publishedJANUARY 6, 2016, 7:51 AM EST 1139 Views
Donald Trump on Tuesday expressed disapproval of the militia that took over a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon over the weekend.
In an interview with The Hill, the real estate mogul agreed with his fellow Republican presidential candidates who have called for the group of armed men to stand down.
"You have to maintain law and order, no matter what," Trump told The Hill.
Numerous presidential candidates have criticized the militia and called on them to leave the Oregon refuge, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
One way to understand Trump’s longevity is to look more closely at his supporters. Trump’s backers tend to be whiter, slightly older and less educated than the average Republican voter. But perhaps more importantly, his supporters have shown signs of being misinformed. Political science research has shown that the behavior of misinformed citizens is different from those who are uninformed, and this difference may explain Trump’s unusual staying power.
As Kuklinski and his colleagues established, in the U.S., the most misinformed citizens tend to be the most confident in their views and are also the strongest partisans. These folks fill the gaps in their knowledge base by using their existing belief systems. Once these inferences are stored into memory, they become “indistinguishable from hard data,” Kuklinski and his colleagues found.
Furthermore, in 2010, political scientists Brendan Nyhan1 and Jason Reifler2 found that when misinformed citizens are told that their facts are wrong, they often cling to their opinions even more strongly with what is known as defensive processing, or the “backfire effect.”
Strong partisans are more likely to participate in the primary process, making it also likely that at least some highly engaged primary voters are also confidently misinformed and unwilling to accept contradictory evidence.
Telltale signs of misinformation, for example, were on display in a focus group of Trump supporters run by Republican media consultant Frank Luntz. Not only did negative information about Trump that was presented by Luntz to the group strengthen support for the candidate, participants held on more confidently to their misinformation as the session progressed. As Nyhan and Reifler’s research suggests, attempts to present corrections and generate counterarguments to the group’s beliefs only strengthened their opinions. The persistent claims by Trump and his supporters that his critics are too concerned with political correctness is a good example of this psychological process at work.
It is in Trump’s interest to allow misinformation — such as his statements about immigrants or Muslim Americans — to flourish. New work by Jennifer Hochschild of Harvard and Katherine Levine Einstein of Boston University found that there are incentives for politicians to keep citizens both misinformed and politically active. For most politicians, it doesn’t make sense to use precious resources to try to move or dissuade people from their incorrect positions — especially if this misinformation supports the political actor’s policy positions or legislative goals (as it does in Trump’s case). Instead, “the investment of resources goes much further in efforts to work around, accommodate, or even encourage the active misinformed,” the researchers write. Moreover, Hochschild and Einstein remind us that people find psychological comfort in having their opinions validated by others, especially by elites. So, there are many cases in which it makes more sense for politicians to encourage people to stay misinformed rather than try to provide them with accurate information
His very best voters are self-identified Republicans who nonetheless are registered as Democrats. It’s a coalition that’s concentrated in the South, Appalachia and the industrial North, according to data provided to The Upshot by Civis Analytics, a Democratic data firm.
Mr. Trump’s huge advantage among these groups poses a challenge for his campaign, because it may not have the turnout operation necessary to mobilize irregular voters.
But it is just as big a challenge for the Republican Party, which has maintained its competitiveness in spite of losses among nonwhite and young voters by adding older and white voters, many from the South. These gains have helped the party retake the House, the Senate and many state governments. But these same voters may now be making it harder for the party to broaden its appeal to nonwhite and younger people — perhaps even by helping to nominate Mr. Trump.