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Reproduced from GE Global Innovation Barometer 2018; Chart: Axios Visuals

Business executives across the globe—typically a chorus of free traders—favor barriers that would protect and foster technological advances in their own country, according to a new survey.

Quick take: The result, in a GE survey of 2,090 executives in 20 major economies, diverges from seven decades of broad business support for liberalized trade, which mainstream economists believe has powered rising prosperity and shrinking poverty.

By the numbers: In the survey, conducted for GE by Edelman Intelligence, 55% of the executives said protectionism would make their business sector more competitive. Of those who were pro-protectionism:

  • 73% said it would help workers.
  • 60% said it would "foster ideas domestically."
  • "I was shocked" by the result, Marco Annunziata, GE's former chief economist, told Axios. "We have known that protectionist winds were blowing but always thought that business was the last bastion of open markets and globalization. It's a bit of a reality check."

Sue Siegel, GE's chief innovation officer, called the sentiment "a short-term, opportunistic approach" to domestic economic policy. "Long-term health relies on open free trade," she said.

A primary division between the pro- and anti-protectionist executives was how they felt about government's role in innovation.

  • Pro-protectionists said government and other national bodies were the main drivers and funders of innovation.
  • Anti-protectionists said business is innovation's main driver, and that government fails to effectively regulate innovation.

Go deeper

SurveyMonkey poll: Trump improves, but not enough

Trump and Biden during the final debate. Photo: Xinhua/Liu Jie via Getty Images

President Trump's final debate performance exceeded Americans' expectations, but it wasn't enough to shift the dynamics that left him trailing Joe Biden across most measures, according to a new Axios-SurveyMonkey poll.

What they're saying: "Liar" was the word used most by debate watchers to describe Trump's performance, followed by "lies," "strong," "presidential" and "childish." "Presidential" was the word used most to describe Biden's performance, followed by "liar," "weak," "expected" and "honest."

Hunter Biden saga dominates online debate

Data: NewsWhip; Table: Axios Visuals

The mainstream media turned away. But online, President Trump's charges about Hunter Biden were by far the dominant storyline about the final presidential debate, according to exclusive NewsWhip data provided to Axios.

  • Coverage of business dealings by Joe Biden's son — and pre-debate allegations by one of his former business associates, Tony Bobulinski — garnered more than twice as much online activity (likes, comments, shares) as the runner-up.

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