I went to a nice family celebration today. I caught up with the in-laws and nieces and nephews. Being the token American, I had a lot of conversations about Donald Trump and (en-)countered the same three comments I seem to hear from everyone:
- Americans don’t like or trust either of the candidates this year.
- Trump could win.
- This is a close election.
These are all things you hear over and over in the media – a slow drumbeat of supposed truths that gradually numb your mind. You’ve heard them so often that they seem true and you give up questioning them. You might even end up repeating them yourself . . .
“Stop it!” I tell myself. “Wake up, C. and smell the manipulation!” I add, and then “Shake it off and do the Math!”
So here’s what I think:
If poll after poll asks “Is this person trustworthy?” it will make people stop and wonder “Is this person trustworthy?” Suddenly the person has a trustworthiness issue. It’s the same with “likeability” or any other emotion-based question.
The vast majority of Americans don’t know either of the candidates, have never met them, and will never meet them. How they hear the words of these candidates – which tidbits they pick up on and which they overhear – will depend on their own selective perception, what they want to hear, which station they tune into and what other people they know repeat.
Trump could win in the same way Mickey Mouse could win.
(Or maybe I should use “Joe Camel” rather than Mickey. Joe was famously the more recognizable cartoon character to children and more dangerous for them. Joe is now gone because of it.)
It is in everyone’s interest to maintain the premise that this is a close election. For the media it keeps talking heads talking and more viewers tuning in. For Trump it helps to sustain the illusion he has worked so hard to conjure. For Clinton, it helps to prevent people from getting complacent and staying home on Election Day.
But is it really true?
A great website (http://www.electoral-vote.com/) collects numbers from various State polls (arguing that it is not a national election, but 50+ State elections and therefore national polls have little meaning.) It crunches the numbers – always with an eye on the Electoral College and the magic number of 270. The website provides graphic depictions of the results, updating almost daily.
Here’s 2004 – a truly and famously close election:
Here’s 2008 – one that shifted around a lot until the housing crash:
And here’s 2016 so far. Now someone please explain to me how this is a “close election”.