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The Most Biased Poll Ever - Dilbert Blog

The Most Biased Poll Ever

Note: Yes, I know a Twitter survey with a non-random sample has no scientific validity. And yes, I know my followers are not representative of the public. And yes, I know the survey question leads the witness.

Still, I found this interesting from a persuasion perspective:

The takeaway is that some substantial percentage of the public (but nowhere near 84%) agrees with the notion that Clinton is a bigot against white American men.

Note: Yes, I know white American men have had lots of advantages throughout history. Yes, I know white American men have advantages today. (But mostly the men that have money, such as myself. The poor ones are screwed, same as other poor people.)

For our purposes today, I have no interest in litigating which demographic group is the bigger victim in society. That’s a different conversation. What matters to the election results is that a substantial number of white American men feel that Clinton is a bigot against them.

Again, the reality doesn’t matter. I’m only discussing perceptions here. And according to the public’s perceptions, our next president will either be a despicable bigot or … a despicable bigot.

As far as I can tell, both Clinton and Trump are about as racist as the average American. And by that I mean all of our brains are pattern-recognition detectors. 

Bad ones. Very, very bad ones.

We see patterns where they exist, and also where they do not. And we make decisions based on those real and phantom patterns. Humans don’t have the option of being unbiased. We didn’t evolve that way. 

We do, however, have social conditioning and just enough rational faculties to sometimes overcome our own biases. For example, you might observe a pattern that Elbonians seem unusually dishonest. But your rational mind might decide to check the statistics and discover that the pattern you observe is not backed by studies. Or you might tell yourself that just because many Elbonians are dishonest it says nothing about a specific Elbonian who is a wonderful person. Your social conditioning and your sense of reason can overcome some – but not all – of your pattern-recognition mistakes.

If you think Trump or Clinton are racists or bigots in some extra-bad way, you probably don’t understand how the human mind works. As far as I can tell, both candidates are approximately normal on the bias scale. But they deal with it differently in terms of political strategy.

Trump won the GOP primaries in part because he wasn’t disavowing his racist supporters hard enough. It was the “not hard enough” part that people saw as a “racist dog-whistle.” That was an effective strategy (in the primaries). Beyond that, Trump made some errors that allowed his enemies to pile on the confirmation bias to bolster the impression he is the next Hitler.

Clinton has her own dog-whistle strategy, largely ignoring the plight of white American men, such as Trump’s supporters. The dog-whistle message I’m getting from Team Clinton is “White men screwed you for years. Time to get even.” Clinton’s exact words are – of course – more about equality and goodness. But as my Twitter survey showed, the dog-whistle has a contrary message. As with Trump, the things you don’t say – or don’t say emphatically enough – carry a message too.

As I’m sure you know from your own experience, our private thoughts can be evil to the extreme. You don’t want people judging you by your worst private thoughts. You want people to judge you by what you do. To put it in the simplest terms:

You are what you do. Not what you think.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I don’t see either candidate proposing changes that would be bigoted by design. Voters’ worries are about what we imagine they are thinking.

Lately Clinton has been quoting Maya Angelou “When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.” It’s a great piece of pseudo-wisdom that probably works more often than not. But where it falls apart is that people do evolve. They improve. They change what they do.

And when you change what you do, you change who you are. Because you are what you do. And it isn’t that hard to change what you do.

Criminals often – albeit not often enough – decide to stop doing crimes. Young people often do horrible things, and later grow out of that behavior. Racists spend time with the people they hate and change their opinions (sometimes). Democrats and Republicans sometimes change parties. People who are ignorant gain knowledge. People who have no opinion on a topic can be persuaded to have one. Alcoholics stop drinking. Addicts stop taking drugs. 

You get the point.

Ideally, people improve over time. At least one hopes we are all trying to move in that direction. So if you are looking at someone’s actions more than ten years ago, and you think it tells you who they are today, you have been hypnotized into bumper sticker thinking. I’ll agree with Maya Angelou that the person you are on Tuesday is the same person you were on Monday. But if you check back in ten years, no one is the same. Usually – but not always – we’re better.

Both Clinton and Trump were terrible people in the past. So was I. So were many of you. I like to think I improved. I want to think you improved too. I’ll bet Clinton and Trump improved too.

For the record, I don’t care what Clinton said about “super predators” years ago. And I don’t care about Trump’s lawsuits from decades ago. Don’t tell me what you hallucinate about either candidate’s private thoughts. Tell me what the candidates are doing lately. Because that’s who they are.

It is a mistake to vote for who a candidate was. Vote for who they are today. And assume the candidates will improve even further. That’s your smart play.

Note: For new readers of this blog, I endorse Hillary Clinton, but only for my personal safety because I live in California. My political preferences don’t align with either candidate. And I don’t think it is wise to hire people as old as Clinton and Trump for jobs that require high energy and mental dexterity.

You might like my book because you might like my book.