Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Poll: Only The Strongest Obama Supporters Want Him To Have Fast Track Authority

on January 30 2014 6:48 PM
  • TPP Protest_Malaysia
    A protester wears headbands in protest of U.S. President Barrack Obama during a demonstration to pressure Malaysia against signing the Anti-Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), outside the venue where U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivered his speeches, in Kuala Lumpur on Oct. 11, 2013. Reuters/Bazuki Muhammad
  • 001 FTA perceptions
    In general, this and other polls have suggested growing animosity to free trade agreements, such as NAFTA. The rift began widening before the start of the 18-month economic recession that commenced in December 2007, but the anti-FTA sentiment strengthened as the supply of well-paying, secure jobs has not rebounded in the post-recession recovery. Hart Research/Chesapeake Beach Consulting
  • 002 effects
    A strong majority of poll respondents believe TPP will have a negative impact on U.S. jobs and household incomes, even if more believe consumer prices for goods will get better rather than worse with the pact. Hart Research/Chesapeake Beach Consulting
  • 003 Help Hurt Small Business
    A strong majority of respondents believe the TPP will benefit large corporations while a smaller (yet still strong) majority think it would be detrimental to small business. Hart Research/Chesapeake Beach Consulting
  • 004 piorities
    Nearly half of respondents said they think the main goal of free trade agreements should be to prevent the loss of U.S. jobs, while a fourth believed they should prevent the erosion of wages that can be caused when American businesses must compete with companies that enjoy much lower labor overheads. Hart Research/Chesapeake Beach Consulting
  • 005 reasons to oppose
    A top reason to oppose granting the President Barack Obama fast-track authority to ratify the TPP: it gives the president too much power. Interesting to note: the second strongest reason to oppose TPP is that the wages in many of the countries that have joined talks or have expressed interest in joining talks (such as Peru, Chile, Indonesia and the Philippines) are much lower than the wages in the U.S., which means businesses in those countries would have an unfair advantage in selling their goods in the U.S. Hart Research/Chesapeake Beach Consulting
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Americans are not keen on Congress giving U.S. President Barack Obama what he wants: the authority to negotiate a massive free-trade pact among a comity of Pacific Rim countries and then deliver the results to Capitol Hill for a swift up-or-down vote, known as fast-track authority. Overall, the U.S. public is cooling to the idea of free-trade agreements, believing, unlike they have in the past, that multinational agreements to bring down trade barriers is costing U.S. jobs while favoring large multinational corporations over the interests of small businesses.  

These were some of the findings of a public survey released Wednesday by Hart Research Associates, a Democratic pollster, and Chesapeake Beach Consulting, a Republican polling firm.

“There’s been a real shift in public attitudes in the past 10 to 15 years in a negative direction; that is, growing concern about an opposition to free-trade agreements in the country overall,” said Guy Molyneux, a partner of Hart Research. “That means proponents of fast track face a headwind as they try to make a case for the passage of fast track and eventually the ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

The agreement, known in shorthand as the TPP, would be history’s largest single multinational free trade agreement that could significantly transform the U.S. economy. The 19th round of talks among a dozen negotiating countries took place in Brunei last August in which participants said significant progress had been made in negotiating tariffs. In November South Korea announced interest in joining the negotiations, become the 14 country to do so. Talks have since stalled over concerns in Japan over opening its highly protected market. With mid-term elections in the U.S. in November, talks are likely to be on hold at least until the end of the year.

U.S. lawmakers are most certainly tracking public sentiment to the subject of free trade and how their support or opposition will play out in their districts as voters head to the polls. And if this national poll is any indication only the staunchest supporters of the president in the Democratic Party agree with the idea of granting the White House fast-track TPP authority. The poll was conducted Jan. 14-18 among 816 registered voters, with a margin of error of 3.5 percent in either direction.  

“For a republican member of congress there is significant peril [in supporting fast-tracking TPP],” said Molyneux.

On the question of fast-track authority, 62 percent of respondent opposed the idea, with 43 percent “strongly” opposing it. Broken down by political affiliation, only Democrats that identify as “liberal” strongly favor the idea. Predictably, a strong Republican majority oppose giving the president such authority, with both conservative and moderates oppose it by a ratio of 85 percent or higher. And perhaps most important: 66 percent of respondents who identified as independent, meaning they have no party affiliation and are a key voting constituency, oppose the idea.

Among the biggest concerns by respondents for opposing fast-track authority was that they felt it gives the president too much power. But interestingly enough, the second strongest concern among respondents was that workers in TPP countries are paid so little that it’s unfair to U.S. workers to expect them to compete with a flood of imports made under less costly conditions to employers.

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