2022, Paper: "We investigate the role of evidence-based information in shaping individuals’ preferences for trade policies through a series of survey experiments that contain randomized information treatments. Each information treatment provides a concise statement of economics research findings on how openness to trade has affected labor market outcomes and goods prices. Across annual surveys from 2018-2021, each administered on a representative sample of the US general population, we find that information highlighting the link between trade and manufacturing job losses significantly raises respondents’ propensity to select limits on imports as a preferred policy; this tendency is only partially offset if respondents receive additional information describing the accompanying expansion in non-manufacturing jobs. Strikingly (and rather paradoxically), information on the benefits of trade for goods prices also induces protectionist policy choices. Our exploration of underlying mechanisms shows that the treatment effects are not driven by the economic self-interest of respondents or a lack of persuasiveness. Instead, the information appears to reinforce respondents’ priors stemming from their political identity and concerns regarding China, while also eliciting loss-averse behavior. The findings point to the challenges in using short evidence-based messages to communicate the benefits of trade to the general public." Read Via HBS

Non-HKS Harvard Faculty Author Website - Laura Alfaro