CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown put trade policy at the heart of his campaign last year. He even wrote a book titled Myths of Free Trade: Why American Trade Policy Has Failed. Now there is evidence from a major new poll that Republicans have moved dramatically in the Ohio Democrat's direction, joining him as a skeptic on the benefits of trade agreements that are seen as killing U.S. jobs.
Brown predicted last January in an NPR interview that "I am certain that we will see a very different Democratic Party, and a very different Republican Party, when it comes to trade."
His prediction appears to have come true. A new NBC/Wall Street Journal survey of Republican primary voters shows that two-thirds see foreign trade as damaging the U.S. economy, a major shift in the past eight years. Here is the question and answer portion from the poll:
"Now I am going to read you two statements about foreign trade, please tell me which statement comes closer to your point of view.
"Statement A: Foreign trade has been good for the U.S. economy, because demand for U.S. products abroad has resulted in economic growth and jobs for Americans at home and provided more choices for consumers.
"Statement B: Foreign trade has been bad for the U.S. economy, because imports from abroad have reduced demand for America-made goods, cost jobs here at home, and produced potentially unsafe products.
"Statement A/foreign trade has been good -- 32%
"Statement B/foreign trade has been bad -- 59%
"Some of both -- 6%
"Neither -- 1%
"Not Sure -- 2%"
The entire poll by Hart/Newhouse is available at WSJ online. John Harwood, a Washington reporter and political analyst for the Wall Street Journal, writes that the poll clearly reveals increasing concern and resistance about globalization. That is exactly what Sherrod Brown predicted.
"While rank-and-file Democrats have long blasted the impact of trade on American jobs, slipping support among Republicans represents a fresh warning sign for free-market conservatives and American companies such as manufacturers and financial firms that benefit from markets opening abroad."
There is plenty of analysis by Harwood, who noted the poll "reflects a substantial shift in sentiment from eight years ago." Sen. Brown, who comes from a state where the manufacturing economy has been walloped as jobs moved offshore, correctly sensed the public angst. Last January, around the time he was moving into his Senate office on Capitol Hill, he said, "The voters in both parties understand our trade policy really has betrayed the middle class."