Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)


International Relations


Maurits van der Veen

Committee Members

Andrea Wright

John Lopresti


In 2002, China became a full member the World Trade Organization (WTO), and in the process gained access to the ability to trade with the United States at slightly lower but significantly more consistent tariff rates. As a result, U.S.-China trade expanded dramatically and created significant import competition for U.S. manufacturers. Over the following two decades, a significant literature emerged on how that shift in trade impacted the global economy, domestic economic patterns, and importantly, domestic politics. This paper will look at the last of those three things, focusing on how American trade rhetoric has shifted over the last twenty years, and how that shift lines up with causal theories on rising partisanship and populism in U.S. politics. This paper finds some support for increasing populism, primarily through class-based identification. This finding contrasts with suggestions that populism is primarily rising through right-wing, out-group targeting, which this paper finds no support for. The findings presented here suggest increasingly divergent language between Democrats and Republicans on trade, especially about their employment of populist rhetoric. This data supports claims that increasing populism is driving increasing partisanship in Congress. The paper uses two methods to support these findings: the creation of dictionaries of populist language and topic modeling.

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