In a trade war, who might suffer most? Trump voters.
President Trump has promised sweeping changes to trade policy, including withdrawing from the Pacific Rim pact forged under former president Barack Obama and renegotiating the terms of the U.S. trade deal with Mexico and Canada.
New research indicates that these bold measures could have the biggest impact for those who voted for Trump — for better or for worse. In a recent report, the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program ranks the U.S. cities with economies most closely tied to trade and finds that they disproportionately voted for Trump.
The data shows that the counties that voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election actually produced the largest amount of exports overall — about 58 percent of the country’s exports in 2015. But the counties that voted for Trump were more dependent on exports, meaning trade generated a larger proportion of their overall economic activity. That’s because Clinton voters disproportionately live in America’s major cities, which are large, diverse economies that contain various industries, including manufacturing, entertainment and tourism. Meanwhile, Trump won many small Midwestern and Southern cities whose economies are centered on one or two export goods.
You can see these trends in the charts. Larger cities of more than 500,000 residents rely on exports for less of their gross domestic product and were more likely to lean toward Clinton. But in smaller cities where a greater proportion of economic growth comes from exports, voters were more likely to vote for Trump. In total, exports made up 13 percent of local GDP in counties won by Trump, compared with 10 percent in counties won by Clinton, the data shows.
That means Trump voters would probably end up feeling the heaviest effects from changes to trade, the researchers say. If new policies end up preserving American jobs and boosting exports, that could be a good thing for these communities. But if Trump’s bold trade actions end up sparking retaliation or even a destabilizing trade war, it could be deeply harmful for his supporters. More at washingtonpost.com/wonkblog