Attention matters

How can information shift individuals’ preferences towards trade policy? Laura Alfaro gave a presentation on that question in a seminar series by CEPR, CEP-LSE, Center for Global Development and DIE.

Photo: Screenshot of the Online Event


On 12 January, Laura Alfaro (Harvard Business School) presented new findings on how information can shift individuals’ preferences towards trade policy. In an experiment across 15,000 respondents in the U.S., Laura Alfaro and co-authors offered people factual information on three issues: how trade hurts jobs, trade helps jobs, and trade helps prices. They then asked respondents what changes in trade policy they preferred.

The study shows that providing people with information about how trade hurts jobs increases the likelihood of them wanting more limits on imports. However, information on how trade helps jobs or prices did not have a significant effect, suggesting that convincing people about positive trade effects is difficult. Finally, the study shows that attention matters, and that more time spent on information results in stronger effects of information on trade policy preferences.

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