Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Understanding political categories and voting behaviors: Comparing Clinton, Sanders, and Trump

Let me remind everyone of a basic fact about categorial perception: the differences among members of a category are smaller than the differences between categories. Put less technically, the worst of ours is better than the best of theirs. I am therefore puzzled by the "Bernie or Burn" approach by Sanders supporters to the prospect of Clinton being the Democratic nominee.

Being an experimental scientist by training, I propose a simple experiment to help me understand the negativity directed at Clinton. For practice, please sort these three weather related terms into two categories: gray clouds, white clouds, black clouds. Then try the same with color of hair: black, white, gray. In the first case, I imagine that you clustered gray and black clouds together. In the second case, I imagine that you grouped gray and white together.

Now try this. Here are three semantic objects listed in alphabetical order: Clinton, Sanders, Trump. Your task is to sort these three objects into two categories. My sorting is on a progressive scale: (Clinton, Sanders) vs. Trump. But if you choose not to vote for Clinton, then you are implicitly sorting (Clinton, Trump) vs. Sanders. Do you really believe that? What kind of mental scale are you using?

Here's what triggered all the above. Bob Lord at Blog for Arizona has a post today taking aim at Clinton and her campaign. There is some justification for his complaint.

Reports have it there was quite the fracas at the Nevada State Democratic Party meeting over the weekend. First, Barbara Boxer, who is not from Nevada but whose daughter is married to Hillary Clinton’s brother, took to the mic to taunt the Sanders delegates. Then, on a vote for a measure that favored Clinton, the chair said the ayes had it, when they didn’t, at which point tempers boiled over. Police were called in for crowd control.

I’m not sure exactly how many convention delegates were at stake, but it was a tiny fraction of the number Clinton will have in excess of the amount needed to secure the nomination. [Scriber: See my post below for the numbers.]

The bottom line: In order to secure a few unnecessary delegates, the Hillary camp poured gasoline on an already raging fire. The Party faithful keep saying “no matter who, vote blue,” but the feeling increasingly is “no matter what, vote Bernie.” Or Jill Stein. Or just stay home.

Granted, the Nevada ruckus seemed to unnecessary. But stay home? That is the action suggested by the cognitive clustering of Clinton with Trump. Does anyone really believe that?

Here is Linda Lyons' rebuttal comment on Lord's post.

OMG Bob! I gotta admit that although I liked much of Bernie’s message and think he has provided a very valuable contribution to the nation, I’m in the Hillary camp. And, I just don’t get those who will not vote for her. She must be the most vetted politician in U.S. history and she is still alive and kicking. I also believe she is the most qualified presidential candidate we’ve seen this year.

Okay, so she’s not a dynamic candidate and yes, she didn’t use the best of judgement with either the email thing or the speaking fees thing but…she is definitely the adult in the room. I have no sympathy for Democrats (and other rationale people by the way) who don’t vote for the Democratic nominee in November. Want to talk about pigs? I have two words for you. Donald Trump.

I'll add four more words. Richard. Nixon. Martha. McSally.

I am a Bernie supporter, but if Hillary gets the nomination I will gladly join Linda and vote for her. Because on my mental continuum, Trump < (Clinton, Sanders).

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