President Barack Obama arrives to speak at a news conference at the G-7 summit in Schloss Elmau hotel near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, southern Germany, June 8, 2015.
Photo by Carolyn Kaster/AP

Why Obama’s trade proposal is a tough sell: Americans want to protect jobs


In recent weeks, President Obama has been actively pursuing support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the trade deal that would be the United States’ largest free trade agreement. But a majority of Americans support what labor unions and a number of Democratic members of Congress have been arguing: defend American companies and workers over cheaper foreign imports.

RELATED: 5 things to know about the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal

Two-thirds of Americans say protecting American industries and jobs by limiting imports is more important than allowing free trade so they can buy products at lower prices from any country, according to the most recent NBC News online survey conducted by SurveyMonkey. And that sentiment is held across party lines, with majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents agreeing that limiting imported inexpensive goods to protect jobs from other countries is more important than being able to buy cheap goods.

The Senate passed a bill last month granting the president “fast track” authority to negotiate the massive trade deal. The bill is now before the House of Representatives, where it’s likely to face more opposition. Fast track authority is traditionally necessary for presidents to get an eventual up-or-down vote on ambitions trade deals. Debate over the trade bill has pitted the president against some of his progressive allies in the Senate, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Strongest support for allowing free trade comes among those with college degrees, with nearly 4 in 10 college graduates saying free trade is more important than limiting imports. Just 1 in 4 of those with some college and a third of those with high school degrees or less favor free trade over protecting American industries and jobs.

The NBC News Online Survey was conducted online by SurveyMonkey from June 3-5, 2015 among a national sample of 2,153 adults aged 18 and over. Respondents for this non-probability survey were selected from among those who have volunteered to participate in the SurveyMonkey Audience panel. Results have an error estimate of plus or minus 3.0 percentage points. A full description of our methodology can be found here. The survey was produced by the Analytics Unit of NBC News in conjunction with Penn’s Program on Opinion Research and Election Studies with data collection and tabulation conducted by SurveyMonkey. Analysis by the University of Pennsylvania’s Program on Opinion Research and Election Studies.