CANCELLED Importing Political Polarization? The Electoral Consequences of Rising Trade Exposure
Importing Political Polarization? The Electoral Consequences of Rising Trade Exposure
(joint with David Autor, Gordon Hanson, Kaveh Majlesi)
Has rising import competition contributed to the polarization of U.S. politics? Analyzing multiple measures of political expression and results of congressional and presidential elections spanning the period 2000 through 2016, we detect an ideological realignment in trade-exposed local labor markets that commences prior to the divisive 2016 U.S. presidential election. Exploiting the exogenous component of rising trade with China, we find that greater exposure to import competition led to an increasing market share for the FOX News channel, stronger ideological polarization in campaign contributions, and a disproportionate rise in the likelihood of electing a Republican to Congress. Trade-exposed counties with an initial majority white population became more likely to elect a GOP conservative, while trade-exposed counties with an initial majority-minority population become more likely to elect a liberal Democrat, and in both setsof counties, these gains came at the expense of moderate Democrats. In presidential elections, counties with greater trade exposure shifted towards the Republican candidate. We interpret these results as supporting a political economy literature that connects adverse economic shocks to sharp ideological realignments that cleave along racial and ethnic lines and induce discrete shifts in political preferences and economic policy.