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Poll: Americans prefer low prices to items ‘Made in the USA’


    A “Made in America” tag hung on a chest of drawers at a furniture factory in Lincolnton, N.C. in March 2012. The vast majority of Americans say they prefer lower prices instead of paying a premium for items labeled “Made in the U.S.A.,” even if it means those cheaper items are made abroad, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll.

WASHINGTON » The vast majority of Americans say they prefer lower prices instead of paying a premium for items labeled “Made in the U.S.A.,” even if it means those cheaper items are made abroad, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll.

While presidential candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are vowing to bring back millions of American jobs lost to China and other foreign competitors, public sentiment reflects core challenges confronting the U.S. economy. Incomes have barely improved, forcing many households to look for the most convenient bargains instead of goods made in America. Employers now seek workers with college degrees, leaving those with only a high school degree who once would have held assembly lines jobs in the lurch. And some Americans who work at companies with clients worldwide see themselves as part of a global market.

Nearly three in four say they would like to buy goods manufactured inside the United States, but those items are often too costly or difficult to find, according to the survey released today. A mere 9 percent say they only buy American.

Asked about a real world example of choosing between $50 pants made in another country or an $85 pair made in the United States — one retailer sells two such pairs made with the same fabric and design — 67 percent say they’d buy the cheaper pair. Only 30 percent would pony up for the more expensive American-made one. People in higher earning households earning more than $100,000 a year are no less likely than lower-income Americans to say they’d go for the lower price.

“Low prices are a positive for US consumers — it stretches budgets and allows people to save for their retirements, if they’re wise, with dollars that would otherwise be spent on day-to-day living,” said Sonya Grob, 57, a middle school secretary from Norman, Oklahoma who described herself as a “liberal Democrat.”

But Trump and Sanders have galvanized many voters by attacking recent trade deals.

From their perspective, layoffs and shuttered factories have erased the benefits to the economy from reduced consumer prices.

“We’re getting ripped off on trade by everyone,” said Trump, the Republican front-runner, at a Monday speech in Albany, New York. “Jobs are going down the drain, folks.”

The real estate mogul and reality television star has threatened to shred the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada. He has also threatened to slap sharp tariffs on China in hopes of erasing the overall $540 billion trade deficit.

Economists doubt that Trump could deliver on his promises to create the first trade surplus since 1975. Many see the backlash against trade as frustration with a broader economy coping with sluggish income gains.

“The reaction to trade is less about trade and more about the decline in people’s ability to achieve the American Dream,” said Caroline Freund, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “It’s a lot easier to blame the foreigner than other forces that are affecting stagnant wage growth like technology.”

But Trump’s message appeals to Merry Post, 58, of Paris, Texas where the empty factories are daily reminders of what was lost. Sixty-eight percent of people with a favorable opinion of Trump said that free trade agreements decreased the number of jobs available to Americans.

“In our area down here in Texas, there used to be sewing factories and a lot of cotton gins,” Post said. “I’ve watched them all shut down as things went to China, Mexico and the Philippines. All my friends had to take early retirements or walk away.”

Sanders, the Vermont senator battling for the Democratic nomination, has pledged to end the exodus of jobs overseas.

“I will stop it by renegotiating all of the trade agreements that we have,” Sanders told the New York Daily News editorial board earlier this month, saying that the wages paid to foreigner workers and environmental standards would be part of any deal he would strike.

Still, voters are divided as to whether free trade agreements hurt job creation and incomes.

Americans are slightly more likely to say free trade agreements are positive for the economy overall than negative, 33 percent to 27 percent. But 37 percent say the deals make no difference. Republicans (35 percent) are more likely than Democrats (22 percent) to say free trade agreements are bad for the economy.

On jobs, 46 percent say the agreements decrease jobs for American workers, while 11 percent say they improve employment opportunities and 40 percent that they make no difference. Pessimism was especially pronounced among the 18 percent of respondents with a family member or friend whose job was offshored. Sixty-four percent of this group said free trade had decreased the availability of jobs.

The AP-GfK Poll of 1,076 adults was conducted online March 31-April 4, using a sample drawn from GfK’s probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

Respondents were first selected randomly using telephone or mail survey methods and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn’t otherwise have access to the Internet were provided access at no cost to them.


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  • I don’t think Trump will triumph nor will Bernie……..who ever gets elected will not make USA citizens happy since expectations are so sky high.

    with USA’s crushing debts and all problems kicked down the road which will come back around and bite us in the okole…….it all starts with me by encouraging others to find the pony in all the cr@p.

    I will light a candle in Church today and pickup two pieces of litter I see on the ground.

  • Of course we want low prices but we don’t want to jeopardize quality. There needs to be a balance. 20 years ago, I could go to Sears and buy a decent pair of jeans, now you pay a lot more for Levi’s, because of quality.

  • People want their cake and want to eat too. This hypocrisy is why candidates like Bernie Sanders are resonating with certain groups of people. Everyone wants made-in-usa goods but no one wants to pay for that either. They are exercising a cognitive-dissonance to the effect of: “I want free stuff and let’s make the other guy pay for it.” It is a kind of reverse paternalism where voters want a parental figure to give them things just like their parents did with little understanding or concern of how those things are acquired by their parents in the first place. Little wonder candidates like Sanders are resonating with young people -the very ones being weaned from parental support. The free trade policies (if you can call them “policies” at all) of both Trump and Sanders are totally ridiculous. You can force everything to be made-in-the-usa by fiat. You want cheap use-made goods? -Then stop a $15 national minimum wage. Want high wages? -pick one, you can’t have both.

    • Our new society will transform the tax-dodging, out-sourcing, off-shoring U.S. multinational corporations and the insatiable executives who currently lead them into organizations and people who serve the community to which they owe their livelihoods. It’s time for a change in the way Americans do business, I’m sure you’ll agree. A vote for Bernie Sanders could be a good start.

  • What a crock! I know many who go out of their way to purchase items made in the USA. Despite the bs thrown around in this column, most Americans know that when they buy items based on cost, the added cost to replace it soon, looms near. It’s like going into Sears to buy appliances. There was a time when that was the place to go, not only because they had a selection, but buyers knew that the quality of product was terrific. Having an appliance last 15-20 years was common. Today, these appliances are no longer made in the USA, and your salesman will try and sell you the added ‘extended warranty’. Thirty years ago, nobody would even consider it. Today, the products are such garbage, that extended warranty is a must. There was a time when you got what you paid for. Today’s ‘throw away society’ pays, and pays, and pays. With environmental activism so much in the forefront of the news, it’s amazing that the ‘throw away’ policy is so relevant. The United States needs to return to manufacturing, but the Democrats are so far in bed with unions, it’s almost impossible to keep costs under control, let alone taxes. The Dems latest effort to increase minimum wage only serves to prove the point. Raising the minimum also raises union wages as unions worked with the Dems to tie wage increases to several things, one being the minimum wage. And of course everyone knows the new union creedo: “we want as much as we can get, for doing as little as possible.” Talk about waste.

  • this is an oxymoron – people dislike when jobs are shifted overseas but like the cheap products produced in foreign countries. but from another angle, more affluent foreigners allow them to purchase us made goods and services, so it is a two-way street.

  • Just look at all the cars on the roads here. Most are foreign. It’s because they’re cheaper and made better. I used to buy American but the problems with the Ford dealer here and the maintenance problems with the car killed that. I now ride around in a German made car and will never switch back. And the reason that we don’t have many mom and pop stores anymore is because the Walmart’s and their kind put them out of business with their imported products from China.

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