Memo: Comparison of Trans-Pacific Partnership Fast Track Polling Data

TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Communications Workers of America, United States Business and Industry Council and Sierra Club
RE: Comparison of Fast Track Polling Data

As President Obama prepares for his long-delayed April trip to Asia, corporate lobbyists and other supporters of the massive 12 nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal have released deceiving polling results to imply that a large majority of Americans support new fast-track authority for President Obama. The corporate special interests are relying on fast-track authority so that the TPP can sail through Congress with no real debate. If approved, fast track would allow the President finalize the TPP and then send it to Congress for limited debate, no amendments, and a simple up-or-down vote.

President Obama’s trip is widely seen as an effort to breathe new life into a trade bill that is all but dead due to the broken promises of past trade agreements, the ongoing secrecy of negotiations that are dominated by corporate interests, and increasing opposition to a pact that includes weak environmental standards, threats to sovereignty, accelerated job loss and much more.

It is in the self-interest of multinational corporations to confuse and mislead the public with the phrasing of polling questions. After all, they stand to benefit from fast-tracking TPP —- a deal that they are helping to negotiate in secret at the expense of ordinary Americans.

As the below comparison of the various poll questions shows, a strong majority of Americans actually oppose Congress granting fast-track authority to President Obama. This bipartisan opposition means it is both good policy and good politics for Members of Congress to oppose any efforts to fast track the TPP deal.


SUBJECT: Comparison of Fast Track Polling Data
FROM: Bob Carpenter, President of Chesapeake Beach Consulting
DATE: March 26, 2014

A number of polls have been released in the past six weeks on the issue of trade, fast track authority and the President’s authority to negotiate international agreements, and the role Congress plays in approving those agreements. These surveys have produced widely differing results, in large part due to question wording.

In a survey conducted for Communication Workers of America, the Sierra Club and the U.S. Business and Industry Council by Hart Research and Chesapeake Beach Consulting found majority opposition (62% to 28%) to Congress giving the president fast-track authority for a new Pacific trade agreement. Our question read as follows:

As you may know, the Obama administration is now negotiating a new free trade agreement with twelve Pacific nations called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Congress will soon decide whether to give the president “fast-track” authority for these negotiations, which could mean that once the administration’s negotiations are completed, Congress must take an up-or-down vote on the agreement as a whole, and could not make any amendments or changes in the agreement. Do you strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose having Congress give the president fast-track authority for a new Pacific trade agreement?

12% Strongly favor
16% Somewhat favor
19% Somewhat oppose
43% Strongly oppose
10% Not sure

Despite claims to the contrary, other surveys released (and shown below) do not contradict the above findings. A careful review of the question wording of these surveys shows the above question describes the fast-track authority in detail while the surveys questions below do not.

Do you support America seeking trade agreements with other countries that eliminate unfair trade barriers, open foreign markets and create a fair and level playing field for goods manufactured in the United States? (McLaughlin & Associates for the National Association of Manufacturers)

72% Yes
9% No
19% Don’t know

The President has Constitutional authority to negotiate international agreements and Congress has Constitutional authority to regulate trade with foreign nations. Do you believe that Congress and the President should work together so that America can negotiate and put in place trade agreements that eliminate barriers and level the playing field? (McLaughlin & Associates for the National Association of Manufacturers)

80% Yes
6% No
14% Don’t know

Do you support the United States negotiating trade agreements to open foreign markets for American-made goods and services to ensure fair and enforceable rules for U.S. trade with other countries? (The Winston Group for the Business Roundtable)

82% Yes
14% No
5% Don’t know

From the 1930s through 2007, Congress has authorized every President to negotiate trade agreements that open foreign markets for U.S. goods and services, but that authority – called Trade Promotion Authority – expired in 2007 and needs to be updated and passed again. Do you favor or oppose Congressional action to update and pass Trade Promotion Authority legislation? (The Winston Group for the Business Roundtable)

76% Favor
16% Oppose
7% Don’t know

It is also worth noting that a Fabrizio, McLaughlin (the predecessor firm to McLaughlin & Associates) survey conducted in 2001found nearly identical results to those found by Hart Research and Chesapeake Beach Consulting. When similar language is used, 62% of respondents think Congress should exercise their Constitutional power in helping make trade policy versus 23% who think Congress should not be able to modify trade agreements the Administration negotiates using Trade Promotion Authority.