In communities with higher numbers of layoffs due to trade, survey respondents were more likely to say that free trade was a “bad thing” for the United States. This is based on a statistical model that accounts for several other factors, including the overall unemployment rate in the county. If just four more people out of 1000 in a particular county were laid off because of free trade, opposition to free trade increased by 1 percent.
Most Americans live in counties that had between zero and nine trade-induced layoffs per 1,000 residents. Such small numbers, of course, resulted in only a small change in the county’s attitude toward free trade — but small is larger than nothing. These layoffs do matter.
And the relationship between opinions about free trade and trade-induced layoffs is larger when those layoffs occur closer to respondents. To calculate this, I measured the distances in miles between each survey respondent and all firms filing for TAA support. The effects are strongest for those who live 25 to 100 miles from firms with trade-related layoffs.