February 22: Max Kagan (UC Berkeley)

Monday, February 22nd

Max Kagan (UC Berkeley), “Trade War or Election Interference?” with Ryan Brutger and Stephen Chaudoin

In response to the Trump trade war, many countries have enacted politically-targeted trade retaliation against swing states and Republican strongholds. We argue that politically targeted retaliation increases public concerns about foreign election interference. We assess whether reactions are partisan, with Republicans reacting more negatively to actions targeting the incumbent party. We test our predictions using a national survey experiment in the United States fielded before the 2020 election. We find strong evidence that Republicans and Democrats alike view politically targeted retaliation as election interference. Swing state targeting has the greatest effect on perceptions of electoral interference, with Republicans reacting significantly more than Democrats. We also test whether different types of retaliation generate a political backlash against the retaliating actor. When the incumbent’s base is targeted attitudes toward the retaliating state worsen, but the same is not true when swing states are targeted. Taken together, the evidence shows that even economic policies whose primary goal is not electoral interference may nonetheless become viewed in that light.