Friday, December 30, 2016

Assessing democracy in the aftermath of Trump's victory, Part X: Voters' assessments of honesty

Well, in Part IX, we made what should be the obvious point that Trump was the most dishonest presidential candidate we have ever seen.  By far.  However, the point of including "valence" characteristics in our electoral models is to make comparisons between candidates.  So, did voters see it that way?

Um, no.  Here's an example of a poll, from November 2, in which voters saw Trump as more honest by a margin of 46% to 38%.

What the fuck went wrong?  Here are a few observations.

1)  It wasn't just Comey.  Note that perceptions of Trump's honesty advantage were there during a lot of that graph.

2)  Voters really are pretty fucking gullible.  As I said in Part VI, you basically had to be a rube to buy into Trump's act, and a lot of people really were rubes.

3)  The media weren't doing their fucking jobs.  (Yes, that was grammatically correct.  "Media": plural).  I don't just mean they were giving Trump too much of a pass on his lies-- I mean they were covering Clinton's pseudo-scandals, like the "Clinton Foundation" nonsense as though it had been a real corruption issue.  No policy decisions were influenced by donations to the Clinton Foundation, and every investigation came to that conclusion.  On the other hand, the "Trump Foundation" bribed Pam Bondi (Florida Attorney General) to call off a criminal investigation into "Trump University" in Florida, everyone did know that, and the latter got almost no coverage.  That is a failure of the media, and one that contributes to voters' failure to make an accurate comparison of who was more dishonest.

4)  Impressions of candidates form early, and are difficult to change.  The critical concept from cognitive psychology is the "schema."  It is a sort of way of looking at the world, and once you develop a schema, you tend to twist information you receive to fit within that schema.  So, if you develop a schema of Clinton in which she is dishonest, and do so early on (say, in the 1990's), then any piece of information you receive after that will be twisted to fit within that schema.  If you develop a schema of Trump in which he is just a blustery, straight-talking guy who wants to shake stuff up, then whatever he says that isn't factually true gets written off as just bluster rather than dishonesty.  Aren't schemas fun?

For a variety of reasons, then, voters just got it wrong.  Way wrong on honesty.

Next up, competence!

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