July 1st, 2008
12:19 PM ET
13 years ago

In challenge to McCain, majority against free trade

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/01/art.mccainpoll.ap.jpg caption=" McCain tours the Worth and Company factory in Pipersville, Pennsylvania, Monday."]

(CNN) - As John McCain prepares to promote the advantages of free trade during a high-profile trip to Colombia and Mexico, a poll released Tuesday suggests the issue may pose a political hurdle for the Arizona senator as the general election campaign heats up.

According to the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, 51 percent of the Americans questioned view foreign trade as a threat to the economy - the first time in a CNN poll that a majority of respondents report holding negative views on free trade.

Read full poll results [PDF]

That compares to only 35 percent of those asked who felt that free trade posed a threat to the economy in 2000, and 48 percent who felt it was a threat in 2006.

Now only four in 10 the Americans questioned say free trade presents an opportunity for economic growth, a sentiment that clearly makes the issue a challenge for McCain, especially in the crucial Rust Belt states most affected by the loss of manufacturing jobs over the last decade.

Election Center: Check out where McCain, Obama stand on trade

"It's possible that John McCain's decision to highlight his free-trade position may wind up losing him some votes among Americans who feel threatened economically by competition from other countries," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. "Recent polls in states like Pennsylvania and Michigan have shown McCain well behind Barack Obama. Calling attention to his stand on an issue like trade may be a part of the problems he apparently faces in those Midwestern states."

Full story

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John McCain
soundoff (208 Responses)
  1. Vote Nader

    The Republicans have the Terrorist Boogey Man and the Democrats have the Free Trade Boogey Man.

    Free Trade helps business which in turn helps you. Free Trade helps consumers, which you most likely are. The only thing Free Trade hurts is the unskilled worker. The economy is global, trade policy should not limit that.


    ** Nader/Gonzalez 2008 **

    July 1, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  2. Potter

    Free trade is only free to big corporations and off shore countries. We have owned a manufacturing facility for 17 years. Good quality and quick turns. We lost all of that business to off shore production where employees get $.50 per hour and no benefits. The end user does not pay less for the product when it comes back to the states, in fact most items are more. Who's making the money? I was for McCain but this is a hard pill to swallow. You would think Americans would have learned its lesson by now.

    July 1, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  3. Ind. from MI

    If you research McCain's position and BO's position, you will see that BO's position (whatever that may be given how the moon shines) will lead to more outsourcing.

    McCain 08'

    July 1, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  4. Love Huckabee

    McCain doesn't know what he's doing. He's making up stuff to look like he know what's happening.

    He's running off of being a POW, and now that people know his qualifications are questionable, he's toast.

    Obama 08!

    July 1, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  5. RGR

    How naive to think that only help corporate people, with out corporation there is no work, with out workers there is no production, so a free trade improves production (exports) and frees free thinking for improvement and competing, Because of a Free trade we can enjoy products from other countries and other countries can enjoy products produced here in the US (Only if Unions don't get on the way of production. – see how they have created mediocrecy in the education system and auto industry and totally destroyed steel production by demanding high wages and ridicule's demands ).

    July 1, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  6. ANGIE

    mccain is ready to sell us out more than bush did

    July 1, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  7. Jim


    Winding up a campaign swing through Pennsylvania, which has been hard hit by the loss of manufacturing jobs to Mexico and elsewhere, the Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting pledged to improve programs for displaced workers and unemployment insurance if elected, but acknowledged that wouldn't be enough.

    "I have to convince them the consequences of protectionism and isolationism could be damaging to their future," the Arizona senator said.

    "I understand it's very tough. But for me to give up my advocacy of free trade would be a betrayal of trust," he said. "And the most precious commodity I have with the American people is that they trust me."


    improve programs for displaced workers .... This is the same garbage that Bush said in 04. What happened to that? NOTHING!

    I trust you McCain, that will will give my job away! Enough is Enough!!!!

    July 1, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  8. saga for Obama

    i would love to know more about this issue from the people who have lost their jobs because of free trade...any of you out there?

    July 1, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  9. Linda of Atlanta

    John McCain can't change his position on trade because his campaign is full of lobbyists who get paid big bucks to keep America's jobs moving South, North, East and West of our boarders. Charlie Black and Phil Gramm are McCain's closest confidants and they have lobbied consistently with the people who have caused the most harm to the American economy (Banking/Mortgage Deregulation, Deregulation of Commodity Futures). His betrayal of American trust has already occurred. Maybe he's speaking of his desire not to betray Gramm and Black's trust that he will make them richer?

    July 1, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  10. Reality Check Richmond Virginia

    lets get something straight........free trade is not always a bad thing, as long as there is fair trade. The problem is that so many of our "free" trade policies are tilted to the benefit of muli-national corps and other countries and away from us......as in the people of our country.

    July 1, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  11. Crush Rush

    Free trade is not fair trade and a level playing field,not when new hire Mexican auto workers are making TWO DOLLARS A DAY.I call this slave labor and it wont be just blue collared workers to lose jobs here many more white collared workers will lose jobs under McCains heels.Out sourcing and Insourcing jobs will make this country a Third World Country in short order while the newly rich move to Dubai and live like kings and not pay taxes here.

    July 1, 2008 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  12. Monica for Obama in Indiana

    OK, besides being a tortured pow, I think mccain was brainwashed too.

    This article should be a tip for mccain and hillary supporters who are voting for mccain.

    July 1, 2008 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  13. Lynn in NM

    I have no problem with free trade. However, when our jobs go overseas, and our people are losing homes and jobs because of it, then it's time to re-evaluate the Clintons gift to the US worker – NAFTA. Big business should be taxed double for every job that is sent overseas. They are paying 10 cents for an item, and still the prices are going up daily. Greed is the name of the game.

    July 1, 2008 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  14. Tera Patrick

    Not sure our candidate or our population has an educated, informed understanding of free trade.

    Free Trade is suppose to mean EQUAL & BI-LATERAL access. Free trade benefits the entity that has the better VALUE proposition.

    In the case of products that are being manufactured where most of the price is due to the labor hours to make the part, countries with low labor rates have an advantage. .... not America ...

    In the case where the price is largely due to the material costs, countries with access to lower cost materials [possibly domestic which don't need to be transported far] can compete better with low wage countries. However when commodities, like oil cost EVERYBODY $140 per barrel, the lower wage country still has a cost advantage.

    America may be better in white collar, service industries (accounting, investment banking, corporate law, etc.) but unfortunately all of these are regulation driven jobs. Unless Mexico, China, France, London, etc. have the same laws as the United States, we can not EXPORT these services ... there is no EQUAL and BI – LATERAL trade.

    Until the world demands the same standard of living among countries, free trade will benefit those countries that can manufacture the lowest building block items at the lowest cost.

    We've put Japan and China in the aersopace / airplane business so our technological advantage is going away. Other countries can grow corn & soybeans so our agricultural advantage is going away.

    Personally, I think we've got a bunch of politicians that are not very smart and until they are told what to do, they haven't got a clue.

    The problem with that is businessmen end up telling them how the pieces come together and they have a vested interest. They get rich at the public's expense.

    July 1, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  15. Giovanni

    Free Trade has helped the economy when it is managed right, as it was during the Clinton years. The question now is which of the two candidates can manege free trade better. Obama's opposition to free trade seems to be an open admission that he will not be able to manage it.

    July 1, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  16. Christian Vreeland, Traverse City Mi

    Alex in TX, I agree with you that they deserve to die, but some of them can't die. If they did, the US would be worse off without them then they are with them. And that, unfortunately, is the truth.

    July 1, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  17. Rene

    Phil. I guess you will trust someone that supports protecionismo and specialism, that would like to control production and limiting free thinking by punishing competitiveness and profitability – See what a democrat congress have done in less than two years, but they go on vacation when there is a immediate need to fix economic problems that this country has they have fail to recognize them. and a republican congress might also do the same thing but we need check and balances and today we don't have any and the congress is on vacation (All the time).

    July 1, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  18. CMSgt Preston

    Everyone seems to be holding Sen McCain to too high of a standard. Give the guy a break. He's almost 72 years old for goodness sake. Plus, he's already told everyone he doesn't know anything about the economy. Not something he's eveer been interested in. (Reckon that comes from marrying the boss' rich daughter).

    July 1, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  19. Rob

    I work for a German Company here in SC. we employ 17,000 people in the country. If we would have the same mentality about pride and the jobs belonging to the home country, the US would suffer even more. If you guys tell me that jobs should stay at home, look around and think of what that could mean to you if the rest of the world would have the same attitude.

    Free Trade !!!

    July 1, 2008 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  20. Sweetie

    I think it is the folks taking the poll who are confused.....

    I also would like to know who they polled and how the question was worded.

    My children understood the meaning and importance of Free Trade in Junior High.

    Are Adults across our great nation that uninformed?

    McCain 08

    July 1, 2008 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  21. Shakur

    Stop shipping our jobs oversees and create jobs here in America!

    July 1, 2008 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  22. Realistic

    No problemo, McFlipFlop will just change his position in a couple of weeks/days/hours to conform to the polls. He is just like Hillary was in her last weeks, i.e., say anything (remember the infamous gas tax relief) that you think the voters want to hear.

    Ride, baby, ride on the McFlipFlop Express!

    July 1, 2008 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  23. California Gold

    I have to laugh. That picture of McCain says, "No matter how hard I clench my teeth I still don't want to be here. I'm bored. I don't have a clue what he's saying to me. I don't care. I can't remember his name. Let's hurry this up so I can get outta here."

    July 1, 2008 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  24. Sean, Detroit MI

    sometimes I think McCain is TRYING to lose this election. Is this the best the GOP has to offer? Or maybe they know that this year they will be losing the whitehouse for the first time to a black man, so they put up the most expendable person who is at the end of his life and his career and has the least to lose. Imagine what a career blow it would be to any other Republican to be the first to lose to a black man? no-one could recover from that, so McCain is the sacrificial lamb this time around.

    July 1, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  25. Clinton, no, wait, McCain Supporter

    You people don't get it. Being indignant won't help. Criticizing those who "open doors to Columbia," claiming McCain is out of touch.

    This train left the station is the 1990s. It's 2008, and you're still complaining instead of improving our products, competing for world wide business. Even the near-worthless dollar isn't getting the trade deficit worked out.

    BO is not planning on any major adjustment to NAFTA ("Change" isn't going to happen because the basic economics are against it.) Ask your hero exactly HOW he will "CHANGE" NAFTA!

    Free trade is a Democratic achievement – Bill Clinton pushed NAFTA and got it through. The credit goes to the Dems here, as it should. As long as you insist on keeping your head well buried in the sand, America will continue to lose internationally.

    It's a failure to retrain American workers, to insist on increased standards in education, to fail to offer incentives to those going into the sciences. Blame Clinton, blame Bush, it doesn't much matter.

    What does matter is dealing with it, not complaining about it endlessly and thinking your "rock star" candidate is going to do anything different. Why, this guy is to the RIGHT of Hillary Clinton, who insisted on UNIVERSAL health care, not the Obama "ALMOST universal" plan. Why do you think he will be anything but middle of the road on NAFTA?

    The whole world is happily trading out there, and we're carping and sniping and whining. Get over it and start acting like we are doers, not whiners!

    July 1, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
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