- Voting on a Trade Agreement: Firm Networks and Attitudes Toward Openness
We exploit a natural experiment to study the extent to which popular attitudes toward trade are driven by economic fundamentals. In 2007, Costa Rica put a free trade agreement (FTA) to a national referendum. With a single question on the ballot, 59% of Costa Rican adult citizens cast a vote on whether they wanted an FTA with the United States to be ratified, or not. We merge disaggregated referendum results with employer-employee data, customs and balance-sheet data, firm-to-firm transactions data, and data on household composition and expenditures. We document that a firm‘s exposure to the FTA, directly and via input-output linkages, significantly influences the voting behavior of its employees. This effect is greater for voters who are aligned with pro-FTA political candidates. We find that import competition plays a role in explaining votes against openness, and that within-industry heterogeneity is key in explaining votes, as compared with sector-level exposure. We also show that citizens considered the expected decrease in consumer prices when exercising their vote.