Days of Change

Fear and the Bandwagon Effect | July 24, 2016

Back in 2012, I wrote about this loser stink attached to Barack Obama. The economy was sluggish at best, foreign policy was a mess and the Tea Party had whupped Democrats in 2010. That taught me about how fear can be used effectively in a campaign, and I don’t mean scaring people about Muslim hoards running the streets.

Democrats have an effective “blue wall” in terms of large cities in swing states they can mine over and over for votes, thanks to the fraud of early voting. In Congressional elections, however, targeting hundreds of districts and statewide races is difficult and costly. It’s easier just to centralize power in the federal government. Those elections are ruled by general targets, White people who aren’t monolithic in their voting.

Voters will no firm affiliation are often subject to the bandwagon effect. This is where the leading candidate also draws people in who want to be part of something. In reality, they want to be normalized into the majority. Because of this, it can be counterproductive to get out the vote trying to tell them a candidate is behind and they need to come out in greater numbers to even the scale.

Let’s go back to the first presidential debate on October 3, 2012. Romney did well against Obama and Obama seemed to lack the information to counter his attacks. Republicans were energized and Democrats were disheartened. However, Obama was still well ahead of Romney at the time.

After Romney’s loss, I came up with a theory. While people who would vote out of a sense of citizenship would be more likely to pick Obama because he was ahead, lazier voters (the Democratic base) might figure Obama would do fine. Of course, Democrats thought they could minimize losses in 2010 but were shocked by the landslide that occurred. My conclusion was that the Obama campaign saw that people might be too complacent and decided to put the fear back into them. Obama throws the first debate and his supporters realize this is a battle and they’d better go vote. The fear of the unknown is very powerful.

The bandwagon also led to Donald Trump’s victory in the Republican primaries. Some of the campaign managers said that Trump’s polling among Republicans had a “floor” of 30%. He generally started with 30% support among primary and caucus voters. The other 8 candidates (by the time primaries started) split the other 70%. Trump drew pluralities in the 20-40% range until the race was down to him, Ted Cruz and John Kasich.

This drew an interesting result. Trump was drawing an additional 30% of people who dropped out. He started getting the higher 40% range and the occasional 60%. Ted Cruz started to be competitive after Marco Rubio quit, but was dragged down by John Kasich. Kasich’s numbers were not good and he became mathematically unable to win the nomination in March. His presence, however, gave establishment types a name to pick instead of Cruz or Trump. Cruz fell between a hopeless candidate and a candidate who was almost certain to win. Primary voters got on the bandwagon.

Even though Trump was the only name in the last 9 state contests, he wound up with just 44% of the popular vote. One would imagine it would be lower if the Democrats who wanted Trump as a GOP poison pill were removed. In this case, fear of a Cruz win by the establishment led to a “winner” who is opposed by some of the biggest names in the party.

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2 Comments

  1. It’s kind of bizarre, this election seems to be boiling down to fear. Which candidate scares you the most? Elections are often about who inspires the most enthusiasm, because those are the followers who will actually show up and vote for you. This time around it seems to be about how scared of the other candidate are you? It’s a really strange dynamic, fear making people somewhat unpredictable.

    Comment by insanitybytes22 — July 24, 2016 @ 10:53 pm

    • Sadly, Trump is basically a strongman, one of those people who is adamant and seems commanding to soem people. He never apologizes and rarely says he’s wrong. He has all the Obama qualities, but talks from a different hymnal.

      I have more in common with the Libertarians lately. They don’t have much of a plan, but at least they don’t want to use the government to fix things.

      Ronald Reagan once said the 9 scariest words in the English language are “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”

      Comment by 1539days — July 24, 2016 @ 11:02 pm


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