Monmouth / About the College / News / Full Story

Poll reveals Midwesterners mistrust globalization

Office of Communications
04/18/2011

As the U.S. continues to integrate throughout the world, most Midwesterners aren’t sold on the benefits of globalization, believing it has caused unfair competition and job loss for the region. In addition, most view China as more of an economic threat than an opportunity, and support a crackdown on illegal immigration including Arizona-type laws that are currently being challenged in the courts.

Those are among the key findings of a Monmouth College poll, which was conducted as part of its Midwest Matters initiative. The random sample poll of 500 registered voters in eight Midwestern states was conducted from March 22-23 and has a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percent at a 95 percent confidence level. States included in the poll were Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin.

“The poll results show that voters in the Midwest mistrust globalization,” said associate professor of history Simon Cordery, co-chair of the college’s Midwest Initiative. “Government and business leaders need to explain how global trade helps Midwesterners, or they need to cut bait and grow the regional economy.”

Cordery said the results were “similarly provocative” on the issue of immigration.

“A clear majority of people in our region sees legal immigration as helping the country, but a strong majority also supports stricter enforcement of immigration laws and favors statutes similar to the Arizona measure. We are a nation of immigrants and people have not forgotten that. What our poll suggests is dissatisfaction and even anger with those who enter the country illegally.”

While many recent national polls on current issues show opinion split fairly evenly along party lines, the Monmouth poll indicates that a significant percentage of Midwesterners from both parties holds a negative view toward globalization:

  • 69 percent of Midwesterners believe the nation is headed in the wrong direction and 66 percent believe the Midwest in headed in the wrong direction.

  • 64 percent believe the region has lost more than it has gained from globalization, while just 20 percent believe it has gained more than it has lost.

  • 66 percent believe that globalization is bad for the Midwest because it subjects American companies and workers to unfair competition and cheap labor, while 22 percent believe globalization is good because it opened up new markets for American products and resulted in more jobs.

  • 72 percent believe globalization has harmed manufacturing in the Midwest.

  • 65 percent believe U.S. trade with other countries has reduced jobs in the Midwest, while 19 percent believe global trade has led to job creation in the Midwest.

  • 61 percent see China as a threat to jobs and economic security in the Midwest, while 22 percent see China as an opportunity for new markets and investment.

  • 65 percent support immigration reform in the form of stricter enforcement of laws against illegal immigration and 24 percent support reform primarily moving in the direction of integrating illegal immigrants into American society through a pathway to citizenship.

  • 62 percent support enactment of state laws similar to one in Arizona that gives police the authority to ask people they’ve stopped to verify their residency status, while 29 percent oppose such legislation.

“The Midwestern states are a major battleground between the two parties and will likely decide the presidential election of 2012,” said political science lecturer Robin Johnson, who directed the poll. “These results will cause problems for both parties. For Republicans, who identify more with free trade, most of the self-identified strong Republicans in the poll are more anti-globalization than independents and Democrats. For Democrats, 56 percent of self-identified strong Democrats feel the country is headed in the wrong direction, which is bad news for the president.”

Johnson said that for both parties trying to appeal to the growing Hispanic population, the poll results “pose a quandary” by showing the strong opposition to illegal immigration and support for controversial measures like the Arizona law.

Reacting to the poll, Chicago Council on Global Affairs senior fellow Richard C. Longworth said, “The sharply negative Midwestern attitudes toward globalization are distressing, because the Midwest will thrive in the 21st century only if it takes the steps to compete in this new global economy.”

Longworth added that while poll data raises concerns, the results are not particularly surprising. “The Midwest ruled the Industrial Age, but the Global Age has produced job loss, declining standards of living, hollowed-out factory downs and increasingly impoverished rural area,” he explained. “Nobody should be expected to like this, but the job now is to figure out what to do about it.”

Complete poll results and analysis are available at www.monmouthcollege.edu/midwest-matters/poll.

Launched in 2009, Monmouth College’s Midwest Matters initiative seeks to contribute an academic voice to the conversation about the revitalization of the region within an increasingly globalized world. Monmouth is a private, four-year, nationally-ranked liberal arts institution of 1,350 students in western Illinois.