Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Political Science

Committee Chair

Christina Fattore

Committee Co-Chair

Robert D. Duval

Committee Member

Robert D. Duval

Committee Member

David M. Hauser

Committee Member

Matthew Jacobsmeier

Committee Member

Philip A. Michelbach


Trade was a central issue in the 2016 US presidential election, with both major party candidates debating how trade impacts American workers. However, the current literature on trade policy outcomes and inequality has insufficient measures of public opinion on trade. I examine the varying roles the public and interest groups play in the trade policy formation process as inequality changes in democratic societies. I expect, as inequality increases, the public and mass based interest groups will have less resources to expend on influencing policymakers. Also, as inequality increases economic elites’ and business interest groups’ resources will increase, and they will use these increased resources to take advantage of this gap in influence left by the public and mass based interest groups, to increasingly control policy. To test this theory, I examine the influence public opinion and interest groups have on trade agreement support among US senators and trade openness in Latin American States. The results are mixed, interest groups in favor of trade and against trade have influence over trade policy in the United States at all levels of inequality, while in Latin America the public views groups in favor of trade as becoming more powerful as inequality increases, and groups against trade becoming less powerful. In both cases, the results for the public point to the middle class, and not the upper class, having the most influence over policy, while those at the bottom have no influence.