A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds that the majority of Americans say free-trade pacts have hurt the United States and, in some states, it is a wedge issue for upcoming elections.
The American public, already skeptical of free trade, is becoming increasingly hostile to it.
Across the country, politicians are responding accordingly, and that is clouding prospects for congressional approval of pending free-trade pacts with South Korea and Colombia. It is also prompting concern among U.S. businesses reliant on the rest of the world for growth.
In the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, more than half of those surveyed, 53%, said free-trade agreements have hurt the U.S. That is up from 46% three years ago and 32% in 1999.
Even Americans most likely to be winners from trade—upper-income, well-educated professionals, whose jobs are less likely to go overseas and whose industries are often buoyed by demand from international markets—are increasingly skeptical.
"The important change is that very well-educated and upper-income people compared to five to 10 years ago have shifted their opinion and are now expressing significant concern about the notion of...free trade," said Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster who helps conduct the Journal survey. Among those earning $75,000 or more, 50% now say free-trade pacts have hurt the U.S., up from 24% who said the same in 1999.