Monday, November 7, 2016

Natural Social Science: A mini study of voter reasoning and behavior

Guest post by Anna Shane, PhD

There are social science experiments that would never pass current ‘protection of human subjects’ review boards, but which occur naturally. For example, no human subject committee today would permit the fake Trump-rally design, that would film ordinary people’s behavior after being encouraged to menace their fellow citizens. Humans today would be protected from participating in an experiment that tricked them into admitting under which circumstances they would choose to hire an unqualified sexual predator over a highly qualified feminist. Moreover, no researcher could have designed a study that came close to providing the wealth of predictive data gathered during the primary-season polls, and then had the chance to compare their predictive data with actual voter behavior (let alone have been able to pay for it).

Predicting how groups reason, and how group reasoning responds to unanticipated events, is best studied with the ‘longitudinal in-depth interview design’. It’s an expensive model and requires good guesses about what the researcher will care about ten or more years down the road. For this model the social science trick is identifying subjects who are representative of their group, and who won’t drop out, and who don’t mind explaining.

In natural social science this can be achieved by having friends who aren’t all the same.

In 2007 I selected four friends and regularly debriefed them regarding their views about Hillary Clinton. While we won’t know for sure if my data proves predictive until Tuesday night, I provide that data here, as a thank you to Hillary HQ and my new friend Scan.

This is a summary of the data from Dr. Shane’s 4-person natural social science study:

Old-School Reagan Republicans

My late best college friend Carole married Tom, and I have known him more than fifteen years. Tom is in his 70’s, a life-long Republican, and a devout Catholic. He is now retired but he worked in various scientific fields. He grew up in Minneapolis, and he embodies that work-hard, invent-the-tool-you-need ethic, which gives some the impression they are entirely self-made. He first met Reagan at some local event when Reagan was still governor of California, and he told me he didn’t wish to be impressed by an actor, but that he was very impressed. He told me that if Cruz or Trump won the Republican nomination, he’d be voting for Hillary.


I met my friend Blanca about twelve years ago. She is married and has two sons now old enough to vote. She was born in Mexico, and her husband is third generation Hispanic. She is a Christian who does good deeds; she mentors teenage girls, she cooks for church events and she takes meals to the homebound. She is kind and generous. Many years ago she told me that Hillary is widely appreciated in the Hispanic community because of Hillary’s good deeds, for example helping get visas to visit ill family members. Blanca told me most everyone knew some story about how Hillary had gotten involved in helping them or someone they knew. Blanca told me last year about the Hispanic voter registration drive through the churches, that was fueled by Donald’s anti-Mexican rhetoric. She told me Hispanic turnout would not be as high for the primary, because new voters weren’t sure if the nominee who could best beat Donald were Hillary or Bernie, and so many chose to stay out of it. Blanca told me that only snooty pale Hispanics back Republicans, and that Cuban’s don’t identify as Hispanic because they fall under a separate immigration policy. She told me that all other Hispanics are motivated both to vote for Hillary and to vote against Donald.


The third subject is my other best college friend, Denny, who ended up teaching English at an east coast military academy and marrying a schoolteacher niece of Jerry Fallwell; they have two daughters and three grandchildren. He identifies as libertarian and he voted for Obama. He has been disgusted by Donald’s tone, but he’d also been concerned about the emails, specifically what was ‘hidden,’ as it made no logical sense to him that her emails could be such a big deal if what he saw was all there was. He first planned to sit this one out but decided to vote for Hillary after the debates. Right after Comey’s “October surprise,” Denny wrote to me, saying Comey should be prosecuted.

Successful women who work in the media

The fourth is Maureen Dowd, who I have never met but who I know from her self-report and from private communications, that began when we both agreed that there were no WMD in Iraq and that Bush was really scary. She once used a joke I gave her; after Bush nominated Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, I wrote for her: “Who is next, Caligula's horse?” Dowd has been in the media her adult life. She comes from an Irish Catholic family with right-wingers and hard workers. She works for the NYT which has an anti-Clinton bias, that is denied but undeniable. Dowd stood up to power when she wrote about Judy Miller, Woman of Mass Destruction, but she is the same as the others when it comes to Hillary. Her personal friends wish she’d knock it off, but she sincerely believes that Hillary is the cartoon the media sees, and yesterday she went so far as to use the example of the private server to claim Hillary is paranoid.

I know for sure how three will vote, and I assume Maureen will vote for Hillary too, although she told me she isn’t allowed to say.

The Republican Tom is just one vote, he will vote for Hillary because she is qualified and he can trust her to make evidence-based decisions and best-expert decisions. He’s been long impressed by her wonk and her work ethic, plus she is a Methodist like his late wife, so he’s voting against Trump but glad to vote for Hillary.

Denny’s wife and daughters would have voted for Hillary however Denny chose to vote, but Denny will join them in voting for the girl, to vote against Trump and to vote his outrage over the way he has come to realize Hillary has been unfairly bashed, by some ‘powerful’ men, abetted by the media.

Blanca, her husband and two sons will vote for Hillary, because they know her policies and they know her. Blanca is an activist in her community and she sees the need for a Hispanic voting block.


Competence as a critical issue crosses party lines for those who eschew radical economy-harming ideology. (Tom advised me that if I think Trump might win, I should get out of the market before it’s too late).

Hispanic Americans are getting political, they have woken to the need to deliver a vote in order to end profiling, get good and safe schools, and reliable health care, and sane immigration policies.

Libertarians aren’t all the same, some of them actually believe in equality, and are motivated by a love for truth, and by the freedom to be different.

The media as personified by the liberal New York Times remains a retro boy’s club. The few media women who have been elevated to positions of influence identify with the phallus, and not with their own kind.

We will all see how it plays out, starting tomorrow.

Anna Shane, PhD, is a Lacanian psychoanalyst and feminist

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