Politicizing Trade: How Economic Discontent and Identity Politics Shape Anti-Trade Campaign Appeals (job market paper)
What explains the spells of economic nationalism? Since the mid-2000s, populist politicians have increasingly voiced a desire for protectionist policies that guards the control of the domestic economy against outside influences. Yet, we know little about the precise motivations behind nativist narratives. This study is the first systematic evaluation of the causes of anti-trade rhetoric in the United States. I argue that politicians manipulate the cost of globalization and scapegoat trade for their poor economic performance to mobilize voters. Using panel data on televised political advertising, I find that politicians emphasize trade issues more in competitive districts when district unemployment is high. I also find that Democratic incumbents target anti-trade ads in such districts only after President Obama took office, reflecting the strategic nature of anti-trade advertising. To rule out the alternative explanation that politicians target anti-trade ads in districts that lost jobs to globalization, I exploit the exogenous geographic variation in Chinese import competition. The instrumental variable regression results show that candidates do not air more anti-trade ads in districts hurt by trade competition. Instead, challengers raise identity issues such as immigration, crime, and abortion in these districts. My findings demonstrate the importance of understanding candidates’ incentives for political survival in explaining the resurgence of trade in American politics.
Foreign Direct Investment Neutralizes Perceived Economic Threat: Evidence from Chinese Investment in the U.S. (under review)
What drives mass attitudes toward China? China uses international economic policy to expand its influence, yet we do not know how these activities shape public opinion on China's economic rise. The coexistence of economic and cultural concerns renders it difficult for scholars to parse out the influence of each on perceptions of China. To overcome this challenge, I compare the effect of Chinese greenfield investment and cross-border mergers and acquisitions (M&A) on whether Americans perceive China as an economic threat. While citizens welcome greenfield investment because it provides economic benefits, they are wary of M&A transactions that could result in job losses. My analysis of US survey data shows that exposure to Chinese greenfield investment decrease the probability of viewing China as an economic threat, even among nationalist Americans. I also find that M&A does not affect perceptions of China. My findings reveal greenfield FDI as a way to soften anti-China sentiment in developed economies.
Does Exposure to Anti-Trade Ads Fuel Backlash Against Globalization?
Does anti-globalization rhetoric fuel backlash against globalization? The literature argues that socio-cultural values such as ethnocentrism are the main drivers of opposition to trade. Yet, little is known about how elite cues create demand for protectionist policies. My paper challenges the focus on the individual, psychological factors as the source of protectionist sentiments. Instead, I argue that politicians’ economic nationalist narratives shape voters’ preferences. Using data on televised political advertising and geocoded survey data, I show the causal effect of anti-trade advertising on American trade attitudes by exploiting differences in exposure to advertising generated by the as-random assignment of similar counties to different media markets created by Federal Communications Commission regulations. Anti-trade ads heighten ethnocentrism, which, in turn, engenders opposition to free trade policies. My findings shed light on the dynamics of trade attitudes – they shift across geographies and over time, depending on the intensity of coverage of trade and immigration issues in political ads.
Swing Voters and the Redirection of Intergovernmental Transfers (co-authored with Sonal Pandya (University of Virginia)) (under review)
Global economic integration can present politicians with a trade-off: subsidize capital owners - a catalyst for growth - or redistribute income. How politicians navigate this trade-off has large consequences for inequality. Rarely, however, can we directly observe politicians' choices because they are deeply embedded in fiscal and tax policy. We leverage the 2009 US stimulus as an exogenous positive budget shock for states to identify the effects of budget constraints on foreign direct investment (FDI). We use an exogenous portion of the federal Medicaid funding formula to instrument for stimulus, and show that stimulus increased manufacturing FDI into states, an increase concentrated in relative rural counties with no history of FDI, We further show that stimulus increased state expenditures on investment subsidies and that counties that had a narrow vote margin in the prior gubernatorial election received the investment. Taken together, these findings are consistent with politicians strategically targeting investment to electorally salient parts of their state, using public funds intended for public services.
Affective Polarization and Attitudes Toward Globalization: Evidence from a Conjoint Experiment in Turkey (co-authored with Yunus Emre Orhan (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee))
Does affective polarization drive anti-globalization attitudes? Current studies in the backlash against globalization literature demonstrate that negative elite cues prime opposition toward international trade. Surprisingly, little is known about how affective polarization, the defining feature of twenty-first-century politics, relates to citizens’ trade preferences. We explore how antagonism toward partisan out-groups influences how people feel about trade by conducting a large-scale survey experiment in Turkey. The sample of 2,300 respondents is funded by NSF/APSA DDRI grant. Our paper consists of three experiments. In experiment 1, we explore respondents’ support for placing new barriers on imports to protect Turkish jobs depending on whether they receive partisan cues on trade policy preferences of the two largest rival parties. In experiment 2, we ask some respondents to list why they love Turkey after emphasizing the positive aspects of Turkish culture. The Turkish treatment aims to prime Turkish identity at the expense of partisan identity. Finally, we conduct a conjoint experiment to evaluate the relative influence of candidate trade policy positions on candidate support and whether this effect varies depending on the presence of the Turkish identity prime. Controlling for candidate cues from the first experiment while assessing the results of the third experiment also allows us to isolate the effect of partisan animus from elite polarization. Our research advances our understanding of how foreign economic policy preferences develop in developing countries with high levels of polarization.
Does Economic Nationalism Drive Opposition to FDI?: Evidence from Consumer Responses to Foreign Acquisitions: (co-authored with Sonal Pandya and Raj Venkatesan (UVA Darden Business School))
Does economic nationalism fuel opposition to FDI? Studies of public sentiment towards FDI struggle to parse competing explanations with a high degree of external validity. We use weekly US supermarket sales to assess whether American consumers switch brands in response to a foreign acquisition of a US consumer goods supplier. Acquisitions are exogenous shocks that make national identity more salient in consumer decision making but do not immediately change any other product characteristics. For the universe of foreign consumer product M&As during 2001-2010, we analyze brand market shares in affected product categories in response to announcement of the merger. Preliminary evidence shows that in the weeks post-announcement consumers switch to American-sounding brands in the affected product category. These findings are robust to controls for price and product availability. We do not find an analogous switch in response to domestic acquisitions in the same industries.
WORK IN PROGRESS
CoronaNet Government Economic Policy Tracker Research Project
The CoronaNet Research Project compiles a database on government responses to the coronavirus. Our main focus is to collect as much information as we can about the various fine-grained actions governments are taking to address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, this dataset provides the most comprehensive and granular documentation of such government policies in the world, capturing data for 18 broad policy categories alongside many other dimensions, including the initiator, target and timing of a policy. You can reach CoronaNET website by clicking here.
I'm the PI for the extension of this project which documents economic policy responses by governments and international organizations to the coronavirus. I have a group of RAs that volunteered to collect and code economic policies under my supervision. We use a survey instrument to systematically code data collected on the economic policy responses. RAs answer the questions on this survey to create a comprehensive and detailed dataset of various aspects of the policy responses. You can find a draft version of the economic policy survey here. We are currently in the testing phase of the survey. Soon, we will start coding the economic policy
of G-20 countries. Please get in touch if you have any questions or comments on the survey.
Economic Shocks, Political Cues, and the Backlash Against Globalization (co-authored with Nina Obermeier (Cornell))
Do elites prime backlash against globalization? Although the literature on the backlash against globalization has highlighted how political candidates denounce economic integration in order to distract from poor economic performance, we know little about how successful this strategy is in shaping political attitudes. In this paper, we explore the causal effect of the anti-globalization rhetoric on public opinion toward trade and immigration using data from a large-scale survey experiment in the US. Using video excerpts from political ads that aired in previous Congressional elections and vary along the axes of economic nationalism and ethnonationalism as treatment, we test the effect of this type of priming on political attitudes. We also test for the heterogeneity of the treatment effect by demographic factors and local economic context, such as exposure to Chinese import competition. Our findings break with traditional accounts of voter preference formation toward globalization and advance the literature by highlighting the role of political leaders’ programs and strategies in shaping individual beliefs about trade and immigration.