Social Psychology and Public Support for Trade Liberalization



This study argues that a central factor in the determinants of citizen attitudes toward trade is the social psychology of the individual in question. Namely, we contend that the level of social trust an individual has will condition the degree to which an individual wants to open her country to imports from other countries. Those individuals with lower relative levels of social trust are less likely to support the notion of freer trade. We base this contention on the logic that those people who are distrustful of people in general are more likely to distrust that which comes from people who are unknown to them, such as goods coming into their country from abroad. This argument is a departure from previous studies of public attitudes toward trade, which have focused on various economic utilitarian considerations and xenophobia that shape citizen attitudes toward trade liberalization. To test our argument, we employ data from the 1995–1997 wave of the World Values Survey. Using a logit regression analysis, we find, as predicted, that the more social trust an individual has, the more likely that person is to support the idea of liberalized trade.