Publication Type

Did Trump's Trade War Impact the 2018 Election?

Emily Blanchard (Dartmouth College), Chad P. Bown (PIIE) and Davin Chor (Dartmouth College)

Working Papers 19-21

Revised July 2022


The authors uncover evidence that the US-China trade war was consequential for voting outcomes in the 2018 congressional midterm election. Republican House candidates lost support in counties more exposed to tariff retaliation, but saw no appreciable gains in counties that received more direct US tariff protection. The electoral losses were only modestly mitigated by the US agricultural subsidies announced in summer 2018. Republicans also fared worse in counties that had seen recent gains in health insurance coverage (where efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act may have been more consequential), and where a new federal cap on state and local tax (SALT) deductions disadvantaged more taxpayers. Counterfactual calculations suggest that Republicans would have lost ten fewer House seats absent the trade war, in a similar range to either health care or SALT policies in the number of lost seats it can account for.

Data Disclosure:

The data underlying this analysis are available here.

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