Research into public attitudes to trade

Our research on public attitudes towards UK trade policy set out to understand public views on the unavoidable choices and trade-offs that trade policy requires.

Conducted in early 2023, the research explored what members of the public across the four nations of the UK feel about those trade-offs in four areas of trade policy as well as how they went about making choices about such trade-offs and whom they would trust to make and to inform trade-policy decisions.

Key Findings

Preliminary results reveal that:

  • New research into public attitudes to trade reveals that, when asked to rank the most important objective overall for trade policy, people valued economic growth.
  • However, when asked about specific trade-offs, the majority prioritised workers’ rights, human rights, data privacy and maintaining food standards over more trade.
  • Analysis of the participants’ reasoning, as they decided how to make the trade-offs proposed to them, reveals that fairness; UK, national and regional interest; and favouring long-term over short-term outcomes were key considerations.
  • To help navigate the uncertainties and complexities inherent in trade policy, participants across all locations wanted more ‘experts’ to inform trade policy decisions.
  • Participants wished governments to consult and consider the views of a broad range of groups over trade policy.
  • Further research into public attitudes to trade policy could usefully explore the relationship between people’s overall priorities for trade and their views on specific issues in trade policy.
  • The complexity of trade policy issues also raises questions about how to present (and who presents) trade policy issues to the public because unless it is done in a way that respects the complexity, it will be seen as mere politicking.

Read the NatCen Final Report on Citizens’ Juries on UK Trade Policy

Read our Briefing Paper: Trade-offs in trade policy: What the public thinks and how they think about it

Read the news article: It’s not all about the money, says UK public when considering trade policy, circumstances matter

Watch the video: Trade-offs in trade policy: Public Opinion

Further information about the Citizen’s Juries exercise, including sampling, answers to questions from participants provided by the CITP research team, and survey questions are available in the appendices, produced by Natcen.

Final Report: Citizens’ Juries on UK Trade Policy, Appendix 1: Sampling and Recruitment (pdf)

Final Report: Citizens’ Juries on UK Trade Policy, Appendix 2 Survey Questionnaires (pdf)

Final Report: Citizens’ Juries on UK Trade Policy, Appendix 3 Terms of Reference (pdf)

Final Report: Citizens’ Juries on UK Trade Policy, Appendix 4 CITP Responses to participant questions (pdf)

Final Report: Citizens’ Juries on UK Trade Policy, Appendix 5 Workshop Materials (Combined Presentation Slides) (pdf)

If you wish, you can also complete the pre-/post-citizen juries questionnaire on trade, which may also be used to inform further research.

Workshop materials on trade policy

We held five citizens’ juries of approximately 20 people each and they met (online or face-to-face) five times. In the workshops, participants were introduced to information on the issues and trade-offs by CITP researchers in as even-handed a way as possible, had facilitated small-group discussions about them, voted on certain questions and recorded their reasoning for voting the way they did. The video recordings of these presentations are provided below.

Introduction to research on public attitudes to trade

Introduction to UK and World Trade

Trade and human rights


An Overview of Trade Policy, Rights and the Environment

Balancing trade between regions and sectors of the economy

Balancing trade across sectors and regions

Business services vs. agriculture
International Students

Privacy and data-sharing

Privacy and Data in Digital Trade

Digital Trade and Software Accountability

Food and The Environment

Agriculture, Environment and Trade

Thinking About Pesticides