What does the American public believe?

Many things that ain’t so, according to our colleague Bryan Caplan. They believe that protectionism creates jobs, and they think that big corporations, rather than supply and demand, set the price of gasoline. See the link for a longer discussion and some citations of specific questionnaire evidence.

Here is my favorite bit:

The only category of spending that the public invariably wants to cut is foreign aid–which amounts to about 1% of the federal budget!

Believe it or not, it is not unusual for a member of the general public to think that foreign aid consists of forty percent of the United States government budget. Of all the biases we observe in voters, “suspicion of foreigners” appears to be the most pronounced. Bryan, who has done the relevant work here, is writing a book on how and why democracy can go astray through irrational voters, I await its release eagerly.

Here are some broader polls on NAFTA and free trade, compiled by AEI. Even the people who favor free trade, presumably for its benefits to consumers, think it costs us jobs. Given how the public feels, I am always surprised that we have as much free trade as we do.


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