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Friday, Dec. 9, 2016 04:46 pm

A little knowledge . . . . No. 10 in a series

Public Policy Polling has been peeking under the low brow of the American public again, and found that a great many Trump supporters live in a different United States than do their countrymen. 

The survey found that 67% of Trump voters believe the unemployment rate went up during Barack Obama presidency, when in fact it has dropped dramatically. It found that 39% of Trump voters believe the stock market has gone down under Obama when in fact the Dow Jones has nearly tripled since the start of the Great Recession. PPP found that 40% of Trump voters believe he won the popular vote, even though Clinton received roughly 2.7 million more votes than he did. And 60% of Trump voters apparently believe “millions” of illegal ballots were cast for Clinton in 2016, in the absence of any evidence to that effect. 

PPP explains this in part by what it calls “a cult like aspect to Trump's support, in which his supporters believe anything he tells them because it is him telling it. The phenomenon has been blamed on the right-wing media bubble, on tribalism (the arrangement facts serves the same function as feathers or paint in identifying other members), on mistrust of the mainstream media. I suspect a lot of people find the assertion of comforting untruths to be therapeutic. Their imagined America explains their own decline by framing themselves as victims of a larger dysfunction.

Yes, people have always believed what they want to believe, have always sought out facts – and if necessary created them – to buttress their world view. (In high school, all those years ago, I read Richard Hofstadter’s Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, which I in my youth mistook as history and not journalism.

I confess I have been among the many who used to laugh this off, like  gradeschoolers deriding a classmate who still believes Santa Claus is real. But this is scary, folks. These people have the vote, which makes them a thousand times more dangerous than some lone loony with high-capacity magazine and a grudge.
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