Author Topic: Which Side is More Rational Now?  (Read 343 times)

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Offline K-S-U-Wildcats!

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Which Side is More Rational Now?
« on: October 06, 2017, 03:57:08 PM »
Well, neither, according to this guy. Very long but interesting read. http://quillette.com/2017/09/28/trump-voters-irrational/

A few excerpts....

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In September 2016, in collaboration with my colleagues Richard West and Maggie Toplak, I published a book titled The Rationality Quotient. In it, we described our attempt to create the first comprehensive test of rational thinking. The book is very much an academic volume, full of statistics and technical details. We had expected our academic peers to engage with the statistics and technical details, and they did begin to do just that after its publication.

But then the November 8, 2016 United States presidential election intervened.

The nature of my email suddenly changed. I began to receive many communications containing gallows humor, like “Wow, you’ll sure have a lot to study now” or “We sure need your test now, don’t we?” Many of these emails had the implication that I now had the perfect group to study—Trump voters—who were obviously irrational in the eyes of my email correspondents.

Subsequent to the election, I also received many invitations to speak. Several of these invitations came with the subtle (or sometimes not-so-subtle) implication that I surely would want to comment—after first giving my technical talk, of course—on the flawed rational thinking of the voters who had done this terrible thing to the nation. One European conference that solicited my participation had as its theme trying to understand the obviously defective thinking not only of Trump voters, but of Brexit voters as well. The wordy conference prospectus clearly presumed that every educated person would view any opposition to increased globalization as obviously irrational. I—the author of a rational thinking test—was seen as the ideal candidate to give the imprimatur of science to this conclusion. No less insistent have been friends and relatives who assume that I am the perfect person to affirm their view that a substantial number of people who cast ballots for Trump were irrational in their thinking.

Rather than reply to these emails, or give all the talks requested, or affirm all of the leading questions addressed to me, I thought it would be more efficient to write this single essay and disappoint all of my progressive correspondents at once. I am very sorry, progressives, to have to tell you that the Trump voters were, in fact, not irrational—or at least no less rational than the Clinton voters. Several kinds of analyses in cognitive science support this conclusion.

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When what a person acts, wants, and desires are expressed as preferences. Decision theory is actually neutral on what a want or desire can be. It is the public, not economists, who tend to emphasize money or material wealth. Decision theorists are perfectly happy to call the non-material goal of seeking social prestige a desire with a utility value. Utility theory also does not dictate that every goal has to reflect strict self-interest in a narrow sense. We can have as our goal that other people achieve their goals and that can have utility value for us. Thus, neither material goals nor self-interested goals are necessary according to utility theory. Many goals that motivate people are neither self-interested nor material, such as preserving the environment for posterity.

Failure to appreciate these nuances in rational choice theory is behind the charge that the Trump voters were irrational. A common complaint about them among Democratic critics is that they were voting against their own interests. A decade ago, this was the theme of Thomas Frank’s popular book What’s the Matter with Kansas? and it has recurred frequently since. The idea is that lower income people who vote Republican (not necessarily for Trump—most of these critiques predate the 2016 election) are voting against their interests because they would receive more government benefits if they voted Democratic. Many of these critiques contain the presumptions that, to be rational, preferences must be self-interested and that people’s primary desires are monetary. I have just discussed how rational choice theory contains no such presumptions, so on that basis alone the claim that such voters are irrational is unfounded.

In addition to being misplaced, leftists never seem to see how insulting this critique of Republican voters is. Their failure to see the insult illustrates precisely what they get wrong in evaluating the rationality of the Trump voters. Consider that these What’s the Matter with Kansas? critiques are written by highly educated left-wing pundits, professors, and advocates. Perhaps we should ask one of them whether their own vote is purely self-interested and for their own monetary benefit. They will say no, of course. And they will deny as well that their vote is irrational. Progressives will say that they often vote against their own monetary interests in order to do good for other people. Or they will say that their vote reflects their values and worldview—that they are concerned about the larger issues that are encompassed by that worldview (abortion legislation or climate change or gun restriction). Leftists seem unable to see that Republican voters—even lower income ones—may be just as attached to their own values and worldviews. The stance of the educated progressive making the What’s the Matter with Kansas? argument seems to be that: “no one else should vote against their monetary interests, but it’s not irrational for me to do so, because I am enlightened.”

The implicit insult in the Kansas argument often goes unrecognized, and, if I may use some cognitive science jargon here, it is a form of ‘myside’ bias. For example, leftists who work for nonprofit organizations are often choosing their values over monetary reward. And likewise, conservatives joining the military are often also choosing their values over monetary reward. The What’s the Matter with Kansas? argument seems to ignore or deny this symmetry. Many Republican voters with modest incomes cast a vote to help others rather than for their own monetary interests—precisely as do the progressive Democrats who find such Republican behavior puzzling. So no, neither the Kansas voters in Frank’s book, nor the Trump voters are voting against their interests, broadly—and correctly—defined. Even if part of the Kansas critique is correct (they are voting against their purely economic interests), these voters are not necessarily irrational because they may be sacrificing monetary gain in order to express their values or worldview.

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But what about temperament, character, and fitness for office? Surely it was irrational to vote for Trump if temperament is relevant, Democrats might say. But this argument is not a slam-dunk from the standpoint of rationality. It is simply not self-evident how people should trade off temperament versus worldview in their voting choices. This is especially true in the 2016 presidential election, where the candidates were unusually differentiated in their worldviews. In that election, Clinton represented what I will term the Global and Groups perspective (GG) and Trump represented the Country and Citizen perspective (CC). Clinton signalled to the electorate that she represented the GG perspective by emphasizing global concerns (climate change and global climate agreements; increasing US refugee intake; rights and protections for noncitizens) and continually addressing groups in her speeches (the groups of Democratic identity politics: LGBT, African-Americans, Hispanics, etc.). Trump signalled to the electorate that he represented the CC perspective by continually emphasizing country in his speeches (“make America great again”) and addressing his audiences as citizens with nation-level interests rather than group interests (trade deals that disadvantaged American workers; securing the country’s borders; etc.).

These two candidates (Clinton and Trump) more sharply differentiated these worldviews than any other combination of candidates in 2016. Bernie Sanders would have watered down the GG perspective, because his criticism of some trade deals made him less of a globalist than Clinton, and Sanders placed less emphasis on the Democratic identity groups. Similarly, Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio as Republican candidates would have watered down the CC perspective by being sympathetic to global trade deals and pursuing voters as groups in the manner that Democrats do (Hispanic voters in particular). Clinton and Trump represented the GG and CC worldviews in much purer form. The issue for a Republican voter or an independent voter with a CC worldview was thus how to weight the temperament issue against worldview (for simplicity, we will stipulate here that the temperament issue resides with Trump). Because there is no way to ascertain what weighting of these factors (temperament versus worldview) is optimal for a given person, it cannot be said that a voter who chooses worldview over temperament is irrational.

To my Democratic friends who demur from my conclusion here, I pose a thought experiment. Imagine that the candidates for a presidential election were Ted Cruz on the Republican side and Al Sharpton on the Democratic side. Now it is the candidate with the GG worldview who has the character and fitness-for-office issues. Who would you vote for?

When I am successful in forcing Democrats to give a response to this imaginary election, a substantial number admit that they would vote for Sharpton. They justify their choice by citing things that are very rational, given their worldview: they worry about appointments to the Supreme Court, abortion, and gun legislation. The Democrats justify their choice in much the same way as the Trump voters did when they eschewed disqualifying him on the basis of temperament. The Trump voters worried about open borders and encouraging cities to defy federal immigration law, etc.—they worried about threats to their CC worldview in the same manner that the hypothetical Sharpton voters worry about threats to their GG worldview. The calculus of decision theory is not precise enough to dictate a particular weighting of temperament and worldview in something as abstract and multidimensional as a presidential voting choice. After choosing Sharpton over Cruz, few Democrats would consider themselves irrational. Cognitive science would agree with them. But, in the same manner, when those with the opposite worldview vote for Trump over Clinton, they are being no less rational. On instrumental grounds, neither the voters choosing Sharpton over Cruz nor the voters choosing Trump over Clinton can be deemed irrational.

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If you are particularly ill-disposed toward Trump voters, at this point you may still be feeling that, deep down, there is something else wrong with the Trump supporters that was not covered in my discussion of instrumental rationality. You might feel that something in the domain of knowledge is wrong with the Trump voters: they don’t know enough, or they seem to be misinformed, or they don’t seem to listen to evidence. You would be right that there is something else that is worth assessing—another aspect of rationality that covers these additional concerns: epistemic rationality.

Concern with Trump voters in the epistemic domain is, however, not unique because this is a charge (the charge of epistemic irrationality) that Democrats have made about Republicans for some time now. Liberal Democrats have become accustomed, as we all have, to media presentations that are critical of conservative Republicans who do not accept the conclusions of climate science, or of evolutionary biology. These media presentations are correct, of course. The role of human activity in climate change is established science, and evolution is a biological fact. Thus, the denial of climate science or of evolutionary science clearly has a negative connotation, and rightly so.

However, there is a trap lying in wait for progressives here. It is very tempting for them to say: Well, the Democrats get climate science right, and Republicans get it wrong; the Democrats get evolution right, and conservative Republicans get it wrong; so therefore we liberal Democrats are getting everything factually right about all of the other charged topics that figure in political disputes—crime, immigration, poverty, parenting, sexuality, and so on. Such an argument is essentially the claim that Democrats are epistemically more rational than Republicans.

This type of thinking is what some years ago prompted the Democratic Party to declare itself the “party of science” and to label the Republican Party as the science deniers. That stance spawned a series of books with titles like Mooney’s The Republican War on Science (2005). As a political strategy, this “party of science” labelling might be effective, but epistemic superiority cannot simply be declared on the basis of a few examples. A cognitive scientist is forced to be pedantic here and rain on the progressive parade. In fact, any trained social scientist would be quick to point out the obvious selection effects that are operating. The issues in question (climate science and creationism/evolution) are cherry-picked for reasons of politics and media interest. In order to correctly call one party the party of science and the other the party of science deniers, one would of course have to have a representative sampling of scientific issues to see whether members of one party are more likely to accept scientific consensus.

In fact, it is not difficult at all to find scientific issues on which it is liberal Democrats who fail to accept the scientific consensus. Leftists become the “science deniers” in these cases. In fact, and ironically, there are enough examples to produce a book parallel to the Mooney volume cited above titled Science Left Behind: Feel-Good Fallacies and the Rise of the Anti-Scientific Left (2012). To mention an example from my own field, psychology: liberals tend to deny the overwhelming consensus in psychological science that intelligence is moderately heritable.

This isn’t the only instance of left-wing science denial, though. In the area of economics, progressives are very reluctant to accept the consensus view that when proper controls for occupational choice and work history are made, women do not make more than 20 per cent less than men for doing the same work.

Progressives tend to deny or obfuscate (just as conservatives obfuscate the research on global warming) the data indicating that single-parent households lead to more behavioral problems among children. Overwhelmingly progressive university schools of education deny the strong scientific consensus that phonics-based reading instruction facilitates most readers, especially those struggling the most. Many progressives find it hard to believe that there is no bias at all in the initial hiring of women for tenure-track university positions in STEM disciplines. Progressives tend to deny the consensus view that genetically modified organisms are safe to consume. Gender feminists routinely deny biological facts about sex differences. Largely Democratic cities and university towns are at the forefront of the anti-vaccine movement which denies a scientific consensus. In the same cities and towns, people find it hard to believe that there is a strong consensus among economists that rent control causes housing shortages and a diminution in the quality of housing. [Research citations for all the above are available from the author here.]

I will stop here because the point is made. There is plenty of science denial on the Democratic side to balance the anti-scientific attitudes of Republicans toward climate change and evolutionary theory. Neither political party is the party of science, and neither party exclusively contains the science deniers. Each side of the ideological divide accepts or denies scientific consensus depending upon the issue in question. Each side finds it hard to accept scientific evidence that undermines its own ideological beliefs and policies.

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More formal studies have indicated that there are few differences in factual knowledge of the world between Republicans and Democrats. The Pew Research Center reported one of its News IQ surveys in 2015 (What the Public Knows, April 28, 2015) and found very few partisan differences. People in the sample answered 12 questions about current events (identifying the route of the Keystone XL pipeline; knowledge of how many Supreme Court justices are women; etc.) and the Republicans outperformed the Democrats on 7 of the 12 items. Democrats outperformed the Republicans on 5 of the items. On average, the Republicans in the sample answered 8.3 items correctly, the Democrats answered 7.9 items correctly, and the independents answered 8.0 items correctly.

The 2013 News IQ survey from the Pew Center (What the Public Knows, September 5, 2013) showed the same thing. People in the sample answered 13 questions about world events (identifying Egypt on a map of the Middle East, etc.). The Republicans outperformed the Democrats on 5 items, the Democrats outperformed the Republicans on 7 of the items, and there was no difference on one item. On average, the Republicans in the sample answered 6.5 items correctly, the Democrats answered 6.4 items correctly, and the independents answered 6.6 items correctly. In summary, the Pew surveys find few partisan differences in current events knowledge. Even if the Trump voters had come disproportionately from independent voters compared with previous Republican nominees, there would not have been a knowledge deficit among Trump voters.

Similar findings are obtained in specific areas of knowledge related to voting such as economics. George Mason University economist Daniel Klein and colleague Zeljka Buturovic (Econ Journal Watch, May 2011, 157-173) gave a 17-item questionnaire on knowledge of economics to over 2000 online respondents. They found that individuals labeling themselves libertarian or very conservative scored higher than individuals labeling themselves as liberal or progressive. Importantly, their major conclusion was not that conservatives were more economically knowledgeable than leftists. Instead, they stressed as one of their major findings how such surveys are tilted by the selection of questions. For example, the item “rent-control laws lead to housing shortages” (correct answer: true) is more difficult for progressives because it challenges their ideology; whereas the item “a dollar means more to a poor person than it does to a rich person” (correct answer: true) is more difficult for conservatives because it challenges their ideology.


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I've said it before and I'll say it again, K-State fans could have beheaded the entire KU team at midcourt, and K-State fans would be celebrating it this morning.  They are the ISIS of Big 12 fanbases.

Online Dugout DickStone

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Re: Which Side is More Rational Now?
« Reply #1 on: October 06, 2017, 04:15:45 PM »
Summarize

Offline catastrophe

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Re: Which Side is More Rational Now?
« Reply #2 on: October 06, 2017, 04:51:37 PM »
I don't think the average Trump voter is irrational.  I certainly think the racists did a great job of getting their guy.  I think the remaining voters were just stupid enough to get duped by an obvious con man.

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Re: Which Side is More Rational Now?
« Reply #3 on: October 06, 2017, 05:30:13 PM »
:martaviousDNR:
:adios:

Offline K-S-U-Wildcats!

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Re: Which Side is More Rational Now?
« Reply #4 on: October 06, 2017, 07:10:03 PM »
Summary:

1. Trump voters are not irrational, at least no more than Clinton voters.

2. The "what's the matter with Kansas" argument that poor conservatives aren't voting in their best interests is both wrong and insulting. Both sides often vote against their personal interests (poor pubs voting against handouts and rich coastal elites voting in favor of higher taxes) for the sake of what they view as more important things for society at large. Neither is more "rational."

3. The "Clinton had a better temperament" argument is likewise wrong. It all comes down to ideology. Thought experiment: if the election had been Cruz v. Sharpton, libs would still have voted Sharpton. Both sides vote on ideology, and equally rational.

4. Liberals are no smarter than conservatives, and certainly have no more right to consider themselves "the party of science" or masters of empirical, rational thought. A whole host of liberal positions defy well established research. Likewise, studies indicate that liberals are no more informed re current events.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, K-State fans could have beheaded the entire KU team at midcourt, and K-State fans would be celebrating it this morning.  They are the ISIS of Big 12 fanbases.

Offline The Big Train

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Re: Which Side is More Rational Now?
« Reply #5 on: October 06, 2017, 07:17:47 PM »
KU football is a sleeping giant and always has been - beems

If LHC Bill Snyder had been hired at KU years ago, we'd have a national championship in football and a couple more BCS bowls. - beems

Offline steve dave

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Re: Which Side is More Rational Now?
« Reply #6 on: October 06, 2017, 07:31:10 PM »
TLDNR: Trump voters try to validate what they did

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Re: Which Side is More Rational Now?
« Reply #7 on: October 06, 2017, 07:47:12 PM »
Sad
Hyperbolic partisan duplicitous hypocrite

I think.you.are deep down.a.trans cowboy gravy eater.

Offline slackcat

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Re: Which Side is More Rational Now?
« Reply #8 on: October 06, 2017, 07:50:07 PM »
Good read.

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Re: Which Side is More Rational Now?
« Reply #9 on: October 07, 2017, 11:44:56 AM »
TLDNR: Trump voters try to validate what they did

I think more some smart guys see how stupid trump voters abs decide to make money off of trump voters not wanting to feel like they got conned

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Re: Which Side is More Rational Now?
« Reply #10 on: October 07, 2017, 11:47:38 AM »
 There is a huge market in making trump voters feel like easily fooled derps

Offline Fake Sugar Dick (WARNING, NOT THE REAL SUGAR DICK!)

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Re: Which Side is More Rational Now?
« Reply #11 on: October 07, 2017, 11:52:49 AM »
Only took two posts for blanket racism accusation!

#rationallibtard
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Re: Which Side is More Rational Now?
« Reply #12 on: October 07, 2017, 12:56:35 PM »
There is a huge market in making trump voters libtards feel like easily fooled derps they are intelligent and have moral scruples
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Re: Which Side is More Rational Now?
« Reply #13 on: October 07, 2017, 04:47:54 PM »
No doubt that's true also but I am more right.

Offline LickNeckey

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Re: Which Side is More Rational Now?
« Reply #14 on: October 07, 2017, 04:49:39 PM »
fwiw everyone has a better "temperament" than Trump

Offline catastrophe

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Re: Which Side is More Rational Now?
« Reply #15 on: October 07, 2017, 10:19:16 PM »
Only took two posts for blanket racism accusation!

#rationallibtard

I'm not saying all Trump voters are racist.  I'm just saying all white supremacists voted Trump in the primary and general and got their guy. Not irrational at all.

Offline SdK

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Re: Which Side is More Rational Now?
« Reply #16 on: October 07, 2017, 10:20:29 PM »
Team Delton is more rational now.