingly become apparent that explanations connecting re-distributional implications of trade with individual trade preferences offer only limited insights into public support for (or opposition to) free trade.

 

We address these issues by analysing the social and cultural foundations of individual trade preferences and their impact on how people think about economic openness. To this end, we employ large population-based surveys and survey-embedded experiments to empirically test the theoretical arguments advanced in the project.

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