Voters See Manufacturing as the “irreplaceable core of a strong economy”

Mon, 07/16/2012

New National Poll Finds Strong Support for Cracking Down on China’s Cheating

Voters Strongly Favor a National Strategy to Restore U.S. Manufacturing Competitiveness

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Click here for a Slide Presentation of the poll's findings.

Washington, DC.  Voters say that creating jobs, specifically in manufacturing, and strengthening manufacturing in the U.S., are top economic priorities, according to the findings of a new poll and focus groups conducted by a bipartisan team of prominent Republican and Democratic pollsters.

By a sizeable margin, voters rate manufacturing as the industry “most important to the overall strength of the American economy” and support a national strategy to restore America’s global leadership in manufacturing.

Significantly, a majority of voters (56 percent) no longer see the U.S. as having the world’s strongest economy, and fewer than 25 percent think anyone in Washington is doing a great deal to help enforce a level playing field for U.S. manufacturers.   However, 88 percent of voters believe that it’s possible for America to have the strongest economy, and 92 percent believe that it is important for the U.S. to regain that position.

“It’s striking how clearly voters—Republican and Democrat alike—see strengthening manufacturing as the key to rebuilding the U.S. economy,” said Scott Paul, executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), a non-partisan, non-profit partnership of leading U.S. manufacturers and the United Steelworkers (USW) that commissioned the poll.

This is the third straight year in which AAM has commissioned a national poll.  Paul said that the favorable impression of American manufacturing continues to increase with each year’s polling.

When it comes to trade with China, the poll found that voters emphatically support tough action on Beijing’s cheating on currency and other trade obligations.

“These findings make clear that a strong majority of voters believe Washington should stand up to China’s unfair trade practices, and that there is overwhelming support for a national strategy to restore U.S. leadership in manufacturing,” Paul said.

Indeed, overwhelming majorities of Independent, Republican, and Democratic voters expressed strong support for “a national manufacturing strategy to make sure that economic, tax, education, and trade policies in this country work together to help support manufacturing in the United States.”

The bipartisan survey of 1,200 likely general election voters was conducted between June 28 and July 2 by the Mellman Group and North Star Opinion Research, firms that poll for Democratic and Republican candidates respectively.  The findings include results from six focus groups held in Columbus, OH, Orlando, FL, and Phoenix, AZ, as well as two dial tests in St. Louis, MO and Vienna, VA of manufacturing messages frequently presented to voters by the national media.

“It’s no surprise that Romney and Obama are hitting each other hard on China, outsourcing, and job loss,” said Paul.  “This election will turn on who voters believe will go to bat for them to create and vigorously defend manufacturing jobs.”

In the focus groups, voters were stunned to learn that steel production for the center span of the new Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge had been outsourced to china.  When presented with proposals to enact strong Buy American provisions for such public works, overwhelming majorities of Republican (87 percent), Democratic (91 percent), and Independent (87 percent) voters were in favor.  Even when presented with arguments from critics of Buy American about allegedly higher costs and increased taxes, voters supported Buy American policies by a wide margin.

When it comes to outsourcing and China’s cheating, more than two-thirds of respondents said that China’s violations of international trade rules were costing the U.S. jobs, and nearly as many (62 percent) said Washington needs to get tougher on China’s cheating.  

Voters of all affiliations overwhelmingly support getting tough with China, even when posed with the argument that getting tougher on China’s trade violations could “start a trade war."   Fully 83 percent of those surveyed also had an unfavorable view of companies that outsource jobs to China.  In contrast, voters maintain extremely favorable views of goods manufactured in the U.S. (97 percent favorable).

The survey also explored the Obama Administration’s decision to rescue the U.S. auto industry.  57 percent of those surveyed think the quality of cars produced by the U.S. auto industry has improved.  And regarding the actual rescue decision, when presented with arguments for and against saving the U.S. auto industry, a significant majority of those polled (61 percent) support the government’s action.  This support was found to be strong across the country, not just in the Midwest.

“This survey leaves little doubt that voters understand that U.S. manufacturing is the nation’s most powerful engine of job growth and that they want more urgent action taken to address trade violations and halt outsourcing that is sapping our global standing and future security,” said Paul.  “Voters across the political spectrum do not believe that any of our national leaders are doing a great deal to boost manufacturing or to stop outsourcing.  Candidates would be well advised to heed this message.”

Similar polling conducted for AAM in 2011 by Mark Mellman, CEO of The Mellman Group, and Whit Ayres, President of North Star Opinion Research, subsequently garnered a 2012 Campaign Excellence Award for “Public Affairs Campaign of the Year” from the American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC).  

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