A poll on Lou Dobbs' web site:
Do you believe people who use words like "protectionism" are offering a false choice between "free" trade and no trade, to distract from the fact that they are shipping jobs out of this country?
Yes 95% 8600 No 5% 408 Total Votes: 9008This is not a scientific poll
What I found interesting about this poll was the suggestion that "protectionism" is somehow an unfair way to characterize somebody's views. The question indicates that people who use this word might be offering a "false choice." To me, though, "protectionism" is one of the clearest words in the trade vocabulary. At its core, I take it to mean a policy to favor domestic producers over foreign producers. Now, there might be a variety of reasons to support "protectionism" (e.g., infant industry arguments, as a response to the protectionist policies of other countries, etc.) But regardless of why you support it, the policy itself is fairly clear. This is in contrast to many other terms, even those like "free trade" and "trade liberalization," where I'm not always sure what people have in mind.
To go even further, I think that support for or opposition to "protectionism" is really the best gauge of someone's views on trade issues, as trade agreements themselves are often a mixture of many different policies. The question I always want to ask people is, do you support protectionism, and, if so, in what circumstances? That, to me, is the fundamental trade question that needs answering.
UPDATE: The Dobbs web site seems to have replaced this poll with another one, but I swear that poll was there yesterday!