- The Washington Times - Friday, February 24, 2017

President Trump has called NAFTA the “worst trade deal in history,” but a poll released Friday says U.S. voters are deeply divided on whether it’s been good for the nation.

Gallup found that 48 percent think the North American Free Trade Agreement has been a good thing, while 46 percent say it’s been bad.

The deal inked with Canada and Mexico in 1994 has always produced mixed feelings, the polling group found, with opinion about its effects tilting negative in 1997 before flipping positive again by 2004.

“NAFTA is a complex trade agreement that many Americans may not understand. Economists still disagree on whether it has been effective,” Gallup said.

It said support among Republicans is at an all-time low, “perhaps because of Trump’s criticisms.”

Roughly one in five Republicans say the deal has been good for Americans, down from at least 40 percent-support in 2000 and 2004.

The outlook among independents and Democrats has grown more positive since the last decade. Though 2016 Democratic presidential contender Sen. Bernard Sanders railed against the trade deal during the primary campaign, it had little effect among his younger supporters, Gallup found.

“Trump has promised to forge bilateral trade agreements with nations across the globe, but it remains to be seen whether the president will establish separate agreements with both Canada and Mexico,” Gallup said.

“At this point, Americans are divided along predictable partisan lines over NAFTA, though the partisan divide is a recent development. If NAFTA survives — albeit with Trump’s stamp on it — it is likely that Republican support for the pact will increase.”

Views of NAFTA were also strongly linked to whether people think foreign trade is an opportunity for economic growth and whether people have a favorable view of Mexico.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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