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Abstract

The majority of existing literature in trade politics finds support for the firm centric model in the manufacturing sector. Therefore, less is known about how preferences for trade policy are formed in other sectors of the economy, especially the agricultural sector. Using Political Action Committee (PAC) contribution data, this paper looks at how party preferences of US agricultural interest groups change before and after the onset of the US-China trade war. The two main findings of this paper are as follows: 1) PACs prior to the outbreak of the US-China trade war in 2016 were fairly unified in their political preferences with most donations going to the Republican party but from 2018 to 2020, preferences become highly variegated; 2) more profitable, exporting farms were more likely to shift their support to the Democratic party, while the less profitable, import-competing farms were more likely to continue supporting the Republican party. These findings are suggestive of two important facts. First, agricultural interest groups punish parties for implementing trade policies that harm their industry by giving less contributions. Second, the firm centric model holds in the US agriculture sector but only under certain circumstances where great harm has been inflicted on the agribusinesses.

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