Monday, November 14, 2016

Wondering WHY Trump WON?

Several good friends and close relatives are amazed and deeply troubled by Donald Trump's decisive Electoral College victory over Hillary Clinton. As I've noted before on this blog, I opposed Trump in the Republican primaries and did not support either candidate in the general election. Here are two explanations for his win that seem to me to be both rational and convincing. One is from QUORA and the other from the HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW.

Direct quotes from: QUORA posted by Victor Liu, Film and Game Composer/Landscape Photographer/Political Incorrect [Ira's comments in brackets]


If you don’t understand how Trump could win before Nov. 8th, I totally understand you.

If you still don’t understand how Trump won now, you have a serious arrogance and ignorance problem.

I would assume you, the reader to this answer, live in a urban area in either Northeast or the West Coast, college educated, a typical left-wing supporter and advocator for your entire life.

That’s nice. You work in the office with HVAC on 24/7/365. You go to gym after work, watching news from CNN or NBC on the treadmill. Then you eat your dinner out somewhere with a friend, probably not cooking at home. Sometimes you fly between NYC/Boston and LA/SFO for business. When you look down from the plane window and see those endless farmlands and mountains in the midwest, you are thinking “I can’t imagine living a life down there.”

When you saw Trump won, you were shocked. ... There’s not a single person around me who supports Trump, how could he win?

That’s where the problem is. You are living in a completely different world than those Trump supporters.

When you refuel your car, have you ever wondered where the gas comes from, if not imported? Who drilled the oil for you?

When you charge your phone, have you ever wondered where the electricity comes from? Who dug the coal to power the plant?

When you shop in the supermarket, have you ever wondered where the fresh vegetables and fruits come from? Who drove the truck all the way from California to New York to deliver those goods?

Those are the people who support Donald Trump. [Of course, the writer is talking about the mainly white working class people who put Trump over the top. Trump also got most traditional Republican voters, who live all over the country and are not all working class nor white.] Have you ever talked to anyone of them?
Without you, they can still feed themselves, but without them, you will be starved to death.
So now how could you despise them as “uneducated redneck racists”?
When they watch the news, even when watching Fox News, the camera is always on the big cities far away from them. They are ignored, as if they don’t exist in this country. No one pays attention to them, and no one speaks for them, until Donald Trump.
They could drive a truck for $8k a month 20 years ago working 60 hours a week, but now the illegal immigrants are willing to do it at $3k. They lost their jobs.
They could work in a factory for $4k a month 20 years ago, but now the job goes to China and Mexico. They lost their jobs.
You can’t urge a 40-year-old man having a family to raise to go to college again and learn programming. They can’t and they can’t afford.
You also can’t say in 10 years robots are doing the job for them and they should just vanish because they can’t follow the era.
They are human beings. They are lovely nice people. They don’t hate you. They work hard so you can live a comfortable life. Why do you hate them? Why do you label them as racists, xenophobia, bigots without even knowing how hard their lives are? [Yes, some small percentage of Trump supporters are deplorable racist xenophobe bigots and worse, but the great majority are as the writer describes]
When they are losing jobs and falling into poverty, they stay at home and turn on the TV, see Obama and Hillary speaking on ABC News: “The biggest problem we are now facing is climate change.”
And they sigh, they switch to Fox News and see Donald Trump speaking on his rally in Detroit MI: “We need to rebuild our inner cities, we need to bring jobs back.”
When they saw Obama visiting NYC after hurricane Sandy in 2012, but was playing golf when the devastating flood in Louisiana destroyed thousands of homes this summer, they knew they were forgotten.
When they saw Trump visiting Louisiana after the flood, a state that he didn’t need to campaign at all, they knew someone actually cared for them.
If you are them, who will you vote for?
They are the silent majorities. They live in your flyover states. They don’t care about LGBT or BLM. They are not racists or homophobia. They just want jobs to feed their families.
Please throw away your arrogance and start to care about those people. They are Americans too. ...
They have no methods to let you hear them. They only have their ballots. They vote to knock you out of your utopia. That’s the power of democracy. That’s why democracy is great. It never ignores anyone.
If you believe your value is progressive and right, you need to help them getting out of their trouble first. You can’t blame and mock them. It will only push them away from you even more.
Trump has been a democrat longer than republican in his life, but he could still defeat 16 republican candidates and won more votes in the primaries than anyone else in the history. This has already proven that the silent majorities are much more tolerant now on social issues. They just want someone to fix the economy for them.
Now it’s your chance to work with them, help them under the 4 years of Trump’s presidency. Stop protesting and introspect yourself. Isn’t your arrogance and ignorance that brought Trump to the White House? [If you are unfamiliar with QUORA, it is mostly populated by sophisticated, well-educated, moderate, left-leaning people. Anyone can ask or answer a question, and answers are upvoted by members. This answer has been viewed by 120,000 and rose up as the best answer to this question.]

Direct quotes from: HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW posted by Eben Harrell November 09, 2016 [Ira's comments in brackets]


Blindsided by Trump’s Victory? Behavioral Science Explains 

When Leslie John, an associate professor at Harvard Business School, arrived at work on the morning of the U.S. presidential election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, she was worried. John is an expert in behavioral decision research and studies the various innate flaws and biases that impede human reasoning. As a supporter of Clinton, she wondered whether the same cognitive traps that she studies in a laboratory could be leading to overconfidence about the likelihood of a Clinton victory.

“Everyone I spoke with pointed me to Democratic and Republican pollsters, financial and prediction markets, essentially every forecaster in the public record was predicting a Clinton win,” John says.
“Yet here we are.” [Although I am a Republican who did not support either Trump or Clinton in this election, I fully expected a Clinton win, possibly by a landslide in the Electoral College.]

The morning after the election, I spoke with John to understand how insights from behavioral sciences can help explain one of the greatest upsets in the history of democratic elections — and the appeal of a candidate that few expert commentators believed could win.

HBR: Leslie, the pre-election polls and expert predictions weren’t just wrong. Most of them were wildly inaccurate. Yet we are told that we live in an age where data analytics is providing unprecedented insight into the future. What led to that disconnect?

John: It’s quite humbling, isn’t? We tend to think that because we now routinely use algorithms and computer-generated predictions, the results will be unbiased. But there are two problems with that thinking. The first is that, at the end of the day, humans build the algorithms. And all sorts of biases can be introduced at the point of construction. It’s also possible that the inputs — in this case, the polling — was flawed. I could see Trump supporters who were also antiestablishment may have viewed polling officials as part of the establishment and refused to engage with them. Another factor that might lead to a response bias in the polling might be what behaviorists call “socially desirable responding” — you can imagine women being reluctant to admit that they were going to vote for Trump after the footage surfaced of his bragging about sexual assault, for example.

So the expert commentators — on both sides of the aisle — were working with bad polling information. What else might have clouded their vision?

Overconfidence comes to mind. There’s tons of research showing that people are overconfident in their beliefs. We think our prediction abilities are better than they are. And if you add to overconfidence a desire for certain outcomes — for instance, I think most elite commentators were anti-Trump — it magnifies the problem.

There’s a classical social psychology paper, “Biased Assimilation and Attitude Polarization,” that found that when you want to believe something and you are presented with evidence, you interpret that evidence as supporting your pre-established belief. In the study, researchers had participants sort into groups based on whether they supported the death penalty. They then showed both groups two pieces of evidence — one in support of capital punishment and one against it. People found the evidence that confirmed their belief to be far more convincing. In the end, the experiment just ended up polarizing both groups more, exactly the opposite of what you might expect when presenting “both sides” of the argument.

It’s interesting that during the campaign many commentators scorned Trump supporters for having blind spots, yet it turns out that those commentators were prone to the same cognitive biases. [The hardest to see BLIND SPOTS are in our own eyes! In this case, the really sightless calling Trump supporters they regard as deplorable BLIND]

Totally. And I also found it interesting that the more the media pointed out inconsistencies and lies in Trump’s statements, the more it seemed to spur the engagement of his followers. Academics have identified a phenomenon called “psychological reactance.” When we feel someone is trying to tell us what to think or do, we react in exactly the opposite of what we feel we are being told to do.

There’s a whole other strand of research that’s relevant here. Cameron Anderson and Don Moore at UC Berkeley have demonstrated that overconfidence leads people to look more competent to others and to be afforded higher status and influence and that even when overconfidence is exposed to others, people still are not socially punished. When you combine Trump’s confidence with his displays of dominance — for instance, his incessant interrupting of Clinton during the debates — you can understand why people would believe him.

Trustworthiness was a big issue for Clinton but not as much for Trump. Do you have any idea why?

I’ve done research that shows that people who reveal information are always seen as more trustworthy than people who decline to disclose information — even if they admit to wrongdoing. We have a paper where we show that job candidates who disclose the fact that they committed a crime when they are asked on a form are viewed as more trustworthy than people who opt not to answer the question on the form. With Clinton there were so many examples where she wasn’t forthcoming, so she came across as a hider, which I think explains in part why she was viewed as untrustworthy by so many Americans.

Meanwhile Trump was also extremely private about some things, such as his tax returns. But in his case he had a few key acts of proactive disclosure that perhaps made people forget about the situations where he declined to disclose. What’s more, the fact that people felt that he “told it like it is” — essentially, that he was forthcoming about beliefs that might garner him social stigma — enhanced his reputation for trustworthiness. Saying risquĂ© things can actually give you great bang for your buck when it comes to trust — though of course, it also has its risks.

The example that put these two differing approaches together in my mind was when Clinton had pneumonia. She clearly was sick but just didn’t address the issue and denied being unwell until video emerged of her fainting. Trump, on the other hand, proactively released portions of his medical records.

Right, but those medical records were highly curated and incomplete.

Ah, but there’s another interesting cognitive flaw in play there. We don’t question the source of information when it is put in front of us, and we aren’t very sophisticated at understanding that we should consider the source of information. For example, the information from a biased source usually isn’t given the extra scrutiny it deserves. Instead, we’re prone to taking evidence at face value. This is part of a broader tendency to think narrowly when evaluating information and making decisions.
For instance, if Trump wanted to present an accurate presentation of his health, he would randomly sample bits of information from his entire health record and release those, or release his entire medical history. But that’s not what he did — he cherry-picked. He released what he called his health record, but it obviously wasn’t a complete record. But that’s not what people perceived. They figured he had been forthcoming and Clinton was a hider and thus not trustworthy.

So, what’s the message here for those humbled by this result? Can they avoid being blindsided in the future?

There is some good research about what makes for good forecasters and how to improve forecasting. But my general sense is that biases are very robust. It’s really hard to get rid of overconfidence. In one study, the researchers asked participants to answer trivia questions that required a specific answer — for example, “How many Americans have a passport?” The task was to specify confidence intervals — again and again, people’s confidence intervals are way too narrow. This is classic overconfidence bias. But in this experiment, they tried a heavy-handed intervention: They told people that their confidence intervals would probably be too narrow and they should make them way wider. Yet people still overestimated the accuracy of their answers. One extreme solution is to delegate decisions to people without a vested interest in the result.

What can Clinton and Trump supporters expect in the coming weeks as the results begin to sink in?

Research shows that bad things influence us more than good things — we feel greater despair at bad news than joy at good news. By that logic, this result will be more hurtful to Clinton supporters than joyful for Trump supporters. But there might be countervailing factors, such as the fact that people experience greater joy when they share happy experiences with others as opposed to alone. And Trump supporters obviously have a joyful experience to share. I think all we can say for sure is that many people, even many Trump supporters, will remain surprised by this result for some time. I feel like I saw it coming, but at the end of the day, I need to take my own postmortem on this with a grain of salt. I’m not immune to the very human tendency to believe you “knew it all along” — what behavioral scientists call hindsight bias.


Let us ALL be thankful this awful election is finally over and the result is decisive in the Electoral College. I find it gratifying that both sides have been saying cordial things to each other, in our tradition of peaceful transition of power. Clinton made her gracious concession call to Trump in a most timely manner, and Trump and Pence thanked her in a non-gloating mood.

The day after the election, Democrat VP-candidate Tim Kaine and Clinton addressed their followers in emotionally heartfelt, yet positive, speeches. President Obama followed a bit after noon, with cordial congratulations and an invitation for Trump to visit the White House.

Trump and his team visited Washington, DC the following day, and everyone was cordial.

I watched President-Elect Donald Trump on CBS 60 Minutes, and he seemed nearly completely transformed from the boisterous pre-election candidate to a serious "Presidential" person.  Let all Americans hope for a successful Presidency for the sake of our Country and the World.

Ira Glickstein

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