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. Obama/Hillary 08

    I wonder if Joe Liberman is the one that is going to launches the new terror attack. Please stop scaring people for political reason. America, it is not true no terror attack in 2009. If there is one Joe Lieberman and the Republican Party is behind it.

    July 1, 2008 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  2. Kelby from Houston, TX

    Why do people vote republican? I just don't get it. The only thing they have brought us this century was war poverty and division.
    I know country bumbkins vote republican because they believe what they say.
    I know the rich vote republican because they want to be richer and let's face it, they don't like poor people.
    I know a lot of white people vote republican because they're old and afraid of anything that breaks convention and they want to keep the black man down.
    Other than those reasons, if you vote republican yer a sucker!

    July 1, 2008 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  3. Phil, FL

    We're trying to get thru TODAY and TOMORROW and mccain keeps wanting to tout his pity party POW crap from 45 years ago.

    He lived – he got a lot of money for it.

    Move into the present and future.

    July 1, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  4. Pete

    McBush = not a freakin clue.

    July 1, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  5. Hannah Stevens

    To JimBlanco..."51% of CNN's communist viewers can't be wrong… until we are all paying 60% taxes to Obama's social programs for the irretrievably lazy!"

    I guess you would rather pay your taxes to keep the oil wars going to keep the wealthy in money to buy more vacation home and jet planes, because that is what we are doing now. I say bring on the social programs for the people in our country, education, health care. With the bush wars ,we and our children will be paying for years to come.

    July 1, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  6. bd

    Phil... how can "free trade" have modifications to change with the times? Obama is a protectionist.

    July 1, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  7. Easy Rider

    Free trade might work IF and only IF we export more than we import.

    I find it really amazing that Americans do not rally together and insist that manufacturing returns to America. It will create jobs, stimulate the economy, and we have higher standards of quality than China. We insist on supporting a Communist country that produces tainted pet food, tainted food for human consumption, dangerous toys, etc. The sad part is that it is American companies that are outsourcing their manufacturing over yonder, and we keep buying their cheap plastic crap.

    Refuse to buy anything that says "MADE IN CHINA" whenever possible.

    July 1, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  8. Brian Phoenix AZ

    To Phil in FLA:
    Told ya the clown has his own agenda and it certainly isn't in the interests of the citizens of the U.S. More outsourcing to follow.
    He does not have a clue as to needs of the citizens here.

    July 1, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  9. peter

    one of many things he will see challenges in this election

    July 1, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  10. Chris from Fargo

    You know... not that long ago China took us to task for our domestic economic failings. The official statement could be summed up by stating, 'Hold the people who are responsible for this collapse responsible. If you do not desire to or are unable to, get help.' It's a sad day when China is telling us to shape up... and are right about it...

    July 1, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  11. Trade that is FAIR to the U.S.

    Lead in toys, salmonella tomatoes, tainted pet food are examples of why I am against free trade. I am for FAIR TRADE. Foreign should have to come up with environmental standards, food safety standards, consumer product standards and worker rights similar to the U.S. If is not fair trade when other countries have such low standards and their inferior, cheap products are allowed to come into the U.S. We have a hugh trade deficits because other countries do not allow the U.S. the same access to their markets as they do the U.S. Market. Therefore, either the other countries of the world open up their markets or we should start closing down our markets until they open their markets. Also, Country of Origin labels should be on all products as well. I personally would rather pay a little more for American made products because of our higher standards in the U.S. Trade is GOOD as long as it is FAIR TRADE

    July 1, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  12. bd

    Debbie... even this economic down turn... what is the unemployement? The Obama sheep are as bad as the W Bush Sheep.

    July 1, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  13. Unbalanced is not balanced


    Just because McCain was a POW for five years does not qualify him to be the President of the U.S.

    About the "Character" issue.

    Cheating on your crippled wife numerous times after coming home from Viet Nam and then dumping her to the curb to marry a younger woman who is worth millions say's alot about McCain's "character" doesn't it?

    July 1, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  14. Dave

    As long as there are subsidies and tariffs of any kind, we won't have free trade, just more sad attempts by the government to engineer the marketplace. Neither of these candidates has the guts to step up and support truly free trade, where the government doesn't meddle in the affairs of private citizens engaging in cross border commerce.

    July 1, 2008 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  15. bd

    Clinton, no, wait, McCain Supporter...

    Is it free trade or poor strategy? What is GM's product mix vs Toyota's product mix? I would argue management is GM's problem not free trade. Toyota is leading in innovation and efficiency.

    I guess the government can manage GM too.

    July 1, 2008 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  16. Jay

    Sweetie and others,
    You seem to be the ones lacking common sense. I'd like anyone here to tell me how free trade (ie, no tariffs) benefits a country who has higher opertating costs due to a higher value for a good life - paying its workers who then fuel consumer spending and protecting our environment which benefits all of us (rich or poor). We are going to continue to get steamrolled in the future by India, China and other Latin American countries if we don't rethink these agreements. At the least, free trade agreements need some sort of mechanism to minimize the impact of differentials in wages and environmental costs. That way, we could create an incentive for the other nations to improve their standards and make the field more equal, while benefitting both sides.

    No holds barred free trade with partners with radically different conditions simply is moronic (unless you're the rich dog on top who moved his/her company overseas). I don't expect Junior High students to get it, but adults should. Free trade has had a direct impact on destruction of our manufacturing sector, explosion of our trade deficit, and calls to rollback our own quality of life standards.

    Of course early on studies showed a benefit, that was an intial boom to certain areas due to lower consumer prices, but now that a core sector of our economy has been gutted, watch what happens with the future. The long-run won't bode well. Good blue collar jobs provide a key element to consumer spending. We can't all be white collar managers in America, that doesn't even make sense. We need a diverse economy for a country whose people have diverse interests. BTW, white collar jobs can be outsourced too. That's going to be the next big phase. Plenty of smart engineers and so forth in other parts of the world...

    July 1, 2008 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  17. CitizenAJ

    Hey Tony,

    Like we said when we were kids, "they started it!" If the republicans would not smearing, the democrats, supporters of Senator Obama would stop smearing. Fire with fire! After what swiftboaters and the republicans did to John Kerry in 2004, didn't you expect the democrats and supporters of the democratic candidate to come out swinging this time? Why do you think Senator Obama made the comment in his speech yesterday that he will not stand idly by while people attack his patriotism. Come on man.

    He tried to take the high ground but the republicans and John McCain keep going low ball. He denounced Wesley Clarks comments yesterday trying to continue to stay on the moral high ground. But, when it is time to play baseball, he, his campaign and its supporters are going to bring out the BIG BATS and start swatting like the Babe!

    July 1, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  18. Phil in KC

    Yeah, look where free trade has gotten us so far. Automobile manufacturing has moved to Mexico. We import a large percentage of our consumer products from China. Steel? From Japan. And so on and so forth. What do all these countries buy from us? Not much.
    We have an enormous balance of trade deficit. We need to level the playing field by making the products from other countries cost just as much as those produced here. Remove the incentive. Put Americans back to work in good-paying production and manufacturing jobs instead of low-paying service jobs.

    July 1, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  19. Rosa Birmingham, AL

    Companies are going overseas because they want CHEAP LABOR, it has very little to do with taxes. That's a lame GOP argument that doesn't fit with reality, I can't believe some of you bought it.

    July 1, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  20. Republican for Obama

    John McCain is simply plotting how to ship the jobs from that factory over to China/Mexico/Canada/Columbia if/when he is elected. The complete 'cold' stare in his eye's is the telling factor.

    July 1, 2008 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  21. Bless the whole world, not just US

    Free trade is the best thing we can do for this world! Yes, Americans may get hurt, but the world as a whole will be SOO much better off. All those people who want to solve poverty and such in 3rd world countries should be all for free trade! Free trade will bring the average living condition of the world WAY up. Unfortunately for Americans, we are already way above average, so we might take a hit. But honestly, are we so selfish that we don't want to share our wealth?

    July 1, 2008 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  22. Gus from Akron

    No more free trade of anything. FAIR TRADE might be acceptable. OTHERWISE, CLOSE THE BORDER AND LET'S MAKE EVERYTHING WE NEED WITHIN OUR BORDERS. No more cheap chinnese, indian, etc. crap.

    July 1, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  23. Texan for Progression

    McCain was quoted saying, "I understand it's very tough. But for me to give up my advocacy of free trade would be a betrayal of trust,"

    It would be a betrayal of whose trust? Columbia's, Mexico's, Canada's???? What about Americans??? We have entrusted to you the leadership of this country as a US Senator and free trade, as it stands, has proven to be a betrayal of THAT trust. So the question becomes, which relationship is most worth preserving? It is amazing how "out of touch" McCain is with the common American; and moreover, how Obama is often considered the "elitist" by comparison to McCain (e.g., the Westly Clark fire-storm).

    Mind your focus people because there are those who have discounted your intellect and aim to navigate your decisions and conclusions via your emotions on issues of little to no significance.

    July 1, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  24. therealist

    What about OBAMA! Didn't he just flip-flop on NAFTA!!??

    July 1, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  25. bd

    People trade because they have different taste and different abilities. The potential for gains from trade is determined by all of our abilities together. This gives people a comparative advantage, which is the ability to perfrom a given task at a lower cost. Everyone in society can be made better off if each specializes in the area where he is most efficient, and then trades for the goods he wants to have.

    Learn to compete folks.

    July 1, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
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