Robert A. Levine 2-27-17
A Pew Poll taken right after the 2016 election verified the gap that existed between Trump and Clinton supporters on their perception of a number of different issues facing America, a partial explanation for how they voted. However, some of their understandings of life in America were in direct contradiction to statistics from the government, academic institutions, or quality surveys. This misinformation that they had and relied on obviously skewed their perceptions of what was and what wasn’t important for the government to do.
For instance, 38 percent of Americans believed that the economy had gotten better since 2008, 18 percent felt it was about the same, and 43 percent believed it had gotten worse. But in reality, the unemployment rate had dropped dramatically since 2008 and the stock market had soared, both indications that the economy was doing very well. Many American must have forgotten that the nation was in a severe recession in 2008 when Obama started his term as president and that over eight years there was a vast improvement in the economy. Similarly, 35 percent said the job situation had gotten better, 21 percent said it was about the same and 44 percent said it had gotten worse. These numbers were also contrary to the government’s unemployment statistics.
On security from terrorism, 23 percent said it had gotten better, 31 percent said it was about the same, and 45 percent said it had gotten worse. Though there had been a number of terroristic incidents in Europe recently, the number or terroristic attacks by “Radical Islamists” in America had been minimal. In fact, since 9/11, less than 100 Americans had been killed by Muslims in terror events. And the vast majority of these were by home grown jihadists and not immigrants, with none coming from the Islamic countries from which refugees and immigrants are being banned. Domestic terrorists/white supremacists like Dylan Roof in South Carolina had also been guilty of multiple killings. The number of deaths resulting from murders from the use of guns in crimes, domestic incidents, and so forth is a significant multiple of all the terrorist attacks, but nothing is being done to diminish these.
In terms of crime in general, 15 percent said it was improved since 2008, 27 percent said it was the same, and 45 percent said it had gotten worse. On the other hand, government statistics show that crime is much improved during this period, though it has flattened out somewhat over the last few years. As far as race relations, 9 percent said it had gotten better, 23 percent that it was the same, and 67 percent reported that it had gotten worse. Independent of statistics, most Americans would tend to agree with these numbers.
Interestingly in the Pew Poll, Trump voters preferred new quick fixes to the various problems noted, 53 percent to 46 percent, even if they entailed major risks and might make things worse, while Clinton supporters wanted the opposite approach. 16 percent desired rapid solutions and 84 percent gradual alleviation of the problems. Does this have anything to do with the fact that Clinton supporters were more highly educated than those who backed Trump? (While that may be considered an elitist comment, it may also be true.) In total, all voters preferred a gradual approach to solving problems, 65 percent to 34 percent.
The unfortunate takeaway message for Americans from this Pew Poll is that voters lack correct information regarding terrorism, the economy, and crime in the United States since the turn of the century. This political ignorance must play some role in which party and which candidates voters choose when casting their ballots. However, polls have also revealed that a majority of Americans most years do not even know which parties control the House and the Senate. Thus, voters are really not informed when they go to the polls.
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