Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Reason #5552 That Trump Was Elected

A major theme—the major theme?—of Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign for the presidency was his relentless assault on socially-enforced standards of speech and opinion that those on the Right tend to refer to as political correctness and those on the Left tend to refer to as politeness or propriety. And a new paper from the National Bureau of Economics Research suggests that this assault was at least partly successful: By “updating” peoples’ preferences about the popularity of anti-immigration views, Trump’s unexpected victory made people more willing to express anti-immigration views publicly than they were before Election Day.

The authors (Leonardo Bursztyn of the University of Chicago, Georgy Egorov of Northwestern, and Stefano Fiorin of UCLA) summarize their methodology like this: In the run-up to the 2016 election, they offered subjects a dollar “if they authorized the researchers to make a donation to a strongly anti-immigration organization on their behalf.” Some of the participants were told that their donation would be anonymous. Others were told that they researchers might ask them about their decision later. Those who thought their donation would be anonymous were significantly more likely to authorize it than those who thought they might need to discuss it in the future, “suggest(ing) the presence of social stigma associated with the action.” After the election, however, this social stigma disappeared; people were just as likely to authorize a donation to an anti-immigrant group even if they were not assured that the donation would be anonymous.

It’s not that Trump’s election increased anti-immigration sentiment, the authors say—it just made people already inclined toward restrictionism feel less of a need to conceal their preferences.
The signs of preference cascade.  Once people see that a substantial fraction of the public holds a view contrary to that preferred by the dominant media, they become more willing to show it in public, and convince even more people to follow suit:
An example of this is the British colonists before and after publication of Thomas Paine's Common Sense. A year before the Declaration of Independence, America was full of patriotic British convinced that things could be worked out with King George, but on July 4, 1776 the colonies were full of Americans determined that they needed independence. Another is the relatively recent "Arab Spring."
And the fall of communism.

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