Why Trump voters weren’t irrational

I doubt there’s anyone on this website who voted for Trump last November—or, if they did, they’re keeping it quiet.  And most of us, including me, think that those who did vote for The Donald were irrational. My take was that these people, blinded by their bigotry and nativism, simply voted against their own interests, thereby shooting themselves in the foot. In other words, their actions were irrational.

But Keith Stanovich, a professor emeritus of applied psychology and human development at the University of Toronto, disagrees. He says that there’s no obvious reason why Trump voters were irrational, and he’s an expert on rationality and cognitive science. (His last book, The Rationality Quotient, written with Richard West and Maggie Toplkak is an analysis of cognitive thinking and of how to construe “rationality”).  In a new article in Quillette, “Were Trump voters irrational?“, Stanovich, using several ways to conceive of “rationality”, says “no.” It’s a very good essay and one you should read, for it will make you reexamine your views and maybe even change them. It’s a Professor Ceiling Cat (Emeritus) Must-Read Recommendation™. Kudos to Stanovich for writing it and to Claire Lehmann, the editor of the financially  struggling Quillette, for continuing to find and commission articles discussing substantive issues for real progressives—articles that could never find homes on Regressive Leftist sites like Salon or PuffHo.

So why weren’t Trump voters irrational? Well, Stanovich approaches the issue from three directions, all looking at different meanings of “irrational”. I’ll summarize them briefly, but this is no substitute for reading the original piece.

1.) Instrumental rationality. Stanovich construes this as a way to behave: you’re instrumentally rational if you act in such a way that’s furthers your reaching your goals; you’re instrumentally irrational if you act in ways that are inimical to reaching your goals. Many of us think, as I did, that Trump voters were instrumentally irrational because they voted in a way that hurt their personal interests.

Stanovich’s response is simple: liberals do that all the time in service of a greater cause (for example, I’d vote for higher taxes on people in my income bracket), and they’re praised, not denigrated. The problem is that “rationality” doesn’t always mean “self interested”, and we liberals praise those who sacrifice their own well being for greater goods. But we’re unwilling to extend that courtesy that to Republicans (whether Trump is a greater good, of course, depends on what you want, and I’ll discuss that below). Stanovich thinks this accusation of Trumpites is demeaning:

In addition to being misplaced, leftists never seem to see how insulting this critique of Republican voters is. Their failure to see the insult illustrates precisely what they get wrong in evaluating the rationality of the Trump voters. Consider that these What’s the Matter with Kansas? critiques are written by highly educated left-wing pundits, professors, and advocates. Perhaps we should ask one of them whether their own vote is purely self-interested and for their own monetary benefit. They will say no, of course. And they will deny as well that their vote is irrational. Progressives will say that they often vote against their own monetary interests in order to do good for other people. Or they will say that their vote reflects their values and worldview—that they are concerned about the larger issues that are encompassed by that worldview (abortion legislation or climate change or gun restriction). Leftists seem unable to see that Republican voters—even lower income ones—may be just as attached to their own values and worldviews. The stance of the educated progressive making the What’s the Matter with Kansas? argument seems to be that: “no one else should vote against their monetary interests, but it’s not irrational for me to do so, because I am enlightened.”

The implicit insult in the Kansas argument often goes unrecognized, and, if I may use some cognitive science jargon here, it is a form of ‘myside’ bias. For example, leftists who work for nonprofit organizations are often choosing their values over monetary reward. And likewise, conservatives joining the military are often also choosing their values over monetary reward. The What’s the Matter with Kansas? argument seems to ignore or deny this symmetry. Many Republican voters with modest incomes cast a vote to help others rather than for their own monetary interests—precisely as do the progressive Democrats who find such Republican behavior puzzling. So no, neither the Kansas voters in Frank’s book, nor the Trump voters are voting against their interests, broadly—and correctly—defined. Even if part of the Kansas critique is correct (they are voting against their purely economic interests), these voters are not necessarily irrational because they may be sacrificing monetary gain in order to express their values or worldview.

Stanovich’s argument goes beyond this, discussing the argument about whether it’s irrational to vote for someone whose character makes them unfit for office. Here he makes an interesting argument, asking people to evaluate whether they’d vote for someone with a character making them unfit for office, but with Clinton’s worldviews, or for someone manifestly better suited for office, but with a more Trumpian worldview. I’ll let you see the real examples of each that Stanovich asks us to consider.

2.) Epistemic rationality. This form of rationality is about beliefs, not behavior. You’re epistemically rational if your beliefs are accurate or true, and irrational if they’re not. Were Trump voters irrational in this way?

Democrats use two arguments to show that Republican beliefs are epistemically irrational (remember, you have to judge this by correspondence of belief with fact, not whether you like Republicans’ views on immigration or abortion). The two areas are climate change and evolution, and in both cases Republicans are in general less accepting of the scientific truth than are Democrats. On these issues, the Republicans are epistemically irrational.

But wait! According to Stanovich, that argument is made by cherry-picking just two issues, and you could find others on which—and he says he has evidence for this—Democrats are more irrational. Have a gander, for I’m going to give a long excerpt:

However, there is a trap lying in wait for progressives here. It is very tempting for them to say: Well, the Democrats get climate science right, and Republicans get it wrong; the Democrats get evolution right, and conservative Republicans get it wrong; so therefore we liberal Democrats are getting everything factually right about all of the other charged topics that figure in political disputes—crime, immigration, poverty, parenting, sexuality, and so on. Such an argument is essentially the claim that Democrats are epistemically more rational than Republicans.

This type of thinking is what some years ago prompted the Democratic Party to declare itself the “party of science” and to label the Republican Party as the science deniers. That stance spawned a series of books with titles like Mooney’s The Republican War on Science (2005). As a political strategy, this “party of science” labelling might be effective, but epistemic superiority cannot simply be declared on the basis of a few examples. A cognitive scientist is forced to be pedantic here and rain on the progressive parade. In fact, any trained social scientist would be quick to point out the obvious selection effects that are operating. The issues in question (climate science and creationism/evolution) are cherry-picked for reasons of politics and media interest. In order to correctly call one party the party of science and the other the party of science deniers, one would of course have to have a representative sampling of scientific issues to see whether members of one party are more likely to accept scientific consensus.

In fact, it is not difficult at all to find scientific issues on which it is liberal Democrats who fail to accept the scientific consensus. Leftists become the “science deniers” in these cases. In fact, and ironically, there are enough examples to produce a book parallel to the Mooney volume cited above titled Science Left Behind: Feel-Good Fallacies and the Rise of the Anti-Scientific Left (2012). To mention an example from my own field, psychology: liberals tend to deny the overwhelming consensus in psychological science that intelligence is moderately heritable.

This isn’t the only instance of left-wing science denial, though. In the area of economics, progressives are very reluctant to accept the consensus view that when proper controls for occupational choice and work history are made, women do not make more than 20 per cent less than men for doing the same work.

Progressives tend to deny or obfuscate (just as conservatives obfuscate the research on global warming) the data indicating that single-parent households lead to more behavioral problems among children. Overwhelmingly progressive university schools of education deny the strong scientific consensus that phonics-based reading instruction facilitates most readers, especially those struggling the most. Many progressives find it hard to believe that there is no bias at all in the initial hiring of women for tenure-track university positions in STEM disciplines. Progressives tend to deny the consensus view that genetically modified organisms are safe to consume. Gender feminists routinely deny biological facts about sex differences. Largely Democratic cities and university towns are at the forefront of the anti-vaccine movement which denies a scientific consensus. In the same cities and towns, people find it hard to believe that there is a strong consensus among economists that rent control causes housing shortages and a diminution in the quality of housing. [Research citations for all the above are available from the author here.]

You can check the links for yourself. And Stanovich doesn’t even mention the complete dismissal of evolutionary psychology by the Left. Although you can say that Stanovich is simply a conservative going after Leftists, it’s not that simple. You have to dismiss his facts, not his ideology. In fact, I’m not at all sure what Stanovich’s political leanings are; his article is good because it deals with hard arguments that you can’t dismiss with ad hominem remarks. 

What about the claim that, in general, Republicans are just more ignorant than Democrats—they know less about the world in general? Stanovich cites studies showing that there’s no important difference here in views about world events, economics, how the U.S. government works, and so on.

Okay, well what about conspiracy theories? Aren’t Republicans more prone to accept those than are Democrats? Nope: data show that both sides are about the same.

 3.) Other forms of irrationality. At this point Stanovich senses the frustration of Democratic readers, adding a section called “There’s got to be something else wrong then.” What this boils down to is the Democratic claim that the worldview of Trump voters is less rational than that of Democrats, and that is why Trumpians are more irrational.
Stanovich is sympathetic with the tenor of this claim, but says that there’s no way to prove that one worldview is more rational than another. (Well, you could do it in principle: if you argue, for example, that drastically restricting immigration will have certain social effects, those might be tested, but only for claims that are based on proposed consequences.) Further, Stanovich says that this kind of difference in “utility values” might be offset by the “symbolic utility” of expressing your preferences for a candidate whose values you share. Is this irrational?  Stanovich says “not necessarily”—if such preferences are “expressive of one’s identity and cultural commitments,” which has personal value. As he says, “there is no rational way of assessing the tradeoff between the worth of an expressive signal and its negative consequences.”

At the end of the article you might be frustrated, but you might also share Stanovich’s conclusions:

I am afraid that my Democratic friends are just going to have to reconcile themselves to the conclusion that the cognitive science of rationality does not support their judgment of the Trump voters. You can say whatever you want about the rationality or irrationality of Trump himself, but cognitive science does not support the claim that his voters were irrational—or, more specifically, that they were any less rational than the Clinton voters. Politics is not the place to look for objective rightness or wrongness—and that is what judgments about the rationality of voting entail. Our judgments in this domain are uniquely susceptible to myside bias. [JAC: he’s referring to confirmation bias, whereby you are blind your own biases but not to those of your opponents.]

Many of our most contentious political issues hinge on values and culture rather than facts. That may be a good thing. It could be signalling that our society has already handled the easiest issues—those that can be solved by educating everyone to accept the same facts and then implementing the obvious solution that follows from these facts. We may have achieved a social structure that is so optimized that the remaining disputes revolve largely around values and cultural choices. Rather than calling the Trump voters irrational, it might be a better idea to engage with their Country and Citizen cultural concerns and treat them as equally valid and rational as the Global and Groups cultural concerns that largely drove the Clinton voters.

To see the difference between “Country and Citizen cultural concerns” (Republican) and “Global and Groups cultural concerns” (Democratic), have a look at the article.

And even if Trump fails to enact the legislation that got many to vote for him (building the Big Wall, dismantling Obamacare, and so on), that doesn’t mean that people who voted for him were irrational; it means that we value different things. Stanovich sees politics the way I see morality: in the end, it comes down to preferences that can’t be resolved empirically. There is no objective right or wrong.

 

204 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    sub

  2. Posted October 1, 2017 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    It’s a good thinky piece. It does address some cognitive blind spots in folks thinking.
    I’d suggest most folks use of the word irrational might be the same as crazy. We all don’t have the same idea of definition when we use the word.
    As for Trump voters, or even many voters, I’d bet they couldn’t pass a 10th grade Civics test. They are uninformed. They’re apathetic beyond a feeling of tribal loyalty to whatever demographic they identify with. Et voila.
    Trumpolininidini.

    • Posted October 1, 2017 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      Do you have any evidence suggesting that Clinton voters would do any better on that 10th grade civics test? I know plenty of Democrats who demonstrate no understanding of the Constitution.

      • Posted October 1, 2017 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

        Hi Patrick~ No, I don’t, which is why I added the caveat after “As for Trump voters..”.
        I have no reason to think Dems would fare any better. In fact, if the exit polling is correct, in the swing States Trump won, Democrats crossed party lines to vote for Trump. Irrational or not, I’d say that was pretty poor judgment even if only in “hindsight”.

        • Posted October 1, 2017 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

          My apologies for misunderstanding you.

          • Posted October 1, 2017 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

            No apology needed my friend. 🙂
            Thanks for being gracious.

  3. Posted October 1, 2017 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    While I understand the gist of the argument, I fail to see the rationality of the man who screams, “The water is fine,” while neck deep in it. À la Rick Scott http://www.miamiherald.com/news/state/florida/article12983720.html

  4. Posted October 1, 2017 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    The idea that typical voters – Left or Right – vote for rational reasons is about as convincing as the idea that the classical economic idea that the market is an aggregate of ultra-informed rational consumers and producers making decisions based on utility and opportunity costs.

    • Posted October 1, 2017 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      +1

    • Ed Snack
      Posted October 2, 2017 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      Well, that’s a good strawman argument, how would your idea look if you used a correct attribution of the beliefs of “classical” economics.

      The biases show strongly, why is Trump so unfitted for office ? More so than Clinton or Obama, really ? Are your biases not showing so strongly that your whole rationality is suspect ?

      • Posted October 2, 2017 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

        This is the first of six comments you’ve tried to make, and you managed to insult four readers among them. The other five comments aren’t going to appear, as you’re no longer allowed to post on this site. Did you not read the rules for posting? Not that they’d matter to someone with your level of rudeness.

  5. Ryan
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    I am not American but I think it was better that Trump won.

    Its not good for a single ideology to win all the time. You need external pressures to keep things honest. Can you imagine how Evergreen would have played out with Clinton in charge?

    The left is starting to discard the crazies, and once the next election rolls around I think they will be in a much better place.

    I’m seeing almost exactly what I expected and wanted out of the Trump presidency, which is absolutely nothing. There was never going to be a wall. Just a social media celebrity tweeting and playing golf.

    I’m starting to believe that having a leader who is perceived as crazy can be advantageous for international relations as well, but I’ll probably reevaluate that opinion as time passes.

    • Posted October 1, 2017 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

      The city fathers of Rome of 40 CE might disagree. :-/

    • Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      I’m starting to believe that having a leader who is perceived as crazy can be advantageous for international relations as well

      Germany had that working for them in Munich in ’38, and look how well that turned out for them in the long run.

      • Carey Haug
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think Trump is crazy. Impulsive, self centered, dishonest, and not too bright, for sure.

        Hoping the American Government has enough checks and balances to prevent him from destroying us.

    • jay
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

      Agreed. The Democrats have gone so far down the progressive rabbit hole that some degree of shock is needed (And the ‘conservative inc. ‘ wing of the Republican party is not up to the job).

      If Trump drains the swamp even a bit, I’ll be happy.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

        “Drain the swamp”? Really? The president who never met an ethical precept he’d abide by?

        ‘Cause nothing says swamp-draining like a “champagne” cabinet larded with the same Goldman Sachs billionaires you railed against during your campaign.

        • Posted October 1, 2017 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

          To Republicans, “draining the swamp” simply means poking Dems in the eye, I think.

      • frednotfaith2
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

        Trump is making Washington D.C. even more swampy than it was before. He only promised to drain the swamp — he never meant to really do it.

      • josh
        Posted October 3, 2017 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

        See, this is an irrational view. The Democrats, as an institution, aren’t anywhere close to the regressive left. They are as centrist as can be, in a country where centrist means “mildly to the right in most other first world nations”. The progressive wing was represented by Sanders, who certainly didn’t spend his time talking about cultural appropriation or safe spaces, and who still lost to the centrist Clinton.

        Meanwhile, Trump is the most ethically challenged and corrupt President in decades. He’s the slimiest toad in the swamp and has been throughout his career. The idea that he would institute some kind of needed reform is just out of touch with reality.

    • Posted October 1, 2017 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

      I voted for Gary Johnson, so I can’t say I was happy when Trump won. Like you, at the time I thought that it might be better than if Clinton had been elected, for two reasons:

      1) Clinton had the support of the majority of the media. She would not have been subject to anywhere near the level of scrutiny as Trump. In addition, she and her supporters demonstrated that they were more than willing to play the gender card in response to tough questions about her policies.

      2) I hoped, vainly it appears, that — after the requisite wailing and gnashing of teeth — at least some leftists would come to understand that it isn’t just the person wielding the power that is the problem, it’s the existence of the power itself. The imperial presidency needs to be reined in (along with much of the federal bureaucracy).

      My mild optimism was contingent on the assumption that Trump would realize the importance of the role he was taking on and begin to demonstrate some gravitas. That’s clearly not going to happen.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

        “My mild optimism was contingent on the assumption that Trump would realize the importance of the role he was taking on and begin to demonstrate some gravitas.”

        And the mild optimism of the mark in a Three-card Monte game is based on the assumption that he can follow the card that’s the Queen of Hearts.

        Live & learn, and better luck next election, Patrick. 🙂

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted October 1, 2017 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

          And next time pick a candidate who doesn’t think “Aleppo” is a strain of Middle-Eastern bud.

    • Posted October 1, 2017 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

      I have developed the wish that we could establish a system with 3 or 4 strong political parties, dividing those who identify as Democrat or Republican among them. There are Republicans with some progressive values, and Democrats with some conservative values, and spreading them out over a couple extra parties would force Congress to work across party lines more often.

    • KD33
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

      Evergreen would have played out no differently had Clinton been elected. Why on earth would you think Clinton, a middle of the road Dem, would have sympathy for that college (which I assume was your claim)?

      Anyway, isn’t it be more germane to consider how North Korea/Paris/immigration/women’s health/healthcare/tax reform might have come out differently?? Are you still thinking “it’s better”?

      I heard many say “it’s better that Trump won” right after the election. That was bizarre at the time, but given the realities that have come to pass once then, it’s impossible for me to understand the sentiment now.

      All of the evils assigned to Clinton, before the election, or imagined would have happened after, to me make up one of the most baffling facets of this whole kerfuffle.

  6. Brygida Berse
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    I understand that this post is meant to be provocative. I haven’t read the article, but the excerpts do not appeal to me. #1 is misleading – it can be argued that people who vote against their immediate interest do it because they see the big picture. For example, I don’t have children, but I have no problem with my taxes going to education. This is because that I believe that it’s better for everybody (including myself) to live in an well educated society – and there is plenty of data supporting that belief. Many Trump voters chose him hoping that he will restore their old jobs, and there is no empirical evidence that will happen.

    Which brings us to #2 – empirical evidence. The examples of progressives ignoring scientific data are, in my opinion, weak, and apply more to the “regressive left” fringe of the liberal part of the society. Of course, people in general tend to exhibit confirmation biases etc – that is human nature. But in general, liberals are much better than conservatives in basing their opinions – and their voting – on empirical evidence.

    • frednotfaith2
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      I fully agree, Byrgida. Alas, there are lunatic fringes on both the right and left, but I think the lunatic fringe of the right has a much tighter hold on conservative voters than the left-wing fringe does on liberals. But maybe that’s my bias. Certainly, religious insanity and bigotry is far greater on the right, but then I live in the congressional district currently represented by Kim Daniels, an African American, Democrat, and religious nut who believes hurricanes and earthquakes are sent by god to punish sinners. In the last election, for the first time in ages I voted for a Republican who ran against her and who seemed much saner in comparison. All too typical of late that the religious nut won.

    • Posted October 1, 2017 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      Indeed. When we criticize lower and middle class Republicans for voting against their economic interest, it’s because they erroneously claim they are voting *for* their economic interest. We’re not so much criticizing the way they vote as we are their mistaken understanding of how the policies they support will actually play out.

      • GBJames
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

        That’s an important point. It is one thing to favor policies that extract wealth from the middle class and pass it to the hyper-wealthy. It is another thing to favor those policies while pretending that it will benefit the middle class.

        • Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

          Another important point is that their misunderstanding of those reverse Robin Hood policies affects us all, not just them. So, hell yes, I’m going to speak out against voting for them. It’s not just “you’re voting against your interests!” It’s “you’re voting against my interests! And the interests of many other non-wealthy people! Stop it!”

      • jay
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

        “When we criticize lower and middle class Republicans for voting against their economic interest, it’s because they erroneously claim they are voting *for* their economic interest. ”

        This is indeed part of the elitism that Trump voters rebelled against. Assuming they are so wrong is indicative of a typical left blind spot.

        Rolling back some onerous regulations has already had an effect on the GDP, stock market, and supplies of LNG to Eastern Europe, disrupting the Russian monopoly.

        • Posted October 1, 2017 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

          Arguing that you think someone is wrong about something makes you an “elite”?

          I think you’d better get comfortable being called “elite”, then.

      • Posted October 2, 2017 at 11:55 am | Permalink

        Also (from the article):

        “Failure to appreciate these nuances in rational choice theory is behind […]”

        – The article illustrates one of the several problems with traditional rational choice theory: namely, the removal of goals from the theory. Goals themselves in my view can be irrational or rational.

    • Posted October 1, 2017 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      “But in general, liberals are much better than conservatives in basing their opinions – and their voting – on empirical evidence.”

      Is this your opinion or do you have real data showing this (and please give us a reference)?

      • Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

        Liberals may well not be better at basing their views on good evidence, but I think Brygida’s main point was that the author’s characterization of our criticisn of Republican voters is off the mark. See my two cents moments just above.

      • Brygida Berse
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

        Is this your opinion or do you have real data showing this (and please give us a reference)?

        Properly done, this will take many months of scientific work worthy of Steven Pinker. Frankly, I do not want to spend the rest of the nice Sunday afternoon digging for references and statistics, but a lot of those can be found by searching the website whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com. That’s what I often do when in need of quick reference to present in an internet discussion :-).

        These are some of the the issues, in addition to human activity contributing to global warming and teaching evolution, that you and other liberal thinkers wrote about, on which data can be easily found in respectable sources:

        Medicare being more efficient than private health insurance (speaks for the single payer health plan)
        Sex education and condom use vs. abstinence programs as means of preventing unwanted pregnancy and diseases
        Homosexuality as a lifestyle choice vs. biological determinant, suitability of homosexuals as adoptive parents
        Futility of the “war on drugs”
        Death penalty as a deterrent; crime prevention policies

        I’m consciously omitting issues such as gun control, education, and economy, where I believe data are more complex, and one needs to study individual issues more closely to make an informed choice, and that is sometimes impossible for a lay person (although you argued recently for gun control based on the Australian data). For economic programs especially, I don’t feel that I understand data enough to know how to vote, so I defer to authority (usually it would mean reading Paul Krugman). But even then, I have a strong suspicion that nobody really understands the economy.

        I would also like to bring up the Republican vs. Democrat voters’ understanding of what makes one competent to be president. The president’s role is to efficiently lead the government with good understanding of big issues, propose legislation and push it through Congress, conduct foreign policy that will benefit America’s position in the world, and generally unite and inspire the citizenry. I don’t think that people who put Donald Trump in this position, especially those are still satisfied by his performance, have a good grasp on reality.

    • Posted October 1, 2017 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      I read the entire article several days ago. I disliked the author’s conservative slant, but do read it all the way to the end to understand his extremely valid point.

      In particular, the author precisely argues “that people who vote against their immediate interest do it because they see the big picture.”

      • Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

        Our point is that their interpretation of the big picture is flawed, or doesn’t actually include enough people to be appropriately described as a “big picture”.

      • Steve Pollard
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

        “I disliked the author’s conservative slant”. I would describe myself as a middle-of-the-road UK liberal; but I could not detect any such “slant”; indeed, that term itself implies bias, which he seems to me to be trying to avoid as hard as he can.

        As for Brygida Berse: perhaps you should actually read the article – and its citations – before concluding that the post is “meant to be provocative”. On the contrary: I read it as going out of its way to be even-handed.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted October 1, 2017 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

          I didn’t detect a slant either. He seemed to making every effort to call things straight down the middle (even if his points were more favorable to the Right then I generally care to concede).

        • Brygida Berse
          Posted October 1, 2017 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

          As for Brygida Berse: perhaps you should actually read the article – and its citations – before concluding that the post is “meant to be provocative”.

          I based my response on Jerry’s post and the citations within; I don’t think it’s inappropriate. I find the examples of leftist biases somewhat exaggerated. My own city, Cambridge MA (the most liberal city in America) abolished rent control some twenty five years ago – based on economic analysis. I agree that the regressive left has done a lot of damage by embracing views without scientific basis (e.g. on race and gender), but I still think this represents a fringe, and that is not the worldview that I was referring to in my first post. And I’m not sure how these fringe views on vaccines or gender translate into voting and policy. Can you name an example of the issue on which Democrats (voters or representatives) voted against clear scientific facts, and Republicans voted in agreement with facts?

          • Steve Pollard
            Posted October 1, 2017 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

            Err…not off the top of my head, not being an American and all that. But I do know that both of the main parties in the UK occupy many of their positions on tribal grounds, without much regard for reason or evidence. This is surely the main point that Stanovich was making: that neither Left nor Right has a monopoly on irrationality.

            • Brygida Berse
              Posted October 1, 2017 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

              Of course, I agree neither party nas a monopoly. The question is: is there a systematic difference between the two, possibly based on differences in the type/level of education, cultural tradition or philosophy? Based on my observations and what I read, there is a difference.

              Also, the issue discussed here appears to be turned on its head: it’s not whether Republicans or Democrats are more rational (as if being a Republican or a Democrat were some innate feature unrelated to one’s way of perceiving the world), but what kind of person becomes Republican or Democrat. If in a nominally democratic country there is a strong lobby that wants to give privileges to billionaires with total disregard for the rest of the society and the planet, that lobby needs to use false arguments to lure voters. Who will vote for them? People who fall for false arguments.

  7. GM
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    A lot of people voted for Trump because he was well on the left of all other candidates other than Bernie on a long list of issues, and on foreign policy he was on the left of Bernie too.

    That’s not how he has governed so far, but you vote based on the information you have before the election.

    Of course, it’s much easier to believe that you are on the side of the good guys by voting Democrat than to face the truth, which is that there are no good guys, just two different branches of the corporatocracy that are equally corrupt and out of their own self-interests.

    • GBJames
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      LOL. Trump supporters came from the Left? Good one!

      • Mark R.
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

        Of course, it’s much easier to believe that you are on the side of the good guys by voting Democrat than to face the truth, which is that there are no good guys, just two different branches of the corporatocracy that are equally corrupt and out of their own self-interests.

        So you don’t vote?

      • GM
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

        I never said that, I said that people voted for him because he was on the left of other candidates on many issues.

        Issues that happen to be more important for the average voter than identity politics, which has come to define the “left” and hollow it out of substance in the process

        • GBJames
          Posted October 1, 2017 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

          I know of no such people. I trust you can provide a good list of examples. The only tRump voters I know always vote Republican. The vast number of his supporters are white evangelicals, not a bastion of the political left.

          I have no doubt that given the numbers of voters in the US there were a handful who voted for tRump because he was “on the left of” Clinton. This only demonstrates that there are delusional people who voted for tRump. We already knew that.

          • mordacious1
            Posted October 1, 2017 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

            If only the people who voted for Trump were those who always vote Republican, then he wouldn’t have won.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted October 1, 2017 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

              Trump won a lower percentage of the total vote than Mitt Romney did in losing in 2012. He carried the popular vote by a whopping minus 3 million votes. (Overall, 11 million more Americans voted against Trump than for voted him.)

              • mordacious1
                Posted October 2, 2017 at 2:38 am | Permalink

                Trump won states that Obama won. Either Democrats didn’t show up or people who voted for Obama voted for Trump…or both. I say it was both.

              • GBJames
                Posted October 2, 2017 at 7:10 am | Permalink

                In my state tens of thousands of people did not vote because Republican voter restriction laws went into effect. Most of those affected were minorities, young people and elderly. These restrictions had not existed in previous presidential elections.

                tRump won by only 22 thousand votes.

        • Posted October 1, 2017 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

          So the left is anti-immigrant, economic nationalism, and America first? These are the issues he ran on.

          • GM
            Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

            This is why (among many other reasons) the world is doomed — the liberal class is completely clueless and detached from reality.

            The people in the Midwest who got Trump elected voted for him because he talked against globalization. Which you are conveniently rebranding as “economic nationalism” so that you can frame that sort of rhetoric as being on the far right. But in fact in a long forgotten past, labor issues were at the core of the agenda on the left. The so called “left” decided to abandon labor so that it can attract big donor money, and it is not wonder that labor has been abandoning the left as a result. BTW, that was guess whose strategy back in the days? Clinton’s. And Clinton was the one who signed NAFTA, deregulated the banks, etc.

            So Trump came and said the following things:

            – That all the politicians are bought by Wall Street (looks like you consider that an extremely non-left thing to say)

            – That he was going to end the free trade agreements (a position that would normally be considered strongly on the left, and a problem that the candidate on the “left” actually had a big hand in creating in the first place)

            – That he was going to preserve entitlement programs (again, the candidate on the “left” was more right-wing on that issue)

            – He has been on record for decades that he is for single-payer health care (no such thing has ever been heard of the other candidate since the early 1990s). He campaigned against Obamacare, which does indeed need to be repealed, as the price hikes just before the election once again showed, as it has no price controls (and who the hell allows that to happen just prior to the election???). Maybe that is a foreign experience to you, but for someone making $25K a year, being required to pay 25-30% of his income for a bronze Obamacare plan with huge deductibles is actually much worse than having no insurance at all. He still has no real insurance but now is mandated by law to pay a huge portion of his income for it too. Is it any wonder people would see Trump promising to repeal Obamacare as a good thing even if he wasn’t promising a single-payer system as a replacement?

            – That the US needs to get out of endless pointless extremely costly wars (I take it that you consider that a ultra-right wing position), from which it is the sons of the working poor from the Midwest and the South, not of the liberal elites on the coasts, that end up being brought back in body bags.

            – That the US needs to deescalate tensions and have friendly relations with Russia (again, looks like you see that as a far-right position).

            What he did not talk about as a major priority were the pet peeves of lesbians and trans people.

            But clearly according to you those are the first and foremost things someone working for minimum wage at a Wall Mart in some post-industrial hellhole in Michigan should be concerned about….

            I am beginning to understand how “let them eat pies” might have indeed be said, and with real conviction too…

            • Historian
              Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

              There is much evidence, which I have supplied, that Trump voters (at least the white working-class) did not vote for him for the reasons you cite. See my comment #20.

              • GM
                Posted October 1, 2017 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

                I saw them, and I cried a little in despair.

                This is a science blog, so one would expect the people posting here to be aware of the common trappings of using data to support one or another point.

                Little of what you posted addresses why Trump won. You were describing the bulk of Trump’s supporters. But guess what — the bulk of Trump’s supporters is not the reason why Trump won.

                He still lost the popular vote, and those core Republican supporters are not enough to win an election on their own. They would have voted in at least equal numbers for Ted Cruz of Jeb Bush, and the overall election would have been lost.

                It is the marginal 10-15%, in several very specific states, that decided it. Lots of counties that previously voted for Obama, twice in fact.

                Are the people in the Midwest who voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012 but then voted for Trump in 2016 rabid racists and white nationalists? Please…

                Also, illegal immigration does in fact hurt the native working poor (white or of any other color). It’s a basic fact of economics. Thus it is perfectly rational from their perspective to rally behind someone promising to end it. This is aside from the absurdity of the fact that we are arguing whether something that is not only illegal but concerns one of the core functions of the state (to protect the integrity of its borders) should be stopped by the government or not…

            • Posted October 1, 2017 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

              Wow. According to you, I sure said a lot that I didn’t actually say.

            • Harrison
              Posted October 2, 2017 at 4:41 am | Permalink

              I did not at any point believe any of Trump’s populist promises, but I did think it was perverse to hear them coming from the Republican candidate and not the Democratic one.

        • allison
          Posted October 1, 2017 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

          The entire Trump campaign consisted of nothing but identity politics.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

      Donald Trump himself is neither right nor left. He has no ideology to speak of — other than that “Donald Trump is not a loser” and “Vladimir Putin should never be criticized” — although right-wing rhetoric comes most naturally to him, owing to his authoritarian personality.

      Everything else resembling ideology he spouts is fungible — to be doffed or donned as readily as one of his misshapen, scotch-taped neckties — as deemed needed to advance whatever scam du jour he’s pursuing.

  8. Posted October 1, 2017 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been reading some behavioural economics recently and I recognise some of the ‘irrational’ behaviour myself.

    For instance, I have a fairly rare book that I wouldn’t sell if you offered me £200 for it. On the other hand, if I didn’t have that book and I saw it in a store I wouldn’t pay £100.

    This makes no rational sense: in the first case I value the book over £200 but in the second I value it at less than half that.

    People are less willing to give up what they have, even for a higher reward. Trump played to that. Those arguing about the rationality of the choice are, ironically, working on a psychological model of humanity they share with Milton Freeman.

  9. Tom Besson
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    The article reminds me of the idea that if your beliefs don’t match reality, no matter how sincerely you hold them, you will always wind up with second best results. The article encourages us to examine what we think and why, especially in regards to those who think differently from us. What’s not to like?

  10. mirandaga
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    I think the issue is less complicated than this. Many people, including myself, voted for Trump for the very simple reason that the alternative was to vote for Hillary Clinton. The unhappy options were pretty much the same as between the two receptacles that I put out on my parking strip every week—garbage or recycling. I wasn’t happy to see my ballot go into the garbage bin, but in this instance I would have been even less happy to go with recycling.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      Sounds very irrational to me.

      • Mark R.
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

        I wouldn’t say that’s an irrational choice at the time (as the article argues). But if mirandaga still thinks he/she made the correct choice, I would have to question the rationality.

        • mirandaga
          Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

          “But if mirandaga still thinks he/she made the correct choice, I would have to question the rationality.”

          Not really. Happily, Trump has been thwarted in carrying through on most of his campaign promises, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. I’m an Independent who mostly votes Democratic (I did vote for Bush over Gore, but that one was a choice between someone who talked like an idiot and someone who talked to me like I was an idiot), but my general stance is “A pox on both their houses!” Trump is the closest thing we’ve had to an Independent in the White House since the two-party system came into being, and while he’s not a good president, I think that’s a good precedent. And you gotta admit—for sheer entertainment value, he beats Hillary hands-down.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted October 1, 2017 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

            Would 75 million dead Koreans convince you otherwise? Your vote helped put the nuclear football under the sole control of a completely unqualified, mentally unstable fool, one who’s unthinkingly set the nation upon a course of extremely dangerous brinkmanship.

            • mirandaga
              Posted October 1, 2017 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

              “Your vote helped put the nuclear football. . . .”

              Actually, my vote didn’t do a damn thing, nor did I expect it to. I’m from Oregon.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted October 1, 2017 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

                So that absolves you — it’s all the fault of 78,000 Trump voters in the swing states of PA, MI, and WI?

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted October 1, 2017 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

                That must be a great comfort to you now that Kim Jong-un has an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching Oregon.

            • Posted October 1, 2017 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

              Exactly.

            • GM
              Posted October 1, 2017 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

              mere statistics

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted October 1, 2017 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

                Thanks, Uncle Joe. What’s the upper limit on deaths constituting a tragedy again?

          • Randy schenck
            Posted October 1, 2017 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

            If you are voting for an entertainer, I guess you have a point. Not sure what an independent is suppose to look like but Trump would not be it. He is as you concluded an entertainer, although of poor quality, and if he belongs to any party it would be the party of Putin.

    • Rob
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

      The problem with deciding that Hilary was not a good option, was often (IMO) followed by the failure to realize that the other option was even worse than Hilary.

      No matter how despicable Trump’s behavior, it didn’t matter, because it was assumed nothing could be worse than Hilary. Wrong!

      • DiscoveredJoys
        Posted October 2, 2017 at 3:59 am | Permalink

        Another article from Quillette: http://quillette.com/2017/10/02/jung-trumpian-shadow/

        I’m not a great fan of Jung – I think he is more of a Guru than scientist – but if you continually disparage peoples’ views and allow them no expression then eventually there is a backlash.

    • KD33
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

      Reading your 2nd sentence, it’s hard for me to reason my way to to why you voted for Trump. If you think it should be self-evident to readers that Trump and Clinton were equal evils, think again.

      • mirandaga
        Posted October 2, 2017 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

        Trump was elected in large part because the Democrats, who are supposed to be the party of the disenfranchised, had for decades systematically ignored or belittled the most disenfranchised group in the country–namely, all those folks who came out of the woodwork to vote for Trump. Hillary, with her “basket of deplorables” rhetoric, would have doubled-down on that folly to the detriment of both the Democratic Party and the country. IMO, this would have been far worse than anything Trump has done or will do, all the apocalyptic hysteria about a nuclear threat not withstanding. So no, I didn’t consider Trump and Hillary as “equal evils.” I considered, and still consider, Trump the lesser evil.

        • tomh
          Posted October 2, 2017 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

          So, you’re happy with the fact that Trump has eliminated hundreds of regulations, regulations protecting the environment, regulating banking, workers’ health, consumer protections, allowing coal mining to pollute streams, down to little things like the safety of baby cribs, allowing federal contractors to violate basic labor laws – the list goes on and on. It reminds me of the page of Trump’s lies that the New York Times published. The couldn’t get it all on one page. Same thing here. But I’m sure Hillary would have been worse.

        • josh
          Posted October 3, 2017 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

          Hillary disparaged Klan sympathizers, and that was worse than anything Trump could do? I can’t follow your reasoning here. New people didn’t show up in droves to vote for Trump, he had the traditional Republicans and a few flipped Democrats. The geography worked out that he won despite a minority of voters nationwide.

          By the way, here’s what Clinton actually went on to say in the basket of deplorables quote:

          “But the other basket — and I know this because I see friends from all over America here — I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas — as well as, you know, New York and California — but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from. They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they’re in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.”

          What about Clinton would have sooo bad now?

          • mirandaga
            Posted October 3, 2017 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

            “Hillary disparaged Klan sympathizers,”

            I’m fully aware of what Hillary “actually” said, and she said absolutely nothing about “Klan sympathizers.” She said that “you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables,” which she characterized as “sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic —you name it.” Even her retraction—“I regret saying ‘half’—that was wrong”—was mealy mouthed; did she really mean “all”?

            But the real point (and what is “sooo bad” about Hillary) is that she would have said anything her advisers and focus groups told her to say. The woman (not unlike her hubby)has no core, not a single conviction of her own, and will say what she thinks at the time will get her where she wants to go. Enough voters recognized this quality in her and, happily, rejected it. And that’s about the only good thing you’ll ever hear me say about Trump–he rid us of Hillary!

            • tomh
              Posted October 3, 2017 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

              “The woman (not unlike her hubby)has no core, not a single conviction of her own, and will say what she thinks at the time will get her where she wants to go.”

              Bullshit.

              • mirandaga
                Posted October 3, 2017 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

                You’re right. I shouldn’t have said “she will say what she thinks”–that was wrong. She’ll say what her advisors and focus groups think she should say.

            • josh
              Posted October 4, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

              Klan sympathizers would be among the xenophobic. You may recall that Trump couldn’t bring himself to outright reject David Duke! And as the contemporaneous quote I posted shows, Hillary was not ignoring the “disenfranchised” Trump supporter. You seem to be angry at a fictional version of Hillary, constructed out of right-wing propaganda.

              I didn’t find her an especially inspiring candidate, but her positions were pretty clear and conscionable. She’s been a consistent centrist democrat for her career. The idea that she doesn’t have deeply held convictions compared to Donald Trump is simply fatuous. Trump is the definition of a vacuous liar who will say anything he thinks people want to hear. I’m still trying to figure out what terrible Clinton trespasses we needed to be saved from. Another Presidency similar to Obama’s? That would be worse than the most corrupt, embarrassing, vicious, petty, incompetent, compromised administration in modern memory?

              • mirandaga
                Posted October 5, 2017 at 11:25 am | Permalink

                “Another Presidency similar to Obama’s? That would be worse. . . .”

                Absolutely. And I say this as someone who voted for Obama. But after 8 years of No-Drama, the ship of state was adrift with no one at the helm, and someone needed to rock the boat. Personally, I would have greatly preferred Bernie over Trump for that task. But Trump over Hillary? Absolutely.

  11. Jackbethimble
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    If you like quillette maybe refrain from reproducing such large portions of their articles on your own site? Maybe better to direct traffic there rather than giving the impression that all people need to read is already here.

    • GBJames
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps you missed this sentence…

      “I’ll summarize them briefly, but this is no substitute for reading the original piece.

      • Posted October 1, 2017 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

        We are all guilty at times of cognitive slippage.
        I found this 2 comment exchange extraordinary funny, don’t ask me why. I suspect it has something to do with the priming of this post.
        I also subscribe to quillette but the point is, WEIT can and does act as a signpost to a wider view. Some need, some don’t and over time for others, needs’ less.

    • Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      I’m willing to bet that the number of people reading Quillete will only have been boosted by PCC-E highlighting an article (it certainly was when he posted about one of my blog articles! 🙂 ).

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

        Same here. I always get more traffic when Jerry mentions a post.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted October 1, 2017 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

          In fact, I get more the more he talks about it. Just a mention creates a rise, but not a big one. Discussing a post can see readership up multiple times.

          Whatever increase I get, I am extremely grateful for, especially when it leads to new subscribers.

  12. Randy schenck
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    I find little to be wrong with the conclusions of his study. It is a Psychologist’s perspective on the rationality or lack thereof for democrats and republicans. Maybe it helps some on the left to open the mind a bit and not see things in so much black and white. Also, the political analyst have field days with this type of thing.

    The bad part is this to me. We are bogged down in all these social issues that really do not matter, except maybe global warming. The important facts that get no hearing and very little written about is the big problems with this country. The ones driving everything else into the ditch. That would be the system itself and the fault within it. Money has taken over and buries all these issues. We are to the point where voting hardly matters and who is elected seems to make little difference. Nothing get done. So we can review the rationalities of the voters until hell freezes and what do we accomplish?

    We do not want to accept that removing money from our political system is either possible or will solve any problems. But I say unless we do take this seriously and accomplish this, we are doomed.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

      I agree.

      I think one of the main things that got people to vote for Trump on the right was the nomination of a Supreme Court Justice. Keeping SCOTUS conservative, and hopefully getting it more conservative, is the #1 gain of many Republicans.

      And, they were right, and successful. Gorsuch is the most conservative justice on the SC, and more could come before four years is up.

      They look forward to things like overturning Roe vs Wade and repealing marriage equality because they think that would be better for the country and is what their god wants.

      • DiscoveredJoys
        Posted October 2, 2017 at 4:04 am | Permalink

        Perhaps ‘they’ think that the ‘progressives’ have pushed too far without consolidating gains within the general population? Perhaps Clinton offering ‘yet more of the same’ was not an attractive position.

        See also: http://quillette.com/2017/10/02/jung-trumpian-shadow/

  13. Mark R.
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    I appreciated the article, but I’ve never really thought Trump voters were irrational; if anything, I’d question their morality for voting for a self-proclaimed pussy-grabber. I think most republicans voted republican because they’re republican, simple as that. Many thought he’d bring back their jobs; perhaps irrational if you’re a coal miner, or don’t understand the big picture of automation and the like, but if you believed what he said, then that’s a rational choice. My parents voted for Trump because they’re wealthy republicans and want to keep more of their wealth. I don’t agree with this, I’d be happy to have my taxes raised for the common good, but I don’t blame someone for wanting to keep more money.

    I also think the author creates a false equivalency between denying climate change and denying the safety of GMOs, or women income inequality or any of the other “left biases” he lists. Denying climate change can lead to the destruction of life on earth as we know it; there is nothing the author lists as a “left denial” that even comes close to the severity of denying climate change.

    • Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

      Agreed on the climate change. That the gender wage gap is caused primarily by factors of than sex discrimination has been thoroughly proven, yet every Dem leader — including obama, Hillary, Bernie — repeated the falsehood that ‘women earn 77% of what men make for the same work‘. Same with the ‘1-in-5’ campus rape meme.

    • GM
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

      I’d question their morality for voting for a self-proclaimed pussy-grabber.

      I think it’s time to coin a new term — the “imbecile left”

      Because only those belonging to that fraction would find pussy-grabbing to be a more important issue than foreign and economic policy. Which is what rational people actually voted for.

      I also think the author creates a false equivalency between denying climate change and denying the safety of GMOs, or women income inequality or any of the other “left biases” he lists.

      Actually it is a very valid equivalency. It just happens by chance that the issues that the right is denial about are of more severe importance. But the general point is that neither the right nor the left are driven in their behavior by scientific rationalism. Which is 100% true — the primary reason most people on the “left” nominally believe in climate change is not that they adhere to scientific rationalism in their thinking, it is pure tribalism, plain and simple. Which is exactly the same force driving denialism on the right. In that sense they are indeed equivalent.

      Denying climate change can lead to the destruction of life on earth as we know it; there is nothing the author lists as a “left denial” that even comes close to the severity of denying climate change.

      Newsflash: the “left” is in complete denial about climate change too. You are probably in denial about it too given the vacuity of your post.

      The right’s behavior falls in two categories:

      1. Outright denial that there is a problem with climate change

      2. A more honest admission that even if there was such a problem, socioeconomic ideology trumps such considerations so it has to be ignored. Because actually doing something about climate change would require a complete dismantling of both capitalism and democracy, and that is unacceptable.

      Now what happens on the left?

      There is an acknowledgement that the problem is real.

      However, the level of denial regarding what needs to be done to solve it there is on pretty much the same footing as the denial on the right regarding the existence of the problem.

      The term “imbecile left” applies here too and describes very well everyone who thinks we can carry on business as usual, we’ll just switch to renewables and “green tech”. No, that is impossible — those things do not scale, and even if they did, nothing can ever scale up to satisfy the demands of a socioeconomic system that is predicated for its existence on infinite growth in a finite system.

      Do you see anyone on the mainstream “left” acknowledging that? No. It’s growth forever there too, only it will be “green growth”.

      But that is complete denial of the most fundamental scientific facts about the world around us.

      And not just those. Trump pulled out of the Paris agreement. So what? The Paris agreement was an agreement to do nothing that completely ignored what the science said needs to be done…

      In terms of denying objective reality the difference between “green growth forever” and “fossil fuel-power growth forever” is irrelevant.

      • Mark R.
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

        You’re rude…you should read Da Roolz.

        • GM
          Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

          So once again we are focusing on superficial appearances than on substance?

          • Mark R.
            Posted October 1, 2017 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

            No. I don’t see much substance, just fatalism. Also, you assume to have all the answers and demean those who you disagree with which is really annoying. I also wrote with general statements, you acted like I was an expert hired by some think-tank, and you were paid to pick apart my expert findings. From past posts, I know what your opinion of women is, so no surprise that pussy-grabbing means nothing to you.

      • KD33
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

        I have to say that your post is a great example of why it’s so hard to engage with the right. E.g., “Because actually doing something about climate change would require a complete dismantling of both capitalism and democracy, and that is unacceptable.” This is just bonkers, i.e., making factually incorrect statements and framing them as though they are laws of physics. And most every other statement is also a non-starter. I have not idea how to make progress in such a discussion. This reality, and how widespread this sort of thinking is, is really why I have become so discouraged.

        • GM
          Posted October 1, 2017 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

          Wait, did you assume that I am on the right? I was just describing how they think. I fully agree with you that this is bonkers

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, I thought the section on liberal science denialism, particular as it relates to the wage gap, was the one spot whether the author got a bit weaselly. Stanovich writes:

      “… progressives are very reluctant to accept the consensus view that when proper controls for occupational choice and work history are made, women do not make more than 20 per cent less than men for doing the same work.”

      If I’m reading that confusing “more” and “less” sentence correctly, he’s accusing liberals of economic-science denialism because their 77% number overstates the gap to be 23%, rather than the accurate 20% figure.

      • Posted October 1, 2017 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

        20% is not accurate either. When proper controls are used it turns out that there is no wage gap: https://youtu.be/QcDrE5YvqTs

        • KD33
          Posted October 1, 2017 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

          This is not a universally accepted conclusion by any means.

          • GM
            Posted October 1, 2017 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

            And 80% or so of Americans reject the theory of evolution.

            So what is your point exactly?

      • Harrison
        Posted October 2, 2017 at 4:32 am | Permalink

        That’s not what it says at all. I don’t know how you could read it in such a way.

        But for the sake of clarity, let’s rewrite the last clause as “men do not make in excess of 20 percent more money than women for doing the same work.”

    • Posted October 1, 2017 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

      Who is more irrational, someone with an erroneous but logically consistent belief there is no climate change so we don’t have to do anything about it, or someone who believes in climate change but rejects investing in nuclear energy as an alternative?

  14. Posted October 1, 2017 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    I would have thought irresponsible would be the better word for Trump voters. Take a risk with your own lives and trash your own sovereignty if you wish, but don’t risk other populations.

    Watching him slavering at the mouth for nuking North Korea makes me sick. And don’t anyone tell me he’s just doing it for tactical reasons. It was already before the election that he wanted to nuke someone.

    • Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

      My sense is that a lot of trump voters were fed up with the status quo, and voted for him as an act of sabotage. His instability & unfitness for high office was, in fact, a selling point.

      • Posted October 1, 2017 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

        Yes, but what kind of person equates risking nuclear war with throwing a spanner in the works. A nation has lost any right to being a nuclear power if it is willing to risk this. If the US did already have nukes there is no way anyone outside it would agree to granting then the right to becoming nuclear. People within the US don’t seem to realize how clear this is to everyone else.

        • Posted October 1, 2017 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

          Dammit — typo. “if the US did *NOT* already have nukes”

    • GM
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

      We’ll live and see.

      A US president belonging to one of the two parties has already killed several hundred thousand people with nukes, so it will not be a new experience, but perhaps it’s time for the other party to have its name on the scoreboard too.

      • Randy schenck
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

        Doing a superb job on that false equivalency. Maybe it is just irrational reasoning but it makes no sense. You think that Trump, who just might get us into a Nuclear exchange with N. Korea is okay because Truman did it years ago attempting to end WWII. That is reaching far down in the garbage can to make what? Maybe it was just sarcasm.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

        “… perhaps it’s time for the other party to have its name on the scoreboard too [by killing] several hundred thousand people with nukes”

        Gotta hand it to you, GM, in a history of posting outré comments on this site (and you’ve put up some real doozies, like this one advocating that the killing of severely handicapped children and seniors be made mandatory), this one may be the outré-est of them all.

        • GM
          Posted October 1, 2017 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

          You take what I said as support for nuking NK? Seriously?

          • Randy schenck
            Posted October 1, 2017 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

            Yes and seriously, if you want us to think something else, you better say something else.

        • GM
          Posted October 1, 2017 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

          P.S. I am glad people are bookmarking my comments — that means they’re having impact

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted October 1, 2017 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

            No, I don’t think you were serious, merely cavalier.

            And I a bookmarked that comment because it’s worth its weight in sawdust.

  15. Mike Anderson
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    From the cited article:

    In fact, it is not difficult at all to find scientific issues on which it is liberal Democrats who fail to accept the scientific consensus.

    I smell a false equivalence here. For instance, I know many liberals that have a visceral distrust of Charles Murray’s work, but is this on the same level of climate science denial that is institutionalized on the right? (Answer: of course not, it doesn’t have the financing.) If Bell Curve denial had a significant negative impact on policy, I’d be much more active in combating it.

    And this:

    Progressives tend to deny the consensus view that genetically modified organisms are safe to consume.

    Is there good evidence for this (I haven’t read ‘Science Left Behind’ so don’t know how well the claim is supported)? Most of the liberals I know (self included) want GMO’s to be labelled because we want the choice to avoid heavy herbicide based agriculture and things in that vein.

    We all know there is irrationality and empirical struggles on “both sides”, but are they really comparable?

    • Posted October 1, 2017 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

      The difference between IQ and climate denial is that I could deny the shit out of climate change and I wouldn’t lose my job. If I defended Murray at a staff meeting I probably would.

      • Mike Anderson
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

        Exxon has a better lobby than Murray.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

        I can think of at least one other difference — but that one merely concerns the fate of the planet.

    • Kyle B.
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

      I have read the book “Science Left Behind”. I wasn’t very impressed if it was trying to show equivalence of the left and right being anti-science.

      Certainly, there are wacky left-leaning views, but whenever I knew more about the issue, I felt the book presented the issue very uncharitably.

      As an example, the treatment of Peter Singer’s views in the book was terrible in my opinion. They always read everything he said in the worst possible light.

      As an example, they talk about Singer advocating that animal’s ability to feel pain should make us ponder how we treat them:

      They quote Singer [I shortened the quote a bit] “What I’m really concerned with is the capacity to suffer… in the end I’m not as concerned about insects as I am about vertebrates who I am sure can suffer”.

      The book then states [location 2105 of 6137]
      “Singer probably doesn’t care about parasitic worms. But isn’t that a form of speciesism? He believes vertebrates are worthy of his tender love and care, but not other animals. Singer is engaging in the typical hypocrisy that hallmarks the animal rights movement.”

      It’s not that you can’t argue about these things, but I felt like the book didn’t take on Singer’s arguments very fairly.

  16. Merilee
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Sub

  17. KD33
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    I have not read the article yet, but I am extremely skeptical. Just a few of the red flags that went up for me: the claim that liberals are as prone to righties to conspiracy theories, and that ideas about healthcare/the ACA come down to preferences. Just to latch onto the latter, those that will stop at nothing to repeal the ACA often cite the mandate as government intrusion, yet when probed have no idea even how insurance works (let alone that ACA and Obamacare are the same thing), and why a mandate is needed in any cost-effective, stable, insurance-driven (vs. single payer) structure. For conspiracy theories, I’m sorry, on the right we’ve got climate change (“just a bunch of group think”), that Hilary Clinton killed people (Ok, that’s pretty deep down in the Alt-right), that using personal email is high treason (now employed by a half dozen Trump appointees), and all the other interesting crap in the right wing echo chamber – come on, where are the balancing viewpoints on the left?

    This really smells like an elaborate intellectual attempt to establish a grand false equivalence.

    Finally, I can’t get past my personal experience talking to (admittedly few) Trump voters. The overriding sentiment came down to hating Obama, getting back at those uppity Dems, and showing it to the Washington elites. Any engagement on issues of substance was essentially impossible.

    But, I will take the time to read the article and see if my view changes.

    • Mike Anderson
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      This really smells like an elaborate intellectual attempt to establish a grand false equivalence.

      Bingo!

    • Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

      But, I will take the time to read the article and see if my view changes.

      Just a suggestion but maybe you should have done that before saying it smells like an elaborate intellectual attempt to establish a grand false equivalence.

      • KD33
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

        Umm, PCC provided a pretty extensive overview of the article. I think it’s valid to comment in that framework, as probably more than half the commenters hear are doing. Also, won’t it more interesting to see if my opinion changes after having read it? (Please note that this a direct response to his suggestion.)

  18. Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    To me, the irrationality of the Trump voter is here: Trump looks to be psychology unstable and he has the nuclear codes.

    I don’t think it is irrational for someone to vote for someone who holds Trump’s positions. But there is a “fitness for office” criterion and thinking that Trump fits that IS irrational, IMHO.

  19. Mike Anderson
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    I consider ignorance and gullibility to be Trump voters’ significant flaw, not irrationality. Arguing that they’re not more irrational than others is a strawman.

    • Sakebomb
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

      Exactly, believing he would bring back coal jobs, that he had a better plan for dealing with isis than the generals, that he could easily fix health care, providing better care for cheaper etc., etc… These were dumb things to believe, but if you stupidly did believe them, it would be rational to vote for him.

      • Mike Anderson
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

        There’s a good reason Donald loves the poorly educated. Most educated people realize you can’t bring back the coal industry, you can’t significantly restore manufacturing, a wall is a practical impossibility, etc.

  20. Historian
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Asking whether Trump voters (particularly the white working-clas) were irrational is asking the wrong question. The question is whether they voted for a person (Trump) who seemed to echo their concerns and was this perception correct. I refer you to a massive study undertaken by PRRI, entitled “Beyond Economics: Fears of Cultural Displacement Pushed the White Working Class to Trump.”

    The main findings are these:

    ——————————
    Perhaps the most contested question from the 2016 presidential election is what factors motivated white working-class voters to support Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton by a margin of roughly two to one. New analysis by PRRI and The Atlantic, based on surveys conducted before and after the 2016 election, developed a model to test a variety of potential factors influencing support for Trump among white working-class voters. The model identifies five significant independent predictors of support for Trump among white working-class voters. No other factors were significant at conventional levels.

    Overall, the model demonstrates that besides partisanship, fears about immigrants and cultural displacement were more powerful factors than economic concerns in predicting support for Trump among white working-class voters. Moreover, the effects of economic concerns were complex—with economic fatalism predicting support for Trump, but economic hardship predicting support for Clinton.

    1. Identification with the Republican Party. Identifying as Republican, not surprisingly, was strongly predictive of Trump support. White working-class voters who identified as Republican were 11 times more likely to support Trump than those who did not identify as Republican. No other demographic attribute was significant.

    2. Fears about cultural displacement. White working-class voters who say they often feel like a stranger in their own land and who believe the U.S. needs protecting against foreign influence were 3.5 times more likely to favor Trump than those who did not share these concerns.

    3. Support for deporting immigrants living in the country illegally. White working-class voters who favored deporting immigrants living in the country illegally were 3.3 times more likely to express a preference for Trump than those who did not.

    4. Economic fatalism. White working-class voters who said that college education is a gamble were almost twice as likely to express a preference for Trump as those who said it was an important investment in the future.

    5. Economic hardship. Notably, while only marginally significant at conventional levels (P<0.1), being in fair or poor financial shape actually predicted support for Hillary Clinton among white working-class Americans, rather than support for Donald Trump. Those who reported being in fair or poor financial shape were 1.7 times more likely to support Clinton, compared to those who were in better financial shape.
    ————————

    The second point, fears about cultural displacement is most important in determining whether white working-class voters were irrational. Many studies have revealed that this category of Trump voters fear change – particularly demographics and the growing secularism of the country. They believed and continue to believe the impossible, namely that Trump can return the country to the 1950s where whites, particularly of the Christian kind, held cultural hegemony. I do not care if you label this type of misunderstanding of the country and Trump as irrational or not, but it is totally divorced from reality. Whether or not the Left succumbs to some forms of irrationality is irrelevant to understanding Trump’s victory.

    https://www.prri.org/research/white-working-class-attitudes-economy-trade-immigration-election-donald-trump/

    • Posted October 1, 2017 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

      I agree that the question is wrong. Neither the left’s beef with the right, nor the right’s beef with the left, is specifically that the other is irrational. Tax cuts and loopholes for the very wealthy aren’t irrational, but they are eminently criticizeable. I think most criticism the left makes of the right is moral in nature, and doesn’t really have much to do with whether they’re being rational or not.

      • Posted October 1, 2017 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

        Brian Caplan has an interesting theory on the difference between the left and the right in the US (http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2015/10/my_simplistic_t.html). It is, as he himself admits, simplistic, but it does explain a lot of observations:

        1. Leftists are anti-market. On an emotional level, they’re critical of market outcomes. No matter how good market outcomes are, they can’t bear to say, “Markets have done a great job, who could ask for more?”

        2. Rightists are anti-leftist. On an emotional level, they’re critical of leftists. No matter how much they agree with leftists on an issue, they can’t bear to say, “The left is totally right, it would be churlish to criticize them.”

  21. coldthinker
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Fine, there are democratic voters, who have irrational beliefs. In what sense does it make Trump voters not irrational? Is the dysfunctional two party system so ingrained in the North American thinking, that it’s impossible for Stanovich to understand that both US parties and their supporters can be wrong at same time?

    With all pre-election evidence pointing to the contrary, voting for Trump with the expectation that he’s good for the average American is irrational, however much a professor of psychology wants to turn it around just to make waves by writing something unexpected.

    Sometimes humanities are the art of irritatingly obfuscating clear things. The simple truth is that of course, the vast majority of Trump voters weren’t irrational, since they didn’t vote for him with the expectation of making America, much less the world a better place. Most people are immensely selfish, and they vote to promote their self-interest. They voted Trump to knowingly promote the status, privilege and supremacy of straight white Americans to the detriment of other people and other nations. Of course their choice was not irrational. But it was unfair, selfish and downright evil.

    • Historian
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

      “Most people are immensely selfish, and they vote to promote their self-interest. They voted Trump to knowingly promote the status, privilege and supremacy of straight white Americans to the detriment of other people and other nations.”

      I agree essentially with this, although the definition of self-interest can have different nuances. For example, many people will vote for politicians who will raise their taxes. In this instance, they are not voting for satisfaction of their immediate self interest. But, they may be thinking that raising revenue is necessary to create a fairer, therefore more stable, society, which is in their long-term self-interest.

      Trump voters certainly voted for him to promote their immediate self-interest. Traditional Republicans voted for him because he supported Republican policies that have been around for decades, such as lowering taxes. For the Trump working-class voters, fear of cultural change was a prime motivator, i.e, white Christian dominance. See my comment #20.

    • Jeff Rankin
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

      “They voted Trump to knowingly promote the status, privilege and supremacy of straight white Americans to the detriment of other people and other nations. Of course their choice was not irrational. But it was unfair, selfish and downright evil.”

      I can’t come up with a better illustration of the the left’s self-destruction than this statement.

      Republicans thank their lucky stars for people who think like this.

      • GM
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

        From a “cold thinker”, no less…

      • tomh
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

        Apparently, honesty is self-destructive. Lies like Trump tells them are what wins elections.

        • Jeff Rankin
          Posted October 1, 2017 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

          I don’t doubt the commenters honesty. That’s the problem. Get it?

      • Posted October 1, 2017 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

        Do you deny that many right-wing positions are driven by xenophobia? The wall, the travel bans, the fight against marriage equality, AllLivesMatter, etc?

        • Jeff Rankin
          Posted October 2, 2017 at 7:02 am | Permalink

          No.

      • Travis
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

        Makes it impossible for me to like any modern political party. I’m center left like probably most of the people who post here and this type of rhetoric is just so divisive unfair.

        • Jeff Rankin
          Posted October 2, 2017 at 7:02 am | Permalink

          Exactly, me too.

  22. Jeff Rankin
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    The most embarrassing comments section since the Tim Hunt article.

    Yes, keep telling yourselves Trump voters are ignorant, crazy – whatever other insults you can think of.

    This attitude, this lack of imagination, this lack of introspection, is just one of the many problems troubling the left. And a contributor to Trump’s likely second term.

    • KD33
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

      Embarrassing, but not for the reasons you claim! And those aren’t insults – those are cool, calculated assessments, with oodles of introspection!

    • Posted October 1, 2017 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

      Telling someone you think they’re wrong or ignorant is not an insult.

  23. Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Just want to comment briefly on an issue many commenters are bringing up: is it a false equivalence to claim/imply that both sides of the political spectrum are equally bad at accepting scientific fact/consensus?

    It’s a complicated claim that is confounded by many other factors (age is a big one). From the data I’ve seen though, conservatives are worse on average at accepting scientific consensus. For example, few liberals deny climate change and many liberals dislike GMOs. But many conservatives both deny climate change *and* dislike GMOs.

    There is a lot of survey data available on these items. I have some slides summarizing some of these data (prepared for a SciCom class I teach), in case anyone is interested. The most relevant slides are in the first half: https://github.ubc.ca/ekroc/Lecture-Notes/blob/master/Misconceptions-Tuesday.pdf

    • Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, that was a restricted link I shared above. This one should be accessible:

      https://github.com/ekroc/Lecture-Notes/blob/master/Misconceptions-Tuesday.pdf

    • KD33
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

      Generally agreed. I’d note that while there are cabals on the left who hate GMO’s, are antivaxers, etc., these people are not in power, and would not be in power in a Dem government. Meanwhile, the righties’ scientific denialism, as embodied by those *in control of our government* threatens the earth, our economy, and our health (climate change), is a constant threat against scientific education (e.g., evolution), and supresses research into areas crucial to public safety and justice (e.g., CDC can’t research gun violence, the war on women’s health, etc.)

  24. peepuk
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    I remember some older research about a contradiction in the believes of republicans who are skeptical about the scientific consensus about climate change, and liberals who are skeptical about the scientific consensus about the relative safety of nuclear energy compared to other energy-sources.

    If true this would suggest that liberals like republicans prefer science that confirms their bias and the importance of rationality may be overrated.

  25. sensorrhea
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    His voters are irrational on the deepest possible level: that of self-preservation. Their belief that Trump is remotely qualified, morally or practically, to be president is utterly irrational. His election will hurt the United States and possibly the planet in ways we may never fully recover from.

    • GM
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      He is over 35, has been resident for 14 years, and is native born. All qualifications specified in the Constitution are met.

      • Posted October 1, 2017 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

        Wow, great point!

        I suppose a TBI patient who’s currently a vegetable would make a fine president, provided he was at least 35, native born, and been resident for 14 years.

      • sensorrhea
        Posted October 2, 2017 at 8:39 am | Permalink

        That’s argumentative. Those obviously aren’t the qualifications I’m talking about.

    • Jeff Rankin
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      “His election will hurt the United States and possibly the planet in ways we may never fully recover from.”

      Thanks, this line actually made me chuckle.

      • sensorrhea
        Posted October 2, 2017 at 8:40 am | Permalink

        Why, because I phrased it in future tense as if he hasn’t already ruined so much, starting with our reputation?

        • Jeff Rankin
          Posted October 2, 2017 at 8:57 am | Permalink

          No, it’s the hysterical overreaction and the over the top, sky is falling language.

  26. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    Good article — and a nice exercise in working one’s way through cognitive dissonance (or at least it was for a Lefty like me 🙂 )

  27. Sastra
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    A thought-provoking article, and one I might be biased towards accepting (which gives me pause.) Many of my friends who self-define as “liberal” seem to me to hold opinions which are flip sides to the conservative views they disparage. “How could Trump supporters deny climate change?” — ask those who think the mainstream medical establishment is deliberately making people sick.

    But rational-vs-irrational has always seemed a dangerous call. In regard to what goal? It might be easier to say that someone is “wrong” about a particular fact. And when they start from there, the decisions make sense. So, go back to the factual dispute.

    That was one particular part of the essay which bothered me. I don’t think we should be so quick to suggest that the political issues now come down to values, as opposed to facts. One factor in the election not mentioned was the critical role of the Religious Right and evangelical voters. If they came to the conclusion that God either didn’t exist, or was irrelevant, would their value-votes be the same?

    If one side argues on secular ground, and the other stands in God’s Kingdom, they might both be mistaken in their conclusions. They might both be rational, or irrational. But it seems to me it’s not going to be a similar type of decision, and a similar kind of irrationality.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      That last bit really bends the mind. Being atheistic cannot seem irrational unless the believers come up with one piece of evidence to support their irrational belief.

      • Sastra
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

        I wasn’t trying to contrast a religious argument with an argument for atheism per se, but just an ordinary debate held on secular ground. There’s a way to arbitrate that last one — at least in theory.

        But I think it’s mistaken to say that there’s no evidence for theism. There’s lots of evidence. It’s just that theism isn’t the best explanation to tie it all together.

  28. Brygida Berse
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    And even if Trump fails to enact the legislation that got many to vote for him (building the Big Wall, dismantling Obamacare, and so on), that doesn’t mean that people who voted for him were irrational; it means that we value different things.

    People don’t support the wall because they like walls, but because they hope it will increase their prosperity. Likewise, they support Obamacare repeal because they think it will improve or lower the cost of their healthcare. The measure of rationality of those voters’ strategy would be not the wall or the repeal, but whether they would be better off when those measures are implemented. Hopefully we will not have the opportunity to examine this empirically, but I think there is evidence to the contrary.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

      Not many folks clamoring for Obamacare repeal these days — not since they got a peek at the Republican alternatives. And quite a tiny peek it was, since Yertle the Majority Leader had those plans drafted under wraps, and expected GOP senators to toe the line in the blind.

  29. eric
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    Although you can say that Stanovich is simply a conservative going after Leftists, it’s not that simple. You have to dismiss his facts, not his ideology. In fact, I’m not at all sure what Stanovich’s political leanings are; his article is good because it deals with hard arguments that you can’t dismiss with ad hominem remarks.

    I think there’s a much more profound difference about how liberals and conservatives treat science, that shows that liberals are the pro-science party and conservatives are the anti-science party…and my point also shows that the newish alt-left is anti-science in the same way conservatives are.

    It’s about what you do to the researchers when research disagrees with you. The GOP shut down the OTA. The GOP went after climate scientists at UVA and other places and tried to get them fired. The GOP tries to reduce the science budge for any subject they don’t like, or (in the case of stem cell research) legislatively forbid it from occurring. Their reaction to science they don’t like, IOW, is to try and forbid it and censor it. Mainstream liberals don’t do that; they may (not always but I’m going to use his examples) argue against the heritability of intelligence, or GMO, or other subjects. But they don’t defund it. They don’t try and get the people who do that work fired.

    So, both sides have scientific conclusions they don’t accept. But one side responds by attacking and undermining the very use of science. The other responds by saying “we think that conclusion is wrong…keep working on it.” That’s a huge difference, IMO.

    Now we have the far left attempting the same censorship; they want to stop research on/prevent any discussion of hypotheses they disagree with. And that makes them politically left people who use the same strategies as the GOP. But I”m not defending them; I think their attitude is wrong too.

  30. kelskye
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    “[T]hat doesn’t mean that people who voted for him were irrational; it means that we value different things.”
    The counter to this is those values themselves are irrational, and people are not very receptive to the idea they may be wrong morally-speaking. Or so I’ve found when I try to say that those who vote No on SSM may be doing so because it’s rational to them. Not rational to me, but I hold very different values.

    • Posted October 2, 2017 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

      The usual rational choice idea that goals are neither rational nor irrational is silly, and in my view is a sufficiently false idealization to ignore the enterprise. Luce and Raiffa seemed to have realized this and encouraged its improvement, but they were ignored as far as I can tell.

  31. Posted October 1, 2017 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    I believe the greatest service an essay like this does is to clarify and define what is meant with rationality, and that there are several such meanings. But I cannot find myself able to agree with its conclusions.

    Instrumental rationality: I agree that if a voter values, for example, reducing immigration higher than keeping their own healthcare then they would be rational to vote for a politician who will reduce immigration and take healthcare away from that voter. But that is cherry-picking the Trump voters. What about all those people who we read about, all those who were interviewed and said, I really need healthcare, but I don’t like Hillary, so I will vote for the party that has promised to take healthcare away from me; I am sure they don’t mean it? Or, I want lower taxes on middle-class people like myself and higher taxes on the rich, so I will vote for the party that is well known for doing the opposite? Surely that is instrumental irrationality?

    Epistemic rationality: I could pick apart lots of the cases that Stanovich mentions. Just as an example, “when proper controls for occupational choice and work history are made, women do not make more than 20 per cent less than men for doing the same work” is a bizarre statement to make without considering that (a) occupational choice may be influenced by sexism experienced from childhood on, (b) work history is *clearly* influenced by which sex gets pregnant and prevailing notions about which gender should stay home and not work when there are young children in the household, and (c) 20% seems like a whopper. (What’s next; you are in denial about the fact that I only stole $280 from you instead of $300, so you are as irrational as somebody who claims no theft has occurred?)

    But that is not even the point. The whole argumentation about what gender feminists or vaccine denialists do or don’t collapses once one asks whether epistemically irrational views are equally widespread and, most importantly, equally influential in the party leadership of the right and the left.

    In addition I would argue that certain topics are highly relevant to politics and others are not. As important as evolution is to me as a biologist, it is fairly irrelevant to the core business of running a country. What matters first and foremost are a political movement’s views on economic theory (e.g. will lowering taxes pay for itself in economic growth or blow up the deficit? Will cutting public expenses in an economic crisis deepen that crisis or not?), criminal law (e.g. will locking up everybody who owns a minor amount of weed lead reduce or exacerbate social problems?) and foreign policy (e.g. will bombing another country to rubble make its inhabitants love me or make them more likely to support terrorism against me?).

    I will leave it to the reader to decide whether the right or the left has a more rational approach to these government-critical issues.

    • KD33
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

      Nice, thoughtful comment. The point about party leadership is key. And, I’ve “decided” (!)

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

      “evolution … is fairly irrelevant to the core business of running a country”

      True enough, but I’ve found the acceptance of evolution to be a reliable guide to one’s receptivity to empirical evidence and logical thought. The denial of evolution requires one to ignore a massive amount of evidence in order to protect one’s irrational a priori commitments, which bodes ill for one’s ability to formulate sound public policy.

      But then, I assume that you, as a biologist, don’t need much convincing on this.

  32. Travis
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    “no bias at all”

    source shows a bias IN FAVOR of women lol.

  33. Posted October 1, 2017 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    If Trump voters’ values are equally as rational and valid as progressive values, how can it be legitimate to criticize them? Or stand in opposition to them politically? How for that matter can it be legitimate to criticize or oppose Nazi values and Islamofascist values, if there is nothing *really* wrong with those values? If all values are equally valid preferences, it would be no more legitimate to criticize anyone else’s values, no matter how cruel or destructive, than to criticize someone who prefers a different flavor of ice cream than you do. Of course I find that unacceptable: I think it’s sometimes legitimate to criticize other people’s values, but I don’t see how that could be so unless people’s values can be wrong/invalid/irrational. (Likewise I think other people can legitimately criticize my values, but only if my values can be mistaken in some way.)

  34. EliHershkovitz
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    Decades ago, an odd thing happened. I found that if I listened to politicians that made me recoil my revulsion began to get tamed. Some of them changed my mind and influenced my thinking.

    I voted for Trump without ever expecting him to win. I went as far as to pre-congratulate my Hillary supporting friends. If I could do it over, I would vote for Trump again — this time with the expectation of him winning. In spite of my vote, I’m still aghast that America has devolved from JFK to Trump in a scant 50 years.

    I am aligned with ~85% of Jerry’s posts (the other 15% is what makes him bristle doesn’t make me bristle). I’ve tried to explain my rationale to friends but find it to be a fruitless endeavor. Reason: entrenched elitism. A friend recently sent me a NYT’s link on Texas. Halfway through the article, my shoulders started to hunch. This was a liberal’s version of Texas. I prefer to read the Texan’s (a Texan’s Texan) version. Some writers, thinkers, and pontificators can’t think outside of the Acela corridor. Fortunately, Jerry can.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

      You want a view of Texas by a real, honest-to-Crockett Texan? None ever did it better than this piece by Ms. Molly Ivins.

      Molly parted ways with The New York Times over an article she did for them concerning a Saturday block party in Oklahoma devoted to the preparation of chickens for the next-day’s Sunday dinner. Called it a “gang-pluck.” 🙂

      • EliHershkovitz
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

        Thank you for the terrific Molly Ivins link, Ken! That was exactly what I was looking for (humor and authenticity).

        “You get names now (in Texas) like Shannon Rodriguez, Hannah Gonzalez, and Tiffany Ruiz…”

        That reminded me of name amalgamations in Miami: Chaim Garcia, Shoshanna Pérez, Christian Cohen and Saul Herschel Jean-Baptiste.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted October 1, 2017 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, I’ve mentioned before that one of my poker buddies here in South Florida is named Fernando O’Brien, one of the many “name amalgamations” to be found in Miami.

  35. Gabrielle
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think Trump voters were being irrational when they believed him when he said he would go after American companies that move manufacturing jobs overseas. He certainly sounded like a tough guy who would stand up for them; people at his rallies ate this declaration up.
    He did make one effort, going after Carrier when they announced early in 2017 that they were moving jobs to Mexico. It appeared at the time that he did save those manufacturing jobs. Except – Carrier just waited a couple of months, then made another announcement that they are moving most of those jobs by the end of 2017
    see here. Trump hasn’t said anything about this; he’s probably lost interest in the whole subject. American companies have already discovered that they can ignore the showman in DC; his bark is worse than his bite, and at this point he has no inclination to take a bite out of these companies, as it were.
    Trump isn’t the savior that he promised to be to people who have lost their manufacturing jobs, or who are worried that their jobs might be next. I wouldn’t call them irrational for believing him, only that they misplaced their trust in believing a showman/TV celebrity in the first place.

  36. Posted October 1, 2017 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    As in the case of many similar occasions, this thread has a few people saying, see, your comment here is just the kind of liberal arrogance that motivated the right-wing voters, or, see, your comment here is just the arrogant dismissal of people that dooms the left.

    Now I am not even an American, so I have no horse in this race except to the degree that equivalent political divides play out across other countries such as my own (although luckily usually not quite as starkly, at least until now). But whenever I see these comments, I would like to ask those who argue like jay or Jeff Rankin:

    First, what would it take for you to accept that a voter is stupid, irrational or racist? If, for example (assuming here a purely hypothetical voter in a purely hypothetical country), “I will vote for the person who will make me poorer and the rich richer because at least he is not an elitist” (here apparently meaning competent) or “I will vote for the person who has promised to take away my health insurance because he will keep the immigrants out” aren’t enough, what exactly is? What does it take?

    Second, once we can conclude that there may be empirical cases where a voter is so stupid etc. that their voting behaviour is self-destructive, why should it be impossible that such a condition may affect, say, 40% of the population?

    Third, once the hypothetical situation might have arisen that large numbers of voters are self-destructively stupid etc., how are we supposed to deal with it if we cannot honestly discuss that state of affairs and call it what it is? Surely we must appreciate that there are two different types of conversation.

    If I had, for example, a deeply homophobic uncle, it would admittedly be unproductive to just shout “bigot!” at him and walk off in a huff; so a politician should not call prospective voters deplorable to their faces. But if I discuss with my spouse how to deal with that uncle when gay friends are under the same roof with him it would be unproductive to deny that he is a homophobe, because that would make it impossible to develop a strategy; so people must have the option of hashing out what motivates the voters of some side, including an idea that when said to their faces would upset them, and even if that idea ultimately turns out to be factually wrong.

    • Jeff Rankin
      Posted October 2, 2017 at 7:30 am | Permalink

      “First, what would it take for you to accept that a voter is stupid, irrational or racist?”

      Evidence that the voter is stupid, irrational, or racist. Voting for a candidate or, as some do, a party does not constitute evidence.

      The remainder of this once again illustrates the problem: “I will vote for the person who will make me poorer and the rich richer because at least he is not an elitist”

      Who actually said this? No one. This is a straw man contrived so you can continue to talk about how evil/stupid/racist/sexist/etc. people who didn’t vote for “your” candidate are.

      • Posted October 2, 2017 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

        I note that you merely restate the labels without providing criteria; and of course a voting decision can be evidence for irrationality, for example if we have the choice between a competent, sane, politically centrist candidate of party A and a bag of rocks nominated by party B, and somebody votes for the bag of rocks merely because they have always voted for B.

        I would still be most interested in your answer to the rest of my comment. If saying out loud that somebody behaves irrationally is elitist arrogance or some such bad behaviour and must therefore be avoided, how do you rationally discuss somebody behaving irrationally?

  37. KD33
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    I’m trying, but no go. I have to say I’m very disappointed this article has gotten such a positive imprimatur here. The Instrumental Rationality section had some nice points, but started off badly with the Kansas discussion (what then *were* the Kansas voters voting for??) Half way through the Epistemic Rationality discussion I have to take a break, pausing at “I will stop here because the point is made. There is plenty of science denial on the Democratic side to balance the anti-scientific attitudes of Republicans toward climate change and evolutionary theory. Neither political party is the party of science, and neither party exclusively contains the science deniers.” The point is far from made. This is just silly, especially based on the examples chosen. Of course there are dumb left wingers who are anti-vexers and have an unwarranted suspicion of GMO’s. But the arguments in this section should be a great case study of how to argue into existence a false equivalence. To reach his conclusion in quotes by comparing climate change denial and evolution to a quantitative argument of *how much* gender inequality exists in wages, STEM hiring, gender differences and other complex sociological issues that are *not central* to our governance or affected much by those in power is just … again …silly.

    So I’m disappointed after all the buildup. Let’s see if the article can redeem itself further on … at the very least, I would read this article with extreme caution.

    The final stake in the heart: “Many of our most contentious political issues hinge on values and culture rather than facts. That may be a good thing. It could be signalling that our society has already handled the easiest issues—those that can be solved by educating everyone to accept the same facts and then implementing the obvious solution that follows from these facts.”

    What this exercise (and the comments here) show me that we are in fact farther than ever from this state. Sigh.

  38. jeffery
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    So far as, “crazy” goes, I prefer to use the word, “unsane” rather than, “insane” in cases not directly caused by recognized mental disorders. I define, “unsane” as, “Not acting upon the evidence given us by reality.” To elect, as President, someone who has been proven to lie repeatedly, who is obviously in bed with big business and banks, who has little respect for the law or the Constitution and expect them to do anything GOOD for this country is definitely a manifestation of this condition. Why DID they vote for him, then? The wealthy voted for him because he’s wealthy (“one of their own”) and promised to increase their wealth (tax cuts); the racists voted for him because, although he was not outspokenly “anti-black”, his opposition to immigration made him a “kindred spirit”; to the Christian right, his seeming friendliness to fundamentalist Congressmen made it look like he might help, or, at the very least, not interfere with their efforts to turn this country into a theocracy; big business saw him as a way to lighten or eliminate the environmental and other regulations that could mean increased profits, etc., etc. Then there’s the percentage of voters who simply thought that a “change”, whatever it was, might improve things for them (a “perceived” gain that often has no basis in reality) as well as those who, after the masterfully-run “demonization” of Hillary Clinton by Faux News, Trump, and the far-right (they’re STILL chanting, “Lock her up!” at rallies), would vote for ANYONE but her (I know many people who set their doubts about Trump aside for exactly this reason).
    One aspect of the election, though, that I was surprised to see barely received any attention was that Hillary’s winning would have been an historic event- our first female President. I strongly suspect that unconscious or thinly-disguised doubt that a mere woman was suited for the job played a part; perhaps a larger one than it is cared to admit….

    • mirandaga
      Posted October 5, 2017 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

      “Hillary’s winning would have been an historic event- our first female President.”

      As my other posts on this thread make obvious, I was in the “ANYONE BUT HILLARY” group. That said, I’m all in favor of having a female in the White House. And hey, with Bill along for the ride we would have LOTS of females in the White House.

  39. Stephen Barnard
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    I have to object strongly to the notion that favoring a more progressive tax code and in general policies that reduce extreme wealth inequality is “irrational” for rich people whose taxes would go up. It’s not irrational. It’s hyper-rational. It’s not bleeding-heart billionaire liberals wanting to give everyone’s money to poor people. It’s smart, reflective, RATIONAL rich people with an appreciation of history and practical economics.

    This line of argument — that any action against one’s narrow, short-term self interest is irrational — is a red herring.

  40. Inigo Montoya
    Posted October 2, 2017 at 3:09 am | Permalink

    The problem with argument #1 is that they don’t intend to vote against their own self-interest. Left-wing voters are (usually) aware that they’re doing so, OTOH.

  41. Bruce Gorton
    Posted October 2, 2017 at 3:35 am | Permalink

    From the POV of the rich a higher tax burden isn’t irrational. What defines a good neighbourhood more often than not is the education, earnings and wellbeing of your neighbours.

    The top 1%, or even really the top 0.1%, have so much money that they simply are incapable of spending it in a way that actually is economically beneficial.

    In other words, even if they were to try and save the world, they simply do not have the infrastructure required to identify what is needed in order to do that, and their ability to furnish demand and thus keep the wheels of capitalism turning is limited by their personal wants and needs.

    The problem with them is not that they are greedy, it is that there is a limit to greed.

    So from the rich’s POV higher taxation just means handing the money over to an organisation with the infrastructure required to achieve the goals they want to see achieved.

    That said, from the POV of the people who voted for Trump – they aren’t irrational either.

    If you look at the electoral map you see that the major votes in favour of Trump came from industrial states whose economic interests were threatened by the TPP.

    The Clinton wing of the Democratic Party is highly interested in painting the issue as being mostly about Hillary Clinton being female, and “Bernie Bros” – but that ignores the fact that the youth vote went overwhelmingly to Clinton, and requires us to believe that the coastal regions are less sexist.

    This falls apart when you consider that the conservative movement, and on balance the red states, were perfectly happy to have Sarah Palin one heartbeat away from the oval office. In other words, even conservatives weren’t particularly against having a female POTUS in principle.

    Further the leftwingers who wanted Bernie Sanders, settled on him because Elizabeth Warren wasn’t running. Even those who voted Green, were voting for Jill Stein.

    The Clinton wing has repeatedly tried to appeal to identity politics, as opposed to identifying the issues of those demographics who went against her.

    For example for an older working person in an industrial state, moving to a knowledge based economy is basically impossible – particularly if companies are able to hire younger, cheaper workers that already have some experience in that set of industries from abroad via H1B visas.

    When you throw in high college tuition fees and the fact that the rank and file Democratic Party repeatedly declared Bernie Sanders, the candidate most vocally in favour of abolishing those fees, as not a real Democrat, well…

    For the white Christian male in those states that fell to Donald Trump, Trump was absolutely the lesser of two evils. As each identity point changed in that the calculation would change, but an argument could still be made.

    Clinton was offering an economy they just point blank couldn’t compete in.

    That Clinton got as close as she did indicates that rather than being deplorables, many Americans are commendable on their opposition to sexism, racism, homophobia and xenophobia. Unfortunately economic issues will win out, even if social justice issues put up a good fight this time around.

    • DiscoveredJoys
      Posted October 2, 2017 at 4:31 am | Permalink

      The Clinton wing has repeatedly tried to appeal to identity politics, as opposed to identifying the issues of those demographics who went against her.

      I think you have identified a key point for many people, many of who chose to vote for imperfect Trump rather than knuckle under to the imposition of further progressive perfection. A progressive perfection that rides like a juggernaut over peoples’ reservations. Shaming, hate speech, no-platforming, promoting imagined ‘victimhood’ as deserving total attention.

      Now this may be an over-reaction, but ‘even more of the same’ is not as attractive *this time around* as ‘something completely different’ (Monty Python link not entirely accidental). Indeed you can argue that world events elsewhere (Brexit, Scottish Independence referendum, French presidential election, German election results, Catalonia Independence referendum) have all contained elements of ‘I’m not going to take it any more!’. Not enough to upset the status quo in all instances but a recurring theme perhaps.

  42. Harrison
    Posted October 2, 2017 at 4:48 am | Permalink

    If you wanted to describe Trump’s popularity in 2016 in terms those on the hard left would understand, it might be this: For the portion of Americans who are moderately well off, Clinton was the slam-dunk choice. All distasteful elements of her policies were secondary to the general belief that she wouldn’t rock the boat too much.

    However, when you’re on the margins of society, when you’re older, poorer, and watching your career and savings dry up, the incentives are completely flipped. A big risk is better than a sure loss. So desperate Rust Belt voters went for Trump because worst case scenario they were screwed anyway.

    The Democratic party of 80 years ago would understand this. The modern one, not so much.

  43. Stephen Barnard
    Posted October 2, 2017 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    I have absolutely zero sympathy or regard for anyone who supports Trump. I’m baffled how anyone can’t tell within minutes of watching the man that he has a defective and dangerous personality. Even the most cursory examination of his career reveals a dishonest, amoral, narcissistic, grasping con man. He lies virtually every time he speaks. If that wasn’t obvious in the campaign (it was), it’s certainly obvious now after months of his disastrous, embarrassingly inept administration. Somehow, we elected the worst person in the country.

  44. Brian Jung
    Posted October 2, 2017 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    There are many problems with these arguments. For one Stanovich conflates Left/Right with Clinton/Trump. The assumption that irrational anti-vaxxers are Democrats and therefore voted for Clinton is just plain wrong:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/donald-trump-supporters-believe-anti-vaxxers-autism-vaccines-president-elect-a7500701.html

    It’s also laughable to say that climate change and evolution are cherry picked from issues in which the right denies science and evidence. See taxes, health care, guns, abortion, same-sex parents . . . etc.

    • Posted October 2, 2017 at 9:54 am | Permalink

      Those other issues are largely argued on morality, not evidence. And I don’t appreciate your calling my statement “laughable.”

      • Brian Jung
        Posted October 2, 2017 at 10:18 am | Permalink

        There’s substantial evidence that cutting taxes on the wealthy does nothing to stimulate the economy.

        There’s substantial evidence that people with health insurance have lower mortality rates.

        There’s substantial evidence that gun control laws prevent deaths(that includes suicides, accidents, homicides and mass shootings).

        There’s substantial evidence that having an abortion results in little or no lasting health or psychological damage.

        Let’s throw in one more: there’s substantial evidence, provided by the federal government’s own numbers but rejected by the White House, that immigration has a net positive effect on the US economy.

        None of these is a moral stance. Just facts. Many on the right reject or ignore them all. And there are many many more.

        I did not mean to offend you. It wasn’t your statement I found laughable, but Stanovich’s claim.

        • Posted October 2, 2017 at 10:23 am | Permalink

          You’ve failed to consider that for at lest some of these, the desiderata of the Right isn’t consonant with yours. Abortion, for instance, is abhorred not because it causes health damage, but because people consider it murder. People don’t want the economy stimulated; they want a bigger paycheck. And someone wants a gun so that they FEEL safe. People oppose some types of immigration not because it’s bad for the economy to restrict immigration, but because they worry about the loss of American culture, or worry that letting in terrorists will make people feel unsafe. This is just the point that he’s making in his article: societal goods can be traded off for emotional goods. I agree with the bulk of your evidence, but I don’t think that you can say that having other priorities is “irrational.”

          • Brian Jung
            Posted October 2, 2017 at 10:37 am | Permalink

            Is believing lies rational?

            The right has used all of the disproven claims above to argue their positions. In some states women have to read pamphlets about the damage abortions will cause them before they can get the procedure.

            In the past Republicans have claimed tax cuts on the wealthy stimulate the economy. (Right now they’re offering the more audacious lie that they’re not cutting taxes for the wealthy.)

            Damage to the economy is a main argument for limiting immigration.

            You may FEEL safe with a gun in the house, but if you’re presented with evidence that you are actually less safe, isn’t irrational to keep the gun?

            If believing lies only because they support some preconceived notion you already hold isn’t irrationality, then what is?

            I get that Stanovich isn’t saying Trump supporters are 100% rational, only that they aren’t more irrational than anyone else. That doesn’t pass the smell test. The fact that there are irrational folks on the left doesn’t mean that the irrationality is evenly spread.

            Try this: spend five minutes watching InfoWars with Alex Jones, a man Trump has repeatedly praised, and tell me with a straight face that the crazy is even on both sides.

            • Bruce Gorton
              Posted October 2, 2017 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

              “Is believing lies rational?”

              It can be. All rationality gives you is a reasonable chance of logically processing data. If you provide false data, well garbage in garbage out.

              In order to say whether believing any given lie is rational requires knowing exactly why somebody may believe the lie.

              Further ignoring disproofs of lies can be rational, when you are faced with a situation where you don’t have a good data set.

              This is why any totalitarian ideology’s propaganda corps works very hard at discrediting sources outside of their own movements.

              Donald Trump declaring things to be “fake news” is one of the clumsier examples of this, but you see it on a smaller and more subtle scale too.

              It is also why any con-artist will immediately start talking about his or her detractors being against his or her class.

              In South Africa right now we have a court case going on where a man allegedly killed his girlfriend. The same man is accused of running a Ponzi scheme.

              One of the videos he made for that scheme claimed that his critics just didn’t want to see a black man succeed, that they were only against him because of racism.

              This meant that any information that came to light against him, was filtered through that lens, that idea of “What is this person’s agenda? Is this person deceiving me to further that agenda?”

              This thus allowed him to accumulate millions of rand, at least until the alleged scheme collapsed and he allegedly murdered his girlfriend.

              The same thing happens in politics – which is part of why Stephen Colbert famously said “The facts have a well known liberal bias”.

              The upshot of this being, if you can discredit all factual sources, you can render rationality moot. In fact it is possible to manipulate data in such a way as to reinforce lies.

              This is why conspiracy theories are dangerous – they’re perfectly rational, yes even Flat Earthers, but that rationality has been turned against them through undermining alternative data sources.

              There is no perfect defence against this. The nature of society is such that we all rely on experts, those experts are generally picked for us by people who aren’t themselves expert. I say this as a journalist, we may have decent breadth of knowledge, but at the end of the day we can fail to vet “experts” too.

              I know a certain rival news company quoted a known AIDS denialist as an “independent researcher”. Such things happen, but everybody has their blind spots.

              If too much error seeps into the news, it becomes trivial to paint that as being not error, but malice. Note that with news media under strain since the advent of the Internet, fact checking has often been defunded.

              Just ask our host about how well the media does with science reporting, and then consider every other field is more or less as good. This is why when reading a news vendor, I look at its science reporting, to see if I can more or less trust the facts brought up in its political reporting.

              We can achieve an incomplete defence, by broadening our knowledge and reading sources, but bias towards trusted sources is a part of rational thought, because we simply do not have the time required to go into great depth on every topic.

              On balance it is reasonable to trust reputable mainstream media, because on balance even when it is wrong it isn’t setting out to deceive, and the people supplying experts aren’t setting out to deceive them, but that still means there are going to be some lies which even you or I believe on the rational basis that we trust the people who told them to us, and we haven’t encountered evidence that they are lying.

              It is important to remember however for those who believe things we know to be lies, because we have been exposed to data that shows them to be such, are no less rational than we are, they are simply stuck in the middle of a bunch of contradictory data, much of which is total hooey, which they got from sources they for one reason or another trust.

  45. Diana MacPherson
    Posted November 12, 2017 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    I started reading this article that speaks to people about their love of Trump. It is very enlightening and I like that it is actually speaking to these people so you see who they really are. It is rather depressing though – reminds me of driving through rough neighbourhoods in Buffalo, NY in the 70s.


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