POLL: Support is growing for the trade deal that has sparked a contentious debate in the campaign

Support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership — the landmark trade agreement between 12 Pacific Rim nations — is growing in the US as it’s been lambasted by Republican nominee Donald Trump and disavowed by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, a new poll showed.

The poll, released Thursday by Morning Consult, found that 35% of those surveyed support the deal, compared with just 26% when the firm last polled Americans on the deal in March.

Opposition has shrunk over that time span from 29% to 22%. In the Thursday poll, 43% replied that they either still don’t know enough about the deal or held no opinion on it, down from 45% in the March survey.

Opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership has been key to Trump’s campaign, as he’s previously called the deal the a “rape of our country.”

“A continuing rape of our country,” he said during a July rally. “That’s what it is, too. It’s a harsh word. It’s a rape of our country.”

Clinton, who supported the deal while she served as secretary of state, reversed her position on it during the primary season, saying there still needs to be work done on it after both Trump and her top challenger, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, roiled the agreement along the campaign trail. During the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last month, pro-Sanders supporters waved “No TPP” signs and chanted down various speakers by shouting “No TPP.”

But President Barack Obama, who’s administration has championed the agreement, has not wavered in his support as the deal has become toxic along the trail.

The agreement still needs to be ratified by Congress, which some say could happen during the lame-duck session of Congress following the November election.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, who’s been a staunch supporter of the agreement in the past, recently said it had to be renegotiated while meeting with Wisconsin manufacturing workers on Monday.

“I don’t think there’s a high likelihood (of the TPP’s passage) right now because … we don’t have the votes to pass it because people like me have problems with some significant provisions of it that we believe need to get fixed,” Ryan said. “But here’s the point: we do need trade agreements. I know a lot of people say just get rid of trade agreements, don’t do trade agreements, and that’s terrible. That’s a problem for us.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has also expressed support for the deal in the past, but he’s recently said the deal might not come up for a vote until the next president takes office.

GOP Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, a frequently fierce critic of Trump and proponent of the TPP, told Business Insider in a late-June interview that trade agreements are some of the most difficult things to sell during a campaign. But, he added, the deal must get passed.

“It’s more difficult to identify on the net, companies that have benefited from exports, cheaper goods,” he said. “Not just cheaper goods but cheaper inputs. So [it] takes a lot longer than a 30-second sound bite. It’s incumbent on us who have six-year terms to be talking about this.”

He said Congress needed to “suck up” and ratify TPP because “it has to be done.”

“I do still think there are enough people that realise we’ve got to do it,” he said.

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