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Public Opinion and Trade Policy: Democratic Responsiveness in the Global Economy

Mamone, Miguel I. (2021) Public Opinion and Trade Policy: Democratic Responsiveness in the Global Economy. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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What is the role of public opinion in trade politics? Previous research either assumes, without having solid opinion evidence, that societies are very supportive of free trade, or argues that voters have a limited role in trade policy making because they are overshadowed by powerful interest groups. In this dissertation, I bridge the gap between the mass behavior and the political economy of trade. I argue that we should stop asserting citizens’ preferences and explain why some policy makers differ in their responses to citizens’ trade attitudes. Sometimes aggregate opinion leans towards free trade; at other times it leans more toward protectionism. This is not the result of trade winners and losers changing their minds but of poorly-informed bystanders’ assessment of trade. These people, who have no direct stakes in trade, use a neo-mercantilist shortcut to make sense of openness. Moreover, societies refrain from anti-trade sentiment when there is a generous social safety net. Policy makers then decide whether to accommodate those views instead of just following their own preferences or business lobbying. I argue that policy makers are more willing to be responsive when trade is a structurally-determined salient issue and when strong party leaders control campaigns and legislative behavior. But the crucial ability to respond to public opinion hinges on the administrative dimension of trade politics: responsiveness is greater with more visible policy instruments and when the policy-making process is concentrated in a few agencies that facilitate policy reform. To test these arguments, I draw on quantitative and qualitative evidence from 18 Latin American presidential democracies since 1990, developing a time series index of public support for free trade based on the aggregation, processing, and weighting of observational survey data. The hypotheses are confirmed using panel econometric models with data on governments’ choices on preferential trade agreements, import tariff rates, and non-tariff barriers. I further examine disaggregated opinion and trade policy data and test the causal mechanisms with case studies of high (Argentina), moderate (Colombia), and low (Peru) responsiveness to public opinion.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Mamone, Miguel I.mim110@pitt.eduMIM1100000000339525894
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairHays, Jude
Committee CoChairPérez-Liñán, Aní
Committee MemberAmes,
Committee MemberAklin,
Committee MemberOwen,
Date: 20 January 2021
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 20 November 2020
Approval Date: 20 January 2021
Submission Date: 25 November 2020
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 399
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Political Science
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Political Behavior, Political Economy, Latin American Politics
Date Deposited: 20 Jan 2021 18:58
Last Modified: 20 Jan 2021 18:58

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