Polls Say Trump Voters Are Happy With Him — But We Know Trump Voters Can Not Easily and Reliably Be Polled

There has been a lot of reporting of how Trump has not lost much support of those who voted for him.

But do we know how reliable the self-reporting of prior voting behavior is.  I wonder if anyone has been checking if the self-reporting of Trump voting is consistent with the actual votes.

We know hat Trump voters are low education, we know that they are often hard to get to answer polls, and we suspect that they may be less prone to tell the truth (at least to pollsters.)

So there may be lots of hidden dissatisfied Trump voters out there.  I remember the moment during Watergate when Nixon’s reputation became so poisonous that more people remembered that they had voted against him than for him.

If this theory is right, it holds particular danger for Republlicans facing reelection in 2018, because it will make it harder to track the Trump voters whose reason for turning against a Republican incumbent is his or her support for Trump.

Worth keeping an eye on.


NBER Report Suggests We Should Not Blame Polarization on the Internet.

The National Bureau of Economic Research has long been a highly respected and independent source of analysis on economic and statistical matters.  So it is well worth paying attention when they focus on the impact of the Internet on polarization.

A recent Report concludes:

We find that the increase in polarization is largest among the groups least likely to use the internet and social media.  .  .  .  Across intermediate age groups, the growth in polarization is consistently higher among older respondents. Polarization increases more for the old than the young in eight of the nine individual measures. A similar pattern emerges for groups of respondents divided by our broader index of predicted internet use.

The paper admits that there may be ways of explaining the phenomenon to dissolve the inconsistency, but, given its breadth of measures, that seems unlikely.

Indeed un-linking Internet access statistics from polarization does not exclude the possibility that the existence of the Internet incentivizes the taking of extreme positions, and that those incentives work on populations regardless of their internet access.  It may be, or example, that what the Internet did was make it possible for marginal voices to be amplified much more by mainstream media who reach lower information people.  In other words, we would be worse off without the Internet.

However, when you think about it, the “beauty” of the “Internet did it” meme is that no one needs to take responsibility.  Not the commentators, not the politicians, not the newsfolks, not the religious leaders.  Not the increase in inequality, not the massive insecurity, not the reduction of need for those with traditional blue collar jobs.  Not the increasing costs of housing and education and the impossibility of getting both.

Holding people responsible for what they say and advocate — and what they said yesterday, and weeks, months and years ago is easier than ever before.  Understanding economic change should also be easier than ever.

So, while the Internet alone may have some second order effects, its much more important to look at the big picture of ideas and leadership.



Why “Americans by Birth” Are Threatened by “Americans by Choice” and How to Fix That

Its clear that many “Americans by Birth” are deeply threatened by “Americans by Choice,” also known as “immigrants.”   But, why?

Traditional explanations cite job fears, cultural threat, fear of the unknown, not to mention simple racism.  All surely play their role.

But let me suggest that some of the reaction is explained by the fear insight buried inside “Americans by Birth,” that they have actually shown less committement to this country that “Americans by Choice,” most of whom have displayed determination, ambition, risk-taking, and sometimes extraordinary courage to get here.  (I certainly exclude my own privileged path here from this description.)

I wonder if “Americans by Choice,” particularly those already public about their status, should explicitly make the point that: “We Americans by Choice thank you, Americans by Birth, for building this into the country we want so much to stay in and help continue to build.”

That is a hard message to reject, and while perhaps implicit in the desire to stay, not necessarily yet heard by those in fear.

A Reflection on America’s Long Term Strength

I should start by acknowledging that there are no new ideas in the post.  I just want to remind us all of something its easy to forget in the news cycle.

Notwithstanding our largely paralyzed political process, a party and President with plans to effectively destroy our openness and our generosity to the less fortunate, and an international environmnt with several major players whose committement to the values for which we have stood is, dubious to say the least, our overall assets are such that any other country and leader could only dream that their nation will possess them in their children’s time, if ever.

Not only do we still have massive economic power now backed by a powerful innovation machine, we have most of the leading educational institutions, speak the utterly dominant language, have a human capital pool from every country in the world, democratic values that remain a beacon for those of goodwill throughout the world, a political system with checks and balances that usually work, although not always as quickly as they have in the last three weeks, and not just a free free press but a system in which multiple layers protect that essential ingredient of freedom and progress.  (If you have any doubt about how all those interact in a time of crisis, just look at the list of amici in the immigration case in the Ninth Circuit, as discussed here.)

Now, lots of terrible harm is going to happen to lots of people.  The sate net will take vicious hits.  There will be serious limits on voting rights.  Government support of education and research will be very seriously hit.  Only by a miracle will the damage to our health care system be less than the good that is done — although “repair” might end up giving us a better system in some states.  One could add to this list.

But, unless our entire political system is destroyed (and I am actually less worried about that right now) most of our essential uniqueness will remain.  Unless things get much worse, people will still want to study, teach, and invest here.  They will still see English as the only non-native language they need to speak.  Above all, we will remain the only country that large groups of people in every country see as the model to emulate.

If we are really lucky, or rather if we really deserve it, the way we ultimately overcome our current challenges will enhance our uniqueness and appeal.  Few countries have the capacity for defense in depth of democracy that we have already shown.  It may take four years, or even eight, but this too will pass.  To quote Lee Hayes from an earlier era: “I’ve had kidney stones and I know.”




We Need the Voter Fraud Investigation — Assuming It is Fair and Real

Its hard not to be freaked out by Trump’s call for a voter fraud investigation, and to worry that it might lead to more suppression efforts.

But I ask you to think forward four years, and where we will be likely be with a President who has just been defeated in the election, and is now publicly doubting the result, and is suggesting that he should not leave.

We would like to hope that Republican colleagues would shut that down, but given their repeatedly demonstrated inability to resist the lures of craven self-interest, I find it hard to be confident about that.  (It is true that so far they have not gotten onto this particular anti-fact bandwagon, but not at much risk.)

Obviously, such a study/investigation would have to be truly bi-partisan and fact based, and willingness to engage in such a process, also critical to restore the overall legitimacy of our political process, should be a test of ability to transcend narrow interests.

If such a process were successful, it might be a model for other shutdowns of fact-free expeditions.

P.S. I have to emphasize that this assumes that such a project would be open, fair and real.  I had added the last qualification to the title to make this clear. (added Jan 26, 2017)

Resurrecting the Online Trump Team Lie Detector

The idea of a TV Trump lie detector system, proposed here, really did not get much initial traction.

Thus the TASS (Trump Assertion Scoring System).  I trust that those old enough to remember the Soviet news Agency and its endlessly repeated and utterly predictable falsehoods will appreciate the joy of thinking of this name .  .  .

TASS would be deployed on one or more news source networks, in the form of maybe a visual Pinocchio, or other graphic, maybe in the bottom left of the screen, showing the accuracy or not of the current assertion. One could also use an icon system to note the percentage of lies in the speech. Indeed, the Washington Post Fact Checker already uses a Four Pinocchio scoring system.  But it is not in real time. Polifact does some livechecking, but it seems to be text driven, and in any event not on the major network news feeds.

But now, with the media finally getting that they have to do something about the obviously intentional lying of the Trump administration, it is the time to get this going.

The great thing is that the Trump team has now degenerated so much that so much of what they say is immediately recognizable as a lie.  So it would not take much staff to do it.

It would be easy to pilot with the press briefings.

Please Help Us Figure Out How to Build a Trump Provocation Engine

My mind has been drifting over the obvious question as to how to provoke Trump to issue a twitter rant against someone, preferably as gratuitously as possible.  My thoughts so far.

Make a comment in derogation of his sexuality and/or, masculinity.

Make sure that it has some capacity to reduce his economic interests, since those seem to be the core driver.

Make sure your tweet is likely to resonate with his base, since that is what he cares about.

Try to have the provocation include something with which he can respond with something that will demonstrate his power to intimidate.

Give him some bait so that the topic and response will get broad media attention.

In terms of days, time it for when he is most desperate for misdirection to stop people from noticing whatever he or his appointees are doing behind the curtain.

Choose a day when he has been “quiet” for a time

In terms of hour of the day/night, best time seems to be around 3 AM.

Seriously, I would really urge a researcher to look at the most any tweets and see how they correlate with the above, and other factors, such as prior activity during the last 24 hours, who is around him, general medial mood, etc.

Then we can build an automated provocation engine.  Actually, since provocation would be so good for business, you could even sell its services to the highest bidder (taking a percentage of increased revenues, and using those revenues for anti-Trump activities.)

Of course, my secret hope is that showing how predictable he is will be such a threat to his sense of his own ultimate superiority that this post will have the desired set-off effect.  If it does not do so, then it proves that he is so ordinary that he does not understand the idea, or the intellectual undermining it represents.