“Restrict Foreigners, Not Robots”: Attitudes Toward Globalization and Automation
Many, especially low-skilled workers, blame globalization for their economic woes. Robots and machines, which have led to job market polarization, rising inequality, and labor displacement, are often viewed much more forgivingly. This paper argues that citizens have a tendency to misattribute blame for economic dislocations toward immigrants and workers abroad, while discounting the effects of technology. Using the 2016 American National Elections Studies (ANES), a nationally representative survey, I show that workers facing higher risks of automation feel less secure about their jobs. However, they are no more likely to oppose government spending to promote technology that might aid further automation. Instead, they are more likely to oppose free trade agreements and favor immigration restrictions, even controlling for standard explanations for these attitudes. I replicated these results with an original survey experiment. While pocket-book concerns do influence attitudes toward globalization, this work calls into question the standard assumption that individuals understand and can correctly identify the sources of their economic anxieties. People are prone to blaming and penalizing groups they consider unwelcome or objectionable.

Nicole Wu is a PhD candidate in Political Science and a Barbour Scholar at the University of Michigan. Her research examines the political consequences of two of the most important changes in the contemporary world economy: technological change and the rise of China. Using surveys, experiments, and interviews, her dissertation explores mass attitudes toward workplace automation and globalization in the United States and China. She has published and ongoing work on trade related to China. She holds a MA in Political Science from Michigan and a BSSc (First Class Honors) in Government and Public Administration from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Previously, she was a visiting student at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California, Berkeley.
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Speaker(s) Ms Nicole WU
PhD candidate, University of Michigan
Date 24 Feb 2020 (Monday)
Time 11:30 am
Venue By zoom at the link:
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
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