On Feb. 24, Diana C. Mutz, a professor of Political Science and Communication at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), gave a presentation at Thomson House on her study “Mass Opinion Toward Trade in the United States and Canada.” The event was sponsored by the Centre for the Study of Democratic Citizenship and was open to the public.
Political science postdoctoral researcher at Université de Montréal (UdeM) Valérie-Anne Mahéo introduced Mutz, explaining that the professor’s work focuses on the instability of opinions on international trade.
“We know now how this is such an important topic and is covered so much in American politics,” Maheo said. “A few years back, [Mutz] started to look at globalization of trade. Now, we see how hot of a topic this is and we have [U.S. President] Donald Trump and [Canadian Prime Minister] Justin Trudeau talking daily on the phone about that.”
Mutz said there are many factors that influence opinions towards trade in the U.S., including peoples’ level of education.
“[…Education] is a huge predictor of trade support,” Mutz said. “People who are more educated are more supportive of international trade and that is true across many different countries.”
Racism or prejudice can also impact attitudes towards trade, according to Mutz. Her study found that racial minorities are more likely to support international trade due to fewer racist attitudes in those groups.
“Measures of domestic racism predicted trade attitudes,” Mutz said. “If you ask Latinos, Blacks, and Whites on how they feel about each other, that’s a really strong predictor of attitudes towards international trade. Peoples’ opinions towards ‘others’ tends to generalize and that can relate to foreigners as well.”
Mutz plans to expand her research to examine U.S. trading partners other than Canada. Mutz started to research Canada due to its proximity and perceived differences in opinions on trade found in other studies.
“I am interested in looking at all of [the U.S.’s] trading partners,” Mutz said. “[….] I also knew from the American context that it would be good to have a place with different attitudes towards trade as a whole. Canada is far more positive towards trade. The main difference is that the [U.S.] values competition to an extreme extent, it is unmatched.”
Mutz elaborated that the survey she gave to Americans and Canadians tried to be nationally representative of each country. As part of her study, she found that a higher percentage of Americans supported isolationism than Canadians.
“The studies themselves were a two-part design, virtually the same,” Mutz said. “I did a nationally representative survey in both the [U.S.] and Canada. They were not [conducted at] exactly the same time, but both were pre-Trump. We did it on 3,000 people, then we went back to those people and ran a survey experiment.”
According to Mutz’s survey results, the high competitiveness of Americans can be seen through their opinion of the ideal outcome with a trade partner.
“We found the Americans were in favour of a win-lose situation, where the [U.S.] would win and another country would lose, while Canadians were in favour of a win-win situation, where Canada and its trading partner would both benefit,” Mutz said.
Mutz also gave presentations at Univeristié Laval on Feb. 21 and UdeM on Feb. 23, and said that visiting Canadian universities is crucial to further understanding the population’s perspective.
“It is important [to go to universities, like McGill] because people here have a lot more expertise of Canadian views,” Mutz said. “It’s good to understand each other.”