The cornerstones of President Trump’s campaign were promises to appeal Obamacare and ban Muslims from the US. It took Trump less than 70 days to fail on both promises.
And yet, despite his epic fails, lies and incompetence, Trump’s base supports him like they’re spanx and he’s Marie Osmond. What explains this loyalty? Science has the answer.
Have a look at this puzzle.
Which drawing best illustrates the correct mechanics and structure of a bicycle?
How you answer will help explain the loyalty of Trump voters. I’ll explain in just a bit. But first…
By any measure, much of the media and half the country think Donald Trump is the living embodiment of Montezuma’s Revenge – which has got to make Trump mad, given his hatred of Mexicans. And yet, the other half thinks he’s Jesus.
What I wanted to know is… WTF!?
How can two people look at President Trump and have such polar opposite observations? To find out, I conducted an experiment. I set up a fake account and joined more than 50 pro-Trump Facebook groups. I created a meme that said: “What do you like about President Trump,” then I shared it.
I got more than a thousand responses in 24 hours and the things people wrote most is that they like Trump because he’s not a politician ― he’s a real American not corrupted by Washington, and beholden to no one.
The next most common response was that Trump believes in God.
This was followed in near equal measure by “Trump Loves America, he keeps his promises, that he’s a good businessman, that he can’t be bought, and that he tells the truth.”
OK. So, one of them is true! Trump is not a politician. One could go either way…his “love” for America.
However, I’m pretty sure Trump doesn’t believe in God. How could he put his faith in a guy who built the heavens and earth… but didn’t want everyone to know by putting his name on it?
Four of the seven are mathematically and scientifically untrue. They are talked about everywhere. Search anything at all on Google, and one of the results is “Trump Lies.”
I looked up the 10 Best Metal Songs From The 80s, and “Trump Lies” came in above “Crazy Train” and “Girls, Girls, Girls”.
Trump is a great businessman the way Bill Cosby was a great date. He’s crashed more businesses than Goldman Sach’s mortgages derivatives.
Trump is keeping his promises to voters the same way Lance Armstrong kept his promise to cycling’s anti-doping agency. During the campaign, he promised to do 18 things on day one… he didn’t do and hasn’t done 13 of them.
You’re being naïve if you think Trump can’t be bought. He craves money the way astronauts on a spacewalk crave oxygen.
So, this gets back to my question: Why do so many people believe so many things about Donald Trump that are so obviously false?
First, it turns out humans don’t know as much as they think they do. Not just Trump voters. All people. Remember the bike sketch from earlier? I posted it in about 30 pro-Trump Facebook groups.
I asked them to pick the drawing that best represented the mechanics and structure of a bicycle.
I got nearly 700 responses.
About 65% of the people picked Bike “A” – the correct answer. Which means: 35% of people picked one of the other three bikes!
And just in case you think, “oh, it’s only Trump voters who got so many wrong answers,” Guess what? I ALSO posted the puzzle in about 30 anti-trump Liberal Facebook groups…and they ALSO got it wrong 35% of the time!
So, why did so many people get the puzzle wrong?
We all overestimate our own knowledge to one degree or another. And not just about bicycles.
Because, individually, we don’t really have to know precisely how a bike works – the physics of weight distribution, the tensile strength of the aluminum frame, chain length vs gear ratio. Our brains have adapted to make decisions quickly, to have answers quickly -– the way we do that is by knowing the gist of things, the broad strokes… Not the details.
So, when a person is asked “Do you know how a bike works,” and they respond “Yes” – what they mostly mean is they know: sit, balance, pedal, ring bell.
What they don’t know is engineering, physics and mechanics of motion. The same is true for complicated political issues… like the ramifications of a single payer health care system vs. whatever the fuck Obamacare is.
You see, what people have really is “the illusion of knowledge.” That’s right. An illusion of knowledge.
And that gets us to another reason Trump supporters believe his lies. It’s because they are relying on facts and information... which are stored in OTHER people.
Groups are unbelievably powerful and persuasive. We rely on our friends, family, our community, our church, our Facebook friends, to have and store information we don’t have or don’t know. It’s another of the brain’s workarounds, since it’s not practical or possible to know EVERYTHING!
And while we’re right to trust the engineers at Schwinn about bicycle engineering.
Trump voters are making a mistake to trust Fox, and Breitbart and their Facebook friends and community about politics because not only do each of them ALSO suffer from the illusion of knowledge, but those institutions have an agenda to intentionally keep their supporters misinformed in order to keep them voting against their own self-interest.
Because as long as poor and middle-class Trump voters continue to support him, Trump and Fox are able to implement their real goals: Tax breaks for the rich, and fewer regulations for business -– two agendas, neither of which will pave roads, improve schools, or ensure medicine and medical treatment get to those in need.
Jon Hotchkiss is a 14-time Emmy nominee and host of Be Less Stupid, available free @factbox.tv.