Election 2016

Voter Psychology Shapes Presidential Election

For many, the 2016 Presidential election is different from any they remember. How did we get here? That is the question many are asking, but some say we’ve been here before.

According to some polls, Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton, the two major party nominees for president are among the most unlikable candidates in modern times. The question is, what psychology drove us to this point?

Elizabeth Simas is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Houston. She was a guest on Houston Matters Wednesday, and told me that as the sources for political discussion have increased, voters have become more polarized in their selection.

Houston Public Media's Coverage of Election 2016

Houston Public Media's Coverage of Election 2016

“All the choices that people have in media now, you can avoid the other side if you want. You can put yourself in an echo chamber. And when you are constantly being told that your side is right, it just reinforces that and it makes it more difficult for you to be open to compromise or hearing the other side,” says Simas.

So are political parties and the media simply giving the people what they want? In some ways, yes Simas says. 

“Media has a profit motive and with the increased number of choices, they also have to compete for viewers, or listeners, or readers or whatever it is they’re after. They have to be responsive to where the audience is,” she says.

As for the major political parties, Simas says, “The ideal of democracy is that candidates are responsive to constituents and to public opinion.”

But she believes the elite control the majority of a political party’s platform. She also thinks this election is similar to one 24 years ago.

“In 1992 people were dissatisfied with Bush and unhappy with that, and nobody was really thrilled with Clinton as a candidate, at least very early on in the election cycle. He was a dark horse, and what happened, you had the rise of Ross Perot.”

Will Donald Trump’s campaign change future elections? Simas says that depends on how successful he is on November 8th.

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