I've seen a lot of opinion polling, but my jaw dropped when I saw this result fromour special NBC News-Wall Street Journal pollof Republicans in advance of next week's presidential candidate debate sponsored by CNBC, MSNBC and the WSJ. By a nearly two-to-one margin, Republican voters believe free trade is bad for the U.S. economy, a shift in opinion that mirrors Democratic views and suggests trade deals could face high hurdles under a new president.
Six in 10 Republicans in the poll agreed with a statement that free trade has been bad for the U.S. and said they would agree with a Republican candidate who favored tougher regulations to limit foreign imports. That represents a challenge for Republican candidates who generally echo Mr. Bush’s calls for continued trade expansion, and reflects a substantial shift in sentiment from eight years ago.
"It’s a lot harder to sell the free-trade message to Republicans," said Republican pollster Neil Newhouse, who conducts the Journal/NBC poll with Democratic counterpart Peter Hart.