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Conservatives Oppose Fast Track, TPP: Poll

Corporate media consistently characterize the opponents of Obama's trade agenda as "labor unions," but the fact is conservative voters loathe it as well.
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A definitive survey of voters shows conservative Republicans oppose President Obama's bid for fast-track authority to complete the TransPacific Partnership. Corporate media consistently characterize the opponents of Obama's trade agenda as "labor unions," but the fact is conservative voters loathe it as well. Despite overwhelming opposition among GOP base voters, Speaker John Boehner and GOP leaders continue to support giving President Obama fast track power.

Respected Democratic polling firm Hart Research Associates and Republican pollsters Chesapeake Beach Consulting conducted a national survey of voters' views on proposed fast-track negotiating authority for the Trans- Pacific Partnership trade deal. The poll shows broad opposition among all groups of voters.

By more than two to one, voters say they oppose (62%) rather than favor passage of fast-track negotiating authority for the TPP deal. Among those with a strong opinion, the ratio climbs to more than three to one (43% strongly opposed, just 12% strongly favorable). Demographically, opposition is very broad, with no more than one-third of voters in any region of the country or in any age cohort favoring fast track. Sixty percent (60%) of voters with household incomes under $50,000 oppose fast track, as do 65% of those with incomes over $100,000.

The poll's findings are line with previous surveys that show voters across the board have a negative view of so-called "free trade" deals.

Voter opposition explains why Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and even Joe Biden are wary about pushing the issue before the mid-term elections.

But it doesn't explain why John Boehner and GOP leaders support Obama's trade agenda. The fact is - contrary to the corporate media narrative that paints opponents as card-carrying union members - conservatives oppose fast track in even greater numbers than Democrats:

Republicans overwhelmingly oppose giving fast-track authority to the president (8% in favor, 87% opposed), as do independents (20%-66%), while a narrow majority (52%) of Democrats are in favor (35% opposed).

The takeaway: Republicans should be afraid, very afraid of voting for fast track if they want to keep their jobs:

Two-thirds (68%) of Republicans say they are less likely to vote for a Member of Congress who votes to give President Obama fast-track authority. Among the conservative Republicans who dominate many primary electorates, this figure is an extraordinary 74%.

Asked why they oppose fast track and the TransPacific Partnership, here's the argument voters found most convincing:

"Fast track gives the president too much power. Congress should meet its constitutional responsibility to review trade agreements carefully and make sure they are in the best interests of American workers and consumers." Fully 69% of voters say this is a convincing reason to oppose fast-track authorization.

That number rose to an astonishing 87% among Republicans.

But opposition to fast track and TPP cannot be dismissed as simply antipathy to the president. The poll found voters across the board believe so-called 'free trade' deals are bad for working Americans:

  • Two-thirds (66%) say a convincing reason to oppose fast-track authority for TPP is that "workers in countries like Vietnam and Malaysia are exploited and paid as little as 28 cents an hour, which creates unfair competition that drives down wages for American workers."
  • By a 35-point margin, the voting public believes the TPP deal would make things worse (56%) rather than better (21%) in terms of American wages and salaries.
  • Three in five voters (62%) feel this is a convincing argument against fast- track authority: "This is a NAFTA-style trade deal, and since NAFTA, the United States has run up an eight-trillion-dollar trade deficit, resulting in millions of lost manufacturing jobs."
  • Voters are three times as likely to say that preventing U.S. jobs moving overseas should be a top goal for trade deals as they are to cite opening foreign markets to U.S. exports.
  • By a five-to-three ratio, voters anticipate that the TPP deal would make things worse (52%) rather than better (30%) for American jobs.

Voters understand precisely who will benefit from the TransPacific Partnership - and who will be hurt:

  • American voters overwhelmingly expect TPP to be a good deal for large corporations: 72% say it will help these corporations and just 17% say it will hurt them.
  • However, voters have the opposite expectation when it comes to a vastly more popular institution: America's small businesses. Just 24% feel that TPP would help small firms, while 64% think TPP will mostly hurt small businesses.
  • Significantly, voters in small business households (in which a voter either owns or works for a small business) believe that TPP will harm small firms: 61% say they expect TPP to hurt more than help small businesses.

These findings reveal why the administration is treating the TransPacific Partnership as a state secret: they understand the American people would oppose it if they knew what's in it. But even spin and secrecy can't save TPP from the voters' wrath. Americans know from experience that these so-called free trade deals aren't free and aren't about trade: they are a rigged game that hurts the little guy and helps Wall Street bailout banks and corporatist insiders who grow fat at the trough of big government.

The special interests will never give up. They will try to ram fast track through Congress, if not today, then tomorrow, and if not tomorrow, then after the November elections.

We must not give up either. We must contact Congress and tell our representatives to commit unequivocally to vote No on fast track Trade Promotion Authority.

The survey was conducted from January 14 to 18, 2014 among 816 registered voters on behalf of Communication Workers of America, Sierra Club, and the U.S. Business and Industry Council. The poll's margin of error is ±3.5 percentage points.

Read the polling memo here and top line results here.

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