Saturday, December 10, 2016

Trump, his supporters, and the persistence of the ‘reality gap’

12/09/16 08:00 AM
By Steve Benen

With Election Day having come and gone, the political world’s obsessive interest in polling has largely dissipated, and for good reason: we no longer need to comb through data in the hopes of figuring out who’s going to win.

But that doesn’t mean survey results are suddenly unimportant. It matters, for example, that Donald Trump’s presidential honeymoon is over before it starts, with a new report from the Pew Research Center showing the Republican headed into Inauguration Day with strikingly weak public support. Similarly, new results from Public Policy Polling, which Rachel noted on the show last night in an exclusive sneak-peak, found a majority of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of the president-elect.

For all the Republican talk about Trump having a “mandate” as a result of his “landslide” victory, the fact remains that Trump, who lost the national popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, is not held in high regard. The Pew data found most of the country still considers him ill-qualified, reckless, hard to like, and lacking in sound judgment.

To think Trump will take the White House with the American mainstream on his side, with the electorate rallying behind his vision and agenda, is plainly ridiculous.

But what struck me as especially notable about the new survey results is the persistence of the so-called “reality gap.”

[Trump supporters believe the opposite of reality on the following points. See article for details.]

* Unemployment: ...

* Stock Market: ...

* Popular Vote: ...

* Voter Fraud: ...

* Soros Conspiracy Theory: ...


To be sure, some of these attitudes may reflect tribal, reactionary instincts. Perhaps some Trump voters know, deep down, that the unemployment rate improved dramatically under President Obama, but they say the opposite solely because of their contempt for him.

This explanation, however, only goes so far. It might explain some of the polling results, but not all. Indeed, as regular readers know, the “reality gap” isn’t even new: for years, many Republicans have told pollsters they believe border security has weakened under Obama (it’s actually strengthened), the deficit has gotten bigger (it’s actually shrunk by a huge margin), and the nation’s uninsured rate has gone up (it’s actually at an all-time low).

Whatever the cause – the conservative media bubble, tribalism, fake news – this reality gap is a frustrating drag on the discourse. If those engaged in a public debate have no shared reality, then there’s no common foundation to build upon, and even less to talk about.

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