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A new Wall Street Journal feature comparing the beliefs of Donald Trump’s supporters with those of backers of other leading Republican presidential candidates deserves high marks for graphic ingenuity. For accuracy? I’m less sure about that. Not that anyone should have excessive expectations of opinion polls’ accuracy, but this particular exercise seems off-base in describing how social conservative voters view American trade policy – which is shaping up as an important issue in this election year.

The Journal‘s analysis groups Republican voters into three categories: Trump-ites, fans of “establishment” candidates like former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, and the social conservatives. So far, so good. Ditto for the findings that by a 55 percent-45 percent margin Trump voters consider “free trade” to be “bad for the U.S.” and the establishment-arians viewing such trade as beneficial by 72 percent to 28 percent.

But The Journal‘s claim that 59 percent of social conservatives hold positive views of trade and only 41 percent oppose it contrasts with years of survey data on the issue, as well as with my personal experience in trade politics – which isn’t negligible.

The political world first got wind of social conservatism’s take on trade issues in 1992, when former Nixon White House speechwriter-turned-pundit Pat Buchanan challenged incumbent President George H.W. Bush in that year’s Republican primaries largely due to Bush’s ardent support for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Uruguay Round global deal that ultimately created the World Trade Organization.

In 1997, opinion data appeared indicating that the Buchanan revolt was no passing fad. That year, the respected Fabrizio-McLaughlin firm issued a fascinating study that examined most of the major fissures then rending (and continuing to roil) the Republican party. Unfortunately, I can’t find it on line, but I wrote about it in detail, and one of the main findings was strong social conservative opposition to the main thrust of American trade policy.

Moreover, during my involvement back in the 1990s in many of that decade’s big Washington trade battles, social conservative organizations and their leaders were always among the staunchest opponents of these deals. In addition to Buchanan, their ranks included Phyllis Schlafly of Eagle Forum, Gary Bauer of the Family Research Council, and most have stayed active on the issue ever since.

In addition, numerous polls make as clear as possible that their grassroots are solidly with these figures. In 2007, The Journal and its survey partner, NBC News, released the results of a study that didn’t track social conservatives’ trade views explicitly, but attributed rising Republican opposition to status quo trade policies to the changing composition of the Republican electorate as social conservatives have grown in influence.”

The Tea Party movement that energized so many Republicans and conservatives after the financial crisis has always been difficult to type economically, as a libertarian wing and a social conservative wing have both emerged. But despite this split, one 2010 poll showed strong support among avowed members of the movement for trade policy positions that strongly resemble those of organized labor, and another – again by The Journal and NBC News – revealed that a higher percentage of professed Tea Party-ers (61 percent) agreed that trade agreements had hurt the United States than Americans overall (53 percent).

The most thoroughgoing and valuable research on this front, however, has been conducted by the Pew Research Center, which since 1987 has recognized that the standard liberal-conservative typology is no longer remotely adequate for analyzing American politics. As early as 1989, Pew detected strong support among a category it labeled “Republican moralists” (along with “God & Country Democrats”) for increasing tariffs on Japanese goods to counter Tokyo’s allegedly unfair trade practices and grave concerns about the impact of foreign ownership of American assets.

Fast forward to 2014, and a Pew survey found that “Steadfast Conservatives,” who it defined as holding “very conservative social values,” were the most likely of the six major American political groupings it identified to believe that “free trade agreements are a bad thing for the U.S.” (Intriguingly, the same phrasing used by the latest Wall Street Journal survey.) In fact, these conservatives were the only category featuring majority (51 percent) agreement with this statement.

Of course, precisely because polling remains far more an art than a science, it’s entirely possible that the new Journal survey is right and all the other polls are wrong. But even for the public opinion business, that would be unusual. Meanwhile, we’re not likely to get much confirmation of these trends in the upcoming Iowa caucuses, since, as I’ve just explained, even though its Republican activist ranks are heavily social conservative, the state is one of the few in America that’s gained on net from the kinds of trade policies Trump in particular has assailed. A better test looks like South Carolina, which also boasts lots of social conservatives and which has suffered huge trade-related losses in recent decades.

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