Colson: Are Trumpeteers embarrassed by their devotion?

by John Colson

It is fairly common knowledge that Donald Trump, the “apparent” Republican nominee for president, is a racist, a misogynist, an egomaniac and an ignoramus, to name a few of his less socially salubrious characteristics.

Many of his supporters will gleefully acknowledge these traits in their favorite politician, if they are being truthful with themselves and anyone who asks them a question about it.

After all, these are the very traits that many of Trump’s supporters would see in themselves if they looked in a mirror that went more than skin-deep.

Of course, they might not use the same terms as those I catalogued above, preferring to trot out less loaded, more politically nuanced terminology, such as “white and proud,” or “patriot resisting foreign influences,” or “recognizing male superiority,” or some such crap.

The one that would most incense Trumpeteers, I guess, is “ignoramus.” No one likes to be called stupid, although some of The Donald’s biggest boosters appear to invest an unbelievable amount of pride in the fact that they really don’t know much about anything beyond a narrow, highly prejudiced block of precepts handed down by their equally ignorant progenitors.

But a spate of recent studies and polls indicates that some Trump supporters, perhaps those with an education somewhat higher than grade school, seem to feel some embarrassment over their choice of presidential contenders.

For example, a Pew Research Center report, on an analysis of the different in Trump’s support as registered by online polls versus telephone polls, indicates that his presidential chances improve if people are answering questions in the privacy of their own online world rather than having to answer questions from an actual person on the other end of the telephone line.

An aggregation of recent telephone polls conducted by the RealClearPolitics organization indicates that Hillary Clinton, the presumptive nominee of the Democrats, has about a nine-point lead over Trump among likely voters.

But online polls conducted by YouGov and Morning Consult, two political polling entities, shaved that lead down to four points, and a recent online poll by Reuters and the Ipsos research firm show the two candidates in a statistical dead heat — Hillary at 41, The Donald at 40 — according to an article in the May 15 New York Times.

The researchers chalk this up to what they call “social desirability bias,” or the tendency of respondents to want to “avoid embarrassment and project a favorable image to others” in answering questions, which naturally is less acute when they are tapping away at their keyboard than when they are actually talking with someone, whether in-person or over the phone.

But I think it’s more than that.

I think the use of the Internet itself as a tool of political communication tends to seal us off and make us feel more powerful, less vulnerable to attack, and therefore more willing to say what we really feel no matter how imbecilic it is.

That’s right, it seems to me that the Internet offers a self-selective means of expression to people who otherwise might feel ill-equipped to offer suggestions on a wide range of complex topics, from the threat that China poses to our national economic health or the question of whether it is beneficial or harmful to offer a path to citizenship for the non-criminal segment of the 11 million immigrants living illegally in the U.S.

Getting back to the Trumpeteers, some phone-based surveys last December indicated that a majority of Americans (between 57 and 60 percent) would not go along with Trump’s initial declaration that he would keep any and all Muslims from entering this country “until our country’s representatives can figure out what’s going on.”

This declaration came out on Dec. 7, 2015, a few days after two “terrorists” killed 14 people in San Bernadino, Calif., and given Trump’s derisive attitudes toward the government’s ability to figure out anything at all, it’s a wonder that he included that proviso at the end of his diatribe.

At the same time, online surveys showed a plurality (45 percent) agreed with Trump on the issue, versus 41 percent who did not.

By the end of March 2016, another online poll showed that 51 percent of respondents agreed with Trump, versus 40 percent who disagreed.

Confused yet?

What the researchers gleaned from all this, according to the NYT, is that it represents a “foundation for the strong correlation between support for Mr. Trump and white ethnocentrism and white racial resentment (against people of color),” as well as some embarrassment over the matter.

This seems to fit with my own conclusions about Trump and his followers, but Trumpeteers might argue that this is just more proof that the NYT hates Trump and, by extension, his supporters, because the paper always writes bad stuff about him and them.

And they love it that Trump is a man who, when confronted by something he doesn’t understand, adopts a pugilistic stance and starts swinging until he connects with some part of that offending, difficult “something,” preferably with a knockout blow — just like they, his supporters, would do.

It’s just that some of them might not admit it in a phone survey.

Aspen Times Weekly

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