Most Dems favor pro-free trade candidates

Most Democratic primary voters favor candidates who back free-trade policies, a new survey has found, welcome news to President Obama and potentially disturbing news for front-running Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The survey by the Pew Center for People and the Press found that primary voters would back a hypothetical free-trade candidate over a trade skeptic by a wide 45-19 percent margin.

The news could help Obama get Congress to approve a 12-nation trade pact called the Trans-Pacific Partnership that his administration concluded negotiations on last week. For Clinton, the news suggests her decision to come out against the trade deal may not help her much in the Democratic primary. And it may have cost her a way to distinguish herself from rival Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

She said her decision was based on the final text of the deal, which she said did not live up to her hopes. However, she had been under intense pressure from liberal groups, especially organized labor, to oppose it. Trade critics believe the trade pact will speed up the outsourcing of jobs and give companies too much power to flout environmental rules. The groups have worked hard to present that as a broad grassroots movement within the Democratic Party.

The Pew survey indicated that wasn't the case. When asked whether they would be more likely to support a candidate who opposed expanded trade policies, just under one-fifth (19 percent) of Democratic primary voters said yes, while almost half (45 percent) said they wanted a pro-trade candidate. About a third of primary voters (34 percent) said it would not be a major factor in their vote.