public opinion

Trump's Appeal as Honest Asshole

Why do people like Donald Trump? The answers might surprise you.

Why do people like Donald Trump? The answers might surprise you.

Few would argue that Donald Trump came out on top of the first GOP presidential debate last week or in interviews afterward, but post-debate polls show his popularity continues to rise. Why are people favoring a candidate who comes across so disagreeably?

Mashable.com searched Reddit for posts that offer some glimmer of an explanation or, more accurately, a picture of why. Trump's brash, politically incorrect comments about his opponents, war heroes, women and news people constitute a one-finger salute to the status quo.

Some people expressing support for Trump on Reddit say they like him because he is honest. He says what he thinks, without much of a filter. "He's an asshole, but at least he's honest," wrote one Trump sympathizer. This accounts for the correlation between Trump insults and his rising poll numbers. 

Another contingent of Trump supporters appreciates that he "can't be bought." One especially colorful comment suggested that Trump's ruthlessness and financial independence is what is needed to shape up Washington where money buys influence and corrupts. This perhaps explains why Trump mentions his personal wealth so often.

A third group likes Trump because he pencils out as a bad President, which America "deserves." As one person put it:

"I'm seriously thinking about voting for Trump, and here is why. I firmly believe that our system of government is deeply flawed, if not completely broken. Yet we still keep voting for the same type of people. If Trump wins, there's a good chance the whole thing will collapse from his absurdity. Then maybe we could start over and build something better that works. A vote for Trump is a vote for full system breakdown, which I believe is exactly what we need."

Or: "He's not the President we need, he's the President we deserve. I'm older than most of you. I remember when politicians worked together sometimes for the greater good. Now, with MSDMC and Faux News controlling the conversation, this country is so divided, nothing gets done. The whole system is what it wasn't supposed to become. The only way to fix it is if the entire system emplodes so we can start over. That's what Trump would do."

There may be more than madness to Trump's often apocalyptic analyses. He has messianic intentions to become the country's Great Destroyer.

Taken together, these reasons to vote for Trump begin to take shape as something other than the rants of raving lunatics or disgruntled political trolls. They form a sort of deformed logic – our government has become so inept that we need and deserve a champion who will blow it to smithereens.

When combined with surging crowds at rallies for Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders who calls income inequality the nation's number one issue, the pro-Trump movement shouts that many Americans of all political stripes are fed up and want a different brand of change.

Of course, the heat of summer gives way to cooler times when voters begin to pay closer attention and actually make up their minds. For now, the presidential candidates not named Trump or Sanders might do well to revise their campaign talking points to touch me of those frayed voter nerves.

The Right Tool for the Job

We live in the digital era, but that doesn't mean social media platforms such as Twitter can substitute for reliable public opinion instruments.

We live in the digital era, but that doesn't mean social media platforms such as Twitter can substitute for reliable public opinion instruments.

What's trending on Twitter isn't always an accurate reflection of public opinion. A large number of tweets may indicate public interest in a topic or event, but not a full picture of what the public thinks.

This isn't surprising. Twitter is a self-selected social media tool. The body of tweets doesn't need to reflect the demographics of a community, state or constituency. People who tweet on a topic may be more liberal, more conservative, richer or poorer than the public at large. Comments have value, but can't be rendered in quantitative terms the same as public opinion polling.

Quality public opinion polling is centered on a representative sample of who is interviewed. That assures the findings have credibility as a reliable reflection of the group being surveyed, with a slight margin of error.

The breadth and depth of the digital revolution may tempt some to see social media platforms as mirrors of public opinion. They certainly are reflections, but not ones you can totally rely upon to make decisions on messaging, trustworthy spokespeople and effective communication channels. A solid poll is a much better instrument for that.

Twitter conversations can be valuable to assess. For example, tweets can show the emotional charge in an issue or how an issue activates a particular group. The compressed format helps people distill what they feel to a few words, which in effect become sound bites. Tweets also can show the range of reactions.

In the world of measurement, there is room for evaluation of platforms such as Twitter. But it is important to recognize the right tool for the job. When you need an accurate picture of how a constituency views an issue, a poll with a representative sample is a much better choice.

Old Poll Echoes Today

Cleaning out your garage can be clarifying on multiple levels. You create space for new stuff and you discover old, nearly forgotten stuff — like polling data from 1982.

"I am very saddened by the priorities that were cut. I am not convinced that a balanced budget is an absolute necessity..."

"Basically big companies are not paying taxes, and we're paying more taxes."

"I think the worst in the economy is still ahead…"

"We're going to appreciate the important things more and do away with some of the frivolous things."

"I believe in greater good than in greater harm. It's going to hurt. It's going to hurt fort a long time, but we must begin."

"Defense should be cut and welfare, social programs, education and the arts should have more added back."

Sound familiar? These could be quotes from a focus group last week instead of one held April 1982 in Richmond, Virginia. Back then the debate centered on Reaganomics. Today it touches on mortgage securities, derivatives and hedging. And, of course, ObamaCare.

Maybe as the world changes, it stays the same — or at least the problems stay the same.

However, as I reflected on these long-stored nuggets of polling wisdom, I was struck by a sense of voter bewilderment about what course to take to preserve jobs in America, liberty at home and peace abroad. That bewilderment continues today, spiced by more partisan and rancorous rhetoric.

A Universe of Research

We are in the business of researching customer perceptions and voter opinions. But we live in a world full of intriguing, even breath-taking research that probes the far reaches of the universe and the building blocks of life on earth.

A quick glance at Stem Cell Research News produces these fascinating snippets:

  • Scientists have isolated human brain stem cells that make myelin, a crucial fatty material that coats neurons and allow them to signal effectively so we can comprehend what we see and hear and touch.
  • Researchers have developed a way to stimulate a rat's stem cells after a liver transplant to prevent rejection of the organ.
  • Scientists have cleanly correct a human gene mutation, which moves closer to the possibility of patient-specific therapies.

Not all medical research centers on stem cells. Scientists have found a worthy object of study in naked mole rats, which have shown an amazing capacity to exist underground with low levels of oxygen. They also have displayed an amazing resistance to cancer cells. Isolating how they do it could be important to treating human heart and lung patients, as well cancer victims.

Meanwhile, researchers in Europe have fired neutrinos in a supercollider than seemingly travelled faster than the speed of light, something Einstein's general theory of relativity concluded was impossible.

People scoffed at Einstein's 1916 theory until 30 years later physicists who relied on it and subsequent findings built a nuclear bomb that devastated Japan.

Jobs Trump Deficits on Public Mind

More Americans, including recently graduating college and high school students, are worried about stimulating jobs than reducing federal deficits.Americans are worried about federal deficits, but according to the Pew Research Center they are more concerned about a stagnating economy and weak job market.

A survey by Pew and The Washington Post released last week "showed that the percentage saying that reducing the budget deficit should be a top priority jumped from 53 percent in 2009 to 64 percent this year. But the deficit ranked far lower than the economy (87 percent) and jobs (84 percent) on the public’s 2011 agenda.

"Few disagree that the budget deficit is an urgent problem — in late May, 74 percent said it is a major problem the country must address now," Pew says. "But when asked which economic issue worried them most, more cited the job situation than the budget deficit (by 38 percent to 28 percent)."

Pew notes the public has taken only a modest interest in the partisan wrangling in Washington, D.C. over raising the debt ceiling and trimming federal deficits. Opinion is almost evenly divided over raising the debt ceiling. Pew says 66 percent of Republicans worry it would lead to more federal deficit spending, while 54 percent of Democrats fret over the fallout if the debt limit isn't raised.