I have a hypothesis that many voters have already voted against Trump – in their minds – months before the first absentee votes are cast. The way that works is that a pollster calls someone who is considering voting for Trump – perhaps the week after the Khan controversy – and that voter decides to punish Trump for being offensive that week. So the wannabe-Trump-supporter “votes” against Trump. But only to the pollster.
Mentally, the voter has now punished Trump for his bad behavior. If lots of voters do the same thing, it forces Trump to either lose the race or change his offensive ways. So the first time people “voted” against Trump, it happened only in polls, and in their own minds. But it sure felt like a vote, emotionally. And it probably felt good.
The mental-voting in the polls worked. Trump saw his number fall and started to soften his position to be more inclusive and flexible. The public changed him via the polls.
Obviously Trump is changing in order to win the election. But it should be comforting to know he can change whenever there is a good reason to do so. People were worried that he was too crazy to change anything, even if the situation or the data suggested he should. He has showed us that flexibility isn’t a problem.
We don’t need to know Trump’s inner thoughts. And we can’t. But we can observe patterns, and it has become clear that Trump is directly responding to public opinion.
The idea that voters have been punishing Trump with their mental-votes is different from the Shy Trump Supporter hypothesis that says people don’t want to admit they support him. The punishers – should this hypothetical group actually exist – would be trying to make Trump change his ways so they can vote for him with a clear conscience.
Trump did change. If it’s enough change, the mental-voters will feel the invisible influence of reciprocity and vote for him as a reward.
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