EXPERT KNOWLEDGE STATUS QUO IN THE INTERNET PROVIDED PUBLIC DEBATE ON FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS. META ANALYSIS OF POLISH LITERATURE

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Recently the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) have been drawing public attention enormously being affected by new waves of political populism, alter-globalisation, and some other tendencies redefining the patterns in the world economic ties. From the
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  Bogna Gawronska-Nowak, Krzysztof Beck, Paul Valdivieso ISSN 2071-789X RECENT ISSUES IN SOCIOLOGICAL RESEARCH Economics & Sociology, Vol. 12, No. 1, 2019 248 EXPERT KNOWLEDGE STATUS QUO   IN THE INTERNET PROVIDED PUBLIC DEBATE ON FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS. META  ANALYSIS OF POLISH LITERATURE Bogna Gawronska-Nowak,   Lazarski University, Warsaw, Poland,  E-mail: b.gawronska@lazarski.edu.pl   Krzysztof Beck  , Lazarski University, Warsaw, Poland,  E-mail: beckkrzysztof@gmail.com    Paul Valdivieso , Institute of Socio-Economic  Enquiry Warsaw, Poland,  E-mail: pvaldg@gmail.com    Received  : September, 2018 1st Revision  : December, 2018  Accepted  : February, 2019 DOI: 10.14254/2071-789X.2019/12-1/14  ABSTRACT . Recently the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) have been drawing public attention enormously being affected by new waves of political populism, alter-globalisation, and some other tendencies redefining the patterns in the world economic ties. From the European perspective, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade  Agreement (CETA), and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) have brought “on board” serious public concerns about environmental protection, food quality, job security, and citizen rights. Donald  Trump openly criticizes the North American Free Trade  Agreement (NAF  TA) calling it “the single worst trade deal ever approved in this [US] country”. The main purpose of this paper is to define expert views on FTAs in a measurable way. We want to capture the expert dissemination effect in Polish language Internet sources. Defining a mismatch between social perception and expert knowledge is the main aim of our research project on “Social expectations concerning FTAs: perception  versus reality”, to which this paper, as we believe can contribute, at the same time contributing into diagnosing and analysing actual public debate on FTAs in Poland.  JEL Classification  :   F13, F14, F53, F55, Z13  Keywords  : Free Trade Agreements (FTA), meta-analysis, social perception, Polish public opinion.   1. Introduction At present, the new waves of populism, alter-globalism, and protectionism seem to be quite influential factors shaping Polish public discussion devoted to the perspectives of implementing the new generation of the Free Trade Agreements, FTAs (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, CETA). However, this is not only Polish “  spécialité de la maison ”. All over the world vox Gawronska-Nowak, B., Beck, K., & Valdivieso, P. (2019). Expert knowledge status quo in the Internet provided public debate on Free Trade Agreements. Meta analysis of Polish literature.  Economics and Sociology  , 12  (1), 248-261. doi:10.14254/2071-789X.2019/12-1/14    Bogna Gawronska-Nowak, Krzysztof Beck, Paul Valdivieso ISSN 2071-789X RECENT ISSUES IN SOCIOLOGICAL RESEARCH Economics & Sociology, Vol. 12, No. 1, 2019 249  populi  seems to be quite distant from calm, objective judgements. The Internet power can easily disseminate both merits and nonsense. However, according to Eliasson (2016), public opinion is often shaped by various forms of stereotyping, superstitions, beliefs and preferences, often quite archetypal. Therefore, it is not surprising that those who want to benefit from “representing” vox populi  smartly refer to its emotional layers, even flatter them. Although one should realize that shaking public opinion off the trail of rational judgment, moving away and rejecting expert opinions can have very harmful social consequences, such as creating and strengthening conflicts, making bad policy and suffering from economic inefficiency in the longer time horizon. Recently, some content analysis of the Polish social perception of the FTAs has been conducted by D ziało  et al.  (2017a, 2017b). The results reveal that Polish Internet contents (7 main Polish web portals investigated) have very low proportion of the so- called “expert” component (around 8%). Moreover, the more popular a portal is (like wp.pl, onet.pl and interia.pl), and the more vivid is the discussion on this portal, the lower percentage of the merit-oriented comments is observed. The public opinion does not distinguish between TTIP and CETA as such. They seem to be perceived as quite similar, if not t o say identical. “GMO”, “increased role of corporations” and “food quality” which belong to the most popular subject areas of the public discussion seem to be treated similarly both by media as well as by ‘netizens’, mostly as big social threats. The devil  is in details, but who should present the details, and how? Polish expert content seems to be qualitative and descriptive rather than computable. “(…) the results of the Polish research, contrary to the foreign one, are much more diversified. This is quite surprising, as one cannot find the reason for that differentiation. All the authors use almost the same or very similar data/sources of information, but formulate quite different conclusions ” (Działo  et al.,  2017b). In these circumstances, is it possible to formulate any kind of a single truth that could be easily distributed on a massive scale? In other words, public opinion may feel tempted to rely on “stereotyping, superstitions, beliefs and preferences”  because the expert voice does not sound convincing enough. This paper is part of the broader output of the research project ” Social expectations concerning Free Trade Agreements: perception versus reality” . The main purpose of the research project is to confront the social perception concerning FTA with the so- called “expert knowledge”. Defining a mismatch between social perception and expert knowledge may contribute to better understanding of the controversies behind the FTA, as well as may lead to defining possible sources of social conflicts and vulnerabilities of the policy at its implementation level. In our research project we try to testify whether there is a mismatch  between social perception and expert knowledge on FTA. In this paper we want to examine what is the quality of expert knowledge on FTAs available in Polish language data sources in the Internet. We want to find out and confirm in a statistically significant way that Polish FTA experts for  mulate a clear message and what it is like. In other words, whether “a single truth” about trade and its effects has been supported and disseminated by experts in Polish language sources in the Internet so far. In section 2 we present the selected literature overview on social attitudes towards FTAs and briefly summarize the recent survey outputs concerning that issue. In sections 3 we present the descriptive analysis of Polish language expert databases. Section 4 covers our methodological approach towards meta-analysis and shows its results. In section 5 we discuss our results. Section 6 concludes.  Bogna Gawronska-Nowak, Krzysztof Beck, Paul Valdivieso ISSN 2071-789X RECENT ISSUES IN SOCIOLOGICAL RESEARCH Economics & Sociology, Vol. 12, No. 1, 2019 250 2. Social attitudes towards the FTA: Preliminary view  2.1. Brief literature overview In fact, there is substantial literature available, in which formation of attitudes towards Free Trade is discussed in details (for extensive literature overview see Jungherr et al., 2018). Economic self-interest (ESI) hypothesis plays an important role in it. The ESI implies that citizens are mainly interested in the consequences of free trade for themselves. Empirical studies testifying the ESI hypothesis have been concentrated on job-related attributes such as skill levels, income, and sector of employment. Hence individual employee’s attitude towards free trade would be affected by her/his ability to adapt to a new market environment, which is much easier for a high skill worker (Scheve and Slaughter, 2001). It is also quite possible that individuals working for the same industry may have diverging economic self-interests towards free trade, depending on their firms’ productivity level. The more productive firm is, the more free trade supporting its employees are (Bearce and Tuxhorn, 2017). Hypothesis of socio-tropic formation (STF) of attitudes towards free trade is contrasting with aforementioned economic cost-benefit assessment process rooted in individualistic approach. Mansfield and Mutz (2009) notice that the citizens form their attitudes relying on their perception of free trade effects for the national economy rather than referring to their own  jobs and incomes. Individuals may form their attitudes towards trade by socialising and interacting with each other through their group belonging patterns. Decisions to join any  particular group are not random, and as an aware self-selection processes they must have an impact on free trade attitude. In this context L ü , Scheve, and Slaughter (2012) show that group identification may be based on universal value sharing route. Kuo and Naoi (2015) postulate to examine medium and mechanism of information transmission from groups to individuals and among individuals and groups as crucial but sill underestimated factors of attitude formation. It is no doubt that a large strand of informational effect is generated by political persuasion. Describing influence of informational effect on attitudes towards free trade becomes really complicated if Internet is to be considered. Framing and priming channels do not belong exclusively to traditional media market any more in majority of countries. Briefing the framing theory (Chong, Druckman, 2007) one can say that the more complex the issue is (as free trade), the more tending people are to rely on the “cliches”, which help them to form the attitude, no matter how false judgment lies behind it. Pr  oducing special "clichés” that easily reach social consciousness by simplifying or  personalizing the message is spécialité de la maison of the populists and Internet is easily accessible dissemination channel. So-called elite cueing might work as heuristics for individuals to lower the costs of forming opinion on a specific Free Trade Agreement (Jungherr et al., 2018). Certainly, variation in the information environment, i.e. dispersion of framing sources, so natural for Internet makes evaluation of the par  tisan actors’ and interest groups’ relevance for attitudes towards free trade very difficult. 2.2. What the surveys tell us? Latest Eurobarometer (Autumn 2017) survey does not contain any explicit question concerning FTA. Its previous issue (Spring 2017) in section “European Union’s Political Priorities” still included responses of the Europeans concerning the TTIP. It should be emphasized that the TTIP issue was included in Eurobarometer in the fall of 2014 for the first time. Although majorities of respondents supported the TTIP, the Europeans were getting rather more skeptical in time till early 2016 (Table 1).  Bogna Gawronska-Nowak, Krzysztof Beck, Paul Valdivieso ISSN 2071-789X RECENT ISSUES IN SOCIOLOGICAL RESEARCH Economics & Sociology, Vol. 12, No. 1, 2019 251 Table 1. “  Do you support or not a free trade and investment agreement between the EU and the US? ”   Autumn 2014 Spring 2015 Autumn 2015 Spring 2016 Autumn 2016 Spring 2017 FOR 58% 56% 53% 51% 53% 54% AGAINST 25% 28% 32% 34% 34% 32% DO NOT KNOW 17% 16% 15% 15% 13% 14% Source : Eurobarometers: 87, 86, 85, 84, 83. I n 2016 the most anti- TTIP were Austrians (70% “against”), Germans (59% “against”), Slovenians (52% “against”), and Luxembourgers (50% “against”), while the most approving were Lithuanians (77% “for”), the Irish (70% “for”), Romanians and Swedish (68% “for”), and Danish (67% “for”) .  The Polish people were among supporters (59 % “for”). Another study, which included both European and American respondents’ opinions on the TTIP, was conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Bertelsmann Foundation. On the 23 rd   of February 2016, the questionnaire available online was completed by 1,126 American citizens, and on 17-19 February 2016 by 2,019 German citizens. The published report (Bluth, 2016) shows that there are important differences between Germans and Americans in their attitudes to trade. Only 56% of the German respondents believe increased trade relations with other countries to be something good (27% of the respondents are of the opposite opinion), while in America a positive opinion on the subject is shared by 82% of the respondents (13% of the surveyed people are of the opposite opinion). The assessment of the TTIP impact on economic growth and competiveness is positive for both Germans and Americans. However, “consumer  protection”, “environmental standards” and “workers' rights” are the key concerns, especially for Germans. American s do not have such strong “for or against” attitudes (Table 2). It is difficult not to notice that among the German and American respondents (such attitudes are definitely more present in the US) there is a visible lack of dominant views. Apart from the fairly equal number of mutually cancelling extreme views, people who declare their neutrality and people who do not have the appropriate knowledge of the issue constitute a large group. As we know Donald Trump’s election to the White House consigned the TTIP  talks to the deep freeze. In the meantime, the negotiations on the CETA were concluded and the European Parliament approved the deal on the 15 th  of February 2017. There has not been much research done on the FTA social perception. (Działo  et al.  2017a, 2017b) conducted a content analysis of seven Polish web portals to describe the Polish  public opinion attitude towards CETA. They have made several interesting observations. First of all, they point out that the Internet comments (that are treated as “ vox populi ”) contain very low (8%) percentage of the “expert” content. Secondly, it seems that people do not distinguish  between the CETA and the TTIP, which again may confirm a superficial character of social  perception towards FTA. Thirdly, the most commonly mentioned topic in both articles and comments is category named as “trade and business” (96.1% and 32% of the content respectively).  Bogna Gawronska-Nowak, Krzysztof Beck, Paul Valdivieso ISSN 2071-789X RECENT ISSUES IN SOCIOLOGICAL RESEARCH Economics & Sociology, Vol. 12, No. 1, 2019 252 Table 2. The distribution of responses to the question:  How do you think the TTIP will affect the following in your country? Germany United States Positive Negative Neutral Don’t know Positive Negative Neutral Don’t know economic growth 27% 26% 19% 28% 29% 23% 8% 39% employment and labour market conditions 23% 28% 22% 28% 21% 27% 11% 41% international competiveness 29% 24% 19% 28% 24% 22% 11% 43% your country’s global influence 23% 21% 26% 29% 31% 15% 16% 38% environmental standards 12% 46% 16% 27% 18% 19% 20% 44% workers’ rights/social standards 10% 40% 22% 29% 17% 24% 15% 45% cultural diversity 24% 17% 30% 28% 26% 12% 22% 39%  public services 10% 27% 31% 31% 15% 13% 26% 46% democracy 10% 28% 32% 29% 20% 14% 23% 43% regulatory sovereignty 9% 37% 22% 32% 17% 22% 15% 47% Source : Bluth (2016)   Some other issues well known as those causing a lot of social threats (food safety, GMO, etc.) are less frequently occurring. Therefore, it enhances our motivation to define what is the “expert” opinion in this aspect, if it is clear enough to be capable t o confront and satisfy the social interest but in the merit oriented way. Especially, if to consider what Działo  et al.  (2017b,  p. 132) have noticed: “ Comparative analysis of the Polish and foreign expert debate on the FTA  points to a significant difference concerning the methodology of research. The current Polish debate on the FTA is based predominantly upon qualitative, descriptive analysis, while most of  foreign research is based on the computable general equilibrium models, used to attempt to estimate the expected effects of the FTA” . The Authors also underline that the Polish research outcomes are much more diversified than the foreign reference literature, which can be surprising to an extent, as one cannot find the reason for such a differentiation. All the authors use almost the same or very similar data/sources of information, but formulate quite different conclusions. 3. The Polish expert database To collect the “expert data base” contents Działo  et al.  (2017b) have relied on the Google Scholar results that they have received using well-known Polish International Trade experts’ surnames and some professional FTA related vocabulary as key words. They have managed to gather 37 documents including papers, books and reports. Our database consists of
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