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Caution: Identifying as ‘NeverTrump’ Changes Your Brain

Reading Time: 5 minutes

When a person declares himself “NeverTrump,” he thinks he’s making a political statement. Or a moral one. But he’s not. He’s making a psychological commitment that’s very difficult and painful to break.

Identity is the highest, most powerful form of persuasion. Identity also drives our decisions in parts of the brain we don’t really have conscious control over. I realize many conservatives reject brain science, but, for those of you who are open to learning, I’ll explain as best I can in a moment.

Before that, I’ll tell you that I am not a brain scientist. I’m a persuasive design strategist, and I study this stuff every day. I even work with some brain scientists. But I’m not one. So I’ll have to quote some of those professional, certified scientists to show you how this works.

Our Brains Decide Before We Do

First, our brains decide before we do. In a famous study by neuroscientists at the Max Planck Institute, researchers watched brain activity while subjects responded to images with either their left hand or their right, depending on the image. The images slowly resolved, so it took a while for the subjects to get enough information to make the decision. Here’s what happened:

By monitoring the micro patterns of activity in the frontopolar cortex, the researchers could predict which hand the participant would choose 7 SECONDS before the participant was aware of the decision.

“Your decisions are strongly prepared by brain activity. By the time consciousness kicks in, most of the work has already been done,” said study co-author John-Dylan Haynes, a Max Planck Institute neuroscientist.

Those subjects felt like they made a conscious decision, but they really didn’t. The brain decides before we do. And the brain makes its decisions, in part, based on defaults and filters we consciously implant.

Identity Is Everything to the Brain

One of the most powerful defaults we implant in our minds is identity. For example, I identify as a Blues hockey fan. I don’t know all the ways this affects my behavior, but I know it does. And I now know, after years of studying brain science, that my Blues fan identity affects my behavior in ways I will never be aware of. I’m okay with that. It’s how we’re wired.

But what does that have to do with NeverTrump? Everything.

NeverTrump is not a slogan. It’s an identity claim. Sam Gosling, a personality psychologist at the University of Texas, puts it this way on Eric Barker’s Barking Up The Wrong Tree blog:

Identity claims are deliberate statements we make about our attitudes, goals, values, etc… One of the things that’s really important to keep in mind about identity statements is because these are deliberate, many people assume we are being manipulative with them and we’re being disingenuous, but I think there’s little evidence to suggest that that goes on. I think, generally, people really do want to be known. They’ll even do that at the expense of looking good. They’d rather be seen authentically than positively if it came down to that choice.

Some people think I look like an idiot when I wear a Blues hockey sweater. I’m 52 and I haven’t played ice hockey for 15 years. But I wear it anyway because I’d rather be seen as a Blues fan than positively.

The Brain Wants to be Consistent

When someone publicly identifies as NeverTrump, he makes a commitment. And most people behave consistently with their prior commitments.

My favorite persuasion scientist, Dr. Robert Cialdini, demonstrated this phenomenon in a famous experiment.

In one posh neighborhood, very few residents were willing to place a rather ugly Drive Safely sign in their front yards. But in a similar neighborhood nearby, four times as many residents said “yes” to the sign.

The only difference between the two neighborhoods: a week before, the residents of the second neighborhood were asked to place a small postcard in their windows that read “Drive Safely.” Many of these residents agreed to the postcard. Almost all of the people who accepted the postcard also accepted the sign.

These folks had made a prior, public commitment to safe driving, so they had to “yes” to the big sign. They behaved consistently with that commitment even though they probably didn’t know why they said “yes” to the big, garish sign. They identified as pro-safe driving.

NeverTrump Is Dangerous

In my morning post, I came down pretty hard on the consequences of NeverTrumpism: increased abortions, increased racial violence, and potential assassinations. It’s all true, but I know people didn’t want to read it. If you think I was just lashing out at people I disagree with, this post might change your mind. Here’s why.

NeverTrumpers identify as NeverTrump. Some, like Jonah Goldberg and Bill Kristol, make NeverTrump their primary identity claim. In their brains, all decisions are filtered through the NeverTrump lens. We’ve already seen the science on this, so you know this is true.

As the election gets closer, their fantastical hopes of a viable third choice for president–someone other than Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump–will fade. They will realize what you and I already know and have known: the choice for president is binary. It’s crooked Hillary or Donald Trump for president. There will be no third way. 

When that happens, most NeverTrumpers will choose consistency. It won’t be a conscious choice. They’ve already surrendered their conscious decisions to the NeverTrump filter in their brains. They will feel like they’re making conscious decisions about how to vote, but they won’t be. They’ll just obey the defaults and filters they’ve implanted.

Unless they turn soon.

There’s Still Some Time

So those NeverTrumpers, to be consistent, will actively work against Donald Trump. In the voting booth, that will mean wasting their votes on a non-viable candidate. But before that, they will do whatever it takes to throw the election to Hillary Clinton. Their identity claim will demand it.

The reason I wrote such a powerful statement this morning is to warn others: be careful when making identity claims because you will become that identity. You’ll probably lose control of your decisions. And you will suffer serious emotional pain if you break from that identity, especially if you value consistency. Remember, the brain decides before we do, and the brain decides based on prior commitments. One of the most powerful commitments a person can make is an identity claim, like “NeverTrump.”

You can call my other post “tough love” if you wish, or you can call it me being a dick. I don’t care. But I do care about the damage Hillary Clinton has done and will do to this country with the help of NeverTrumpers.

After all the good they’ve done in their lives, it’d be a shame for Jonah Goldberg and Bill Kristol to be remembered as the Republicans who fed America to the Clinton wood-chipper. The NeverTrumpers are in for four emotionally painful years unless they break their self-defeating identity claims soon. And they will blame the voters, never themselves.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. NeverTrumpers can go through the pain of breaking their commitment to NeverTrumpism before the election and work to influence Trump’s administration and Congress. It will hurt for a moment, but they will be heroes in the end. I wrote a book to help them.

There’s time to turn, but that time is draining away fast. Choose wisely.

 

Why You’re Mad At Trump

Reading Time: 2 minutes

A lot of people seem to be mad at Trump. You might be one of them.

You probably think you know why you’re mad at him. For instance, you might not like what he said about the judge in a lawsuit he’s involved with. Or maybe you didn’t like what he said about Rosie O’Donnell. You might even be mad that he said Saddam Hussein was a bad man who was good at killing terrorists.

[BONUS VIDEO BELOW]

You probably think your decision to be mad was yours and yours alone, right? No one told you to be mad, and you wouldn’t have listened anyway. You’re smart enough to know that it’s stupid to give someone else power over your emotional state. Like most of us, you’ve learned that saying (or thinking) things like, “he makes me so mad,” means you’ve surrendered control of your emotional well-being to somebody you don’t like.

You’re too smart for that.

So you must be mad at Trump out of your choice, right?

You certainly were not tricked into your feelings, were you? You probably know that Trump has been using the line about Saddam Hussein killing terrorists since last summer. No one disputes that. You chose to get mad today because . . . because . . . Well, you had your reasons for choosing today, after all these months, to get mad.

And it was your choice, right? The fact that all the major news media simultaneously said “people are mad about Trump’s comments” had no influence on you. Nor did the fact that the media started covering the story shortly after Trump’s opponent’s campaign released a statement calling on people to get angry about Trump’s comments.

You know that anyone who lets a stranger like Hillary Clinton or NBC News make them mad is mentally weak and emotionally irresponsible. Psychologists pretty much all agree on this. So I’m sure you have fantastic, logical reasons for choosing to get mad today about something Trump’s been saying since at least November 2015. It’s just a coincidence that Hillary Clinton and NBC News told you to be angry on the very day you decided to be mad.

Just a coincidence.

And since you can’t be influenced by anyone, I won’t bother asking you to buy my new book.

(Note: also posted on Medium)

BONUS VIDEO

How to Predict Trump’s Landslide Win

Reading Time: 6 minutes

You might have noticed that my predictions have been remarkably accurate lately, have you not?

For example, on Sunday, May 1, I predicted Ted Cruz would suspend his campaign after getting trounced in Indiana. Two days later, Cruz lost the Indiana primary to Donald Trump 53 to 36. At the time I wrote, many pundits and pollster still believed Cruz could win that Indiana race, and everyone believed Cruz was telling the truth when he said repeatedly he was staying in the race to Cleveland unless Trump reached 1,237 delegates before then. Turns out, those pundits were wrong and I was right. Cruz quit long before Trump won the magic number.

Then on Wednesday morning I predicted Paul Ryan and Donald Trump would end their meeting with a joint statement committing to work together to win in November. Pundits thought Ryan would use the meeting to chastise Trump and drive a permanent wedge between the two men. But the meeting ended with a joint statement that expressed precisely the intention and commitment I forecast.

You might think an ancient Sumerian god speaks to me through my dog Stella. Maybe. But more likely, I’ve been applying my day-job thinking in human behavior and persuasive design to my forecasting in politics. And it seems to work. While I’m not nearly as good at this as Scott Adams, I’m getting better.

I now predict that you would like to know my secrets for predicting outcomes. Great. I’ll tell you. In a moment.

Before that, let me tell you I have no idea if I’m right about any of this. I know just enough psychology to know that people are terrible at understanding their own motivations and errors. For example, psychologists will produce better research papers if they’re offered virtual badges for transparency and completeness. In other words, psychologists respond to incentive tactics that most psychologists consider psychological errors. If psychologists with PhDs fall for meaningless rewards, I’m pretty sure I have some blind spots, too.

Now, my secrets.

Focus on Words, Voice, Face, and Body

First, I try to focus on individuals. I can learn more about famous people like Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan than I can about millions of people whose names I don’t know. Over time, I might be able to accurately predict how many people respond to a given situation. An election, for example. But for now, I’m focusing on these people with a large body of public information. I pay to attention to the words they use, their tone, tempo, and volume of voice, their facial expressions, and their body language. These four behaviors–language, voice, face, and body–told me Ted Cruz was a beaten man the Friday before the Indiana primary. Maybe he told no one, but Cruz’s brain had already decided his race would end the following Tuesday. No matter how hard he tried, he could not hide what his brain had decided as he spoke to supporters in Jeffersonville, Indiana. The key is to watch people without judging or expecting anything.

Compare to a Baseline

In predicting the Cruz announcement, I had a baseline to compare against. That baseline was Cruz’s speech to supporters in Iowa just before the Iowa caucuses. When you watch the two speeches side-by-side, it’s impossible to miss the changes in Cruz’s words, voice, face, and body. One of the strongest tells was words. In Iowa, Cruz talked about the future, but in Indiana, Cruz talked almost completely in past tense, saying things like “we ran.” The difference in tense was probably totally subconscious, but it was distinct.

An example of subconscious language tells of future behavior happens when employees are ready to quit their jobs. Employees who’ve had enough start referring to the company they work for as “it,” “they,” or “them.” Happy employees say “we” and “us.” Again, it helps to have a baseline. Some people never refer to the company they work for as “us.” But most do–until they’re ready to quit.

Consider Their End Games and Interests

Everything in life is a form of negotiation, and most people open negotiations by stating their positions. But, in the end, rational people abandon their positions and, instead, focus on their interests. I’ve written about the difference before. Crazy people sometimes sacrifice their interests for their positions, but that’s always a losing strategy. The cliché that describes choosing position over interest is cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. See #NeverTrump for more examples of people who abandon interests for positions.

Paul Ryan’s interest is remaining Speaker of the House. Ryan also wants to get some legislation passed in the Senate and signed by the President. His interests are better served with President Trump than with a Democrat in the White House. I realize Never Trumpers can’t get this through their heads, but a Trump victory in November increases the likelihood of the GOP keeping the House and keeping the Senate. Plus, while Trump’s policies are somewhat vague, Clinton’s are not. Clinton would veto every bill Republicans like. A Clinton administration would look a lot like Obama’s administration when it comes to legislation and compromise. So Ryan’s interest is to get Trump elected in November.

Remember that People Decide Emotionally and Defend with Reason

There is no such thing as a rational decision. Zero. All human decisions are emotional. The most important decision most people make is whom to marry. If you think that’s a purely rational decision, tell your wife. Then duck. If the most important decision in your life is an emotional decision, the less important decisions are even more emotional. It’s obvious.

Children with brain damage that prevents them from connecting to the emotional centers of the brain cannot choose between a black pen and a blue-black pen. There’s no rational reason to prefer one over the other, so the kids in the experiment had no information available about which pen to choose. So, even the choice of very dark blue ink or black ink is purely emotional. Understanding that we decide emotionally allowed me to see that Cruz had already decided to leave the race if he lost Indiana. It was that simple.

Reason and facts do matter but only after the decision. For people to remain committed to their decisions, they need rational evidence to defend their decision. It helps to provide facts before people make their decision because the easy available of these facts makes it easier for people to commit to their emotional decisions. Every salesperson knows this.

Be Bold and Announce What You See

The last step is important and it’s the most difficult. To get credit for predictions, you have to announce them. That means you have to be okay with being wrong. Some people would rather die than be wrong, so I don’t know what to tell you if you think people decide rationally. I don’t want you to die. For you, being wrong in public is very painful, so you probably need to keep your opinions to yourself. I am used to being wrong, so I find it easier to announce my predictions in public.

And that’s all there is to my effortless and easy formula for predicting that Cruz would quit the race and that Trump and Ryan would work together to defeat crooked Hillary Clinton and down-ballot Democrats this year. I looked at behavior of key players, determined their interests, and remembered that they decide emotionally and defend rationally. Then I wrote about it.

Expect Trump to Win in a Landslide

Now I’m pretty sure Trump will win in a landslide in November with about 400 electoral votes. Maybe more, but 400 seems about right. That means he’ll win about 40 states. I don’t know which 40, but that doesn’t matter. If Trump wins 40 states, he’ll win about 400 electoral votes. Everyone will call it Trump’s Landslide, and Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan will be very happy because President Trump will support and sign their favorite bills.

Most people expect Trump to beat crooked Hillary. I know pollsters aren’t releasing their expectation polls yet, because those polls would be a disaster for crooked Hillary. But people keep talking about “when Trump’s president” and “President Trump.” Even crooked Hillary released a “President Trump” video. These are psychological tells, just like Cruz’s “we ran.” Subconsciously, most people expect Trump to beat crooked Hillary Clinton (assuming she’s even allowed to run), and expectations trump preferences.

My only hesitation in making this prediction is that Never Trumper Glenn Beck also thinks Trump will in November. And Beck is usually wrong, but not always. So predicting the same thing Glenn Beck predicts scares me a little. Still, this time I’m going to agree with Glenn Beck and stick with what I see: a Trump landslide.

If you think “Never Trump,” you must also think “Never Cruz policies” and “Never Ryan policies.” That’s also called cutting off your nose to spite your face. And that’s crazy, folks. That’s crazy.


P.S. Your Comments: You’ll probably see a lot of people argue with me in the comments. They’ll ridicule me, then list a bunch of “facts” to prove I’m wrong about Trump winning in a landslide. Those commenters are actually proving my points. Everyone knows that facts don’t persuade, so why would people use facts to argue? Those commenters are not arguing with me; they’re arguing with their own minds. They’ve made an emotional decision, and they’re trying to defend that emotional decision with facts, exactly as I said. But the fact that they’re arguing on a public forum shows they’ve allowed some doubt to creep into their minds. Maybe some emotional trigger is urging them to believe Trump wins in a landslide. Vindicating.

Who Is Conservative?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

People think they’re rational, but we’re not. For example, on many issues, Trump’s positions are almost identical to Ronald Reagan’s. When it comes to abortion, trade, taxes, foreign policy and the military, and entitlements like Social Security, you can’t fit a dime between Reagan and Trump.

So why do people see Trump as far to the left of Reagan?

Contrasts and comparisons.

Reagan ran against George Bush and John B. Anderson. Also-rans included Howard Baker and Phil Crane, John Connally, Harold Stassen, Bob Dole, Larry Pressler, and Lowell Weicker. That made Reagan the most conservative Republican by a wide margin. George H. W. Bush was an eastern seaboard Rockefeller Republican in 1979 and 1980. Bush didn’t became a conservative until after he became Reagan’s VP. John B. Anderson never became a conservative. Anderson ran as an independent to try to throw the election to Jimmy Carter. Bill Kristol is a lot like John Anderson. And in four years, Kristol will be forgotten just like Anderson.

Conservative is relative. I know conservatives tend to believe there’s no such thing as relativity, but they’re wrong about that. Conservatism is relative. I won’t bother with defining left-right or liberal-conservative or any other dimensions of political thought. They’re meaningless. But I will point out that all of the definitions I’ve seen are relative. A position is conservative or liberal only relative to other positions.

Nowhere does the constitution mention “conservatism.” And the modern concept of conservatism didn’t really exist at the time of our founding. America’s founders were pretty much all radical liberals for their time. They believed in liberty, and they were willing to overthrow their government to get it. That’s very radical and very liberal.

I think modern conservatism seeks to conserve classical liberalism. But that’s just my opinion. You are entitled to be as mistaken as me.

But let’s play pretend for a moment that there is a conservative absolute. If there were, Ronald Reagan would be the only absolute conservative president in the lifetimes of anyone now alive, would he not? Everyone agrees.

So let’s see how Trump compares to Reagan on some key issues and themes, okay?

Trump vs. Reagan
Issue Trump Reagan
Theme Make America Great Again Let's Make America Great Again
Trade 45% tariff on unfair imports from China 100% tariff on Japanese semi-conductors, 45% tariff on Japanese motorcycles
Abortion Opposes abortion except cases of rape, incest, or life of mother Opposed abortion except to save the life of the mother
Social Security Committed to preserving Social Security, eliminate fraud and waste, increase efficiency …ironclad commitment to Social Security, signed 1983 bill and encouraged every Republican to read it. "To be sure, we must reform it, root out the fraud, make it more efficient, and ensure that the program is solvent."
Taxes Cut taxes, overhaul tax code, flatten brackets  25% tax cut early, then overhaul tax system & reduce rates
Defense Build a military so powerful no one will dare bother us, avoid nation-building and open-ended wars of intervention Rebuilt the military and launched SSD to break the Soviet Union without a war
Illegal Immigration Build a wall, deport illegal aliens Granted amnesty to illegal aliens and reform immigration laws

Those are not the only issues, but they’re some of the leading issues of both Reagan and Trump. On some issues, Trump is slightly to Reagan’s left. On other issues, like illegal immigration, Trump is somewhat to Reagan’s right. Overall, there’s little difference between Reagan and Trump on many key issues.

Why does it feel like Trump is so far to Reagan’s left? Because memories are fluid. Memories are not fixed. They change over time.

When Reagan took office, we had very few conservative think tanks, few conservative magazines, and a handful of conservative pundits. Since then, conservatism has bloomed into an industry, Conservative, Inc. Tens of thousands of people make their living being conservative. That’s something new. And it’s made conservatism kind of weird. In fact, Conservative, Inc., has done for conservatism what the Civil Rights Industry has done for African-Americans.  That’s not a compliment to either corporation. Have you looked at African-American unemployment lately?

Plus, the internet came along after Reagan. The internet lets us all hide inside affinity bubbles–safe spaces where we can hide away from any ideas that we don’t agree with. In these affinity bubbles, we morph our memories to fit a narrative. We’ve made Reagan more “conservative” than he was. We’ve created Reagan in our own image and likeness.

That’s why so many Cruz fans lost their minds when Phyllis Schlafly endorsed Trump. A lot of Cruz supporters remember the Reagan years differently than they actually happened. That’s just the way the brain works.

I believe the Constitution, though flawed, provides the best government ever conceived for human flourishing. And I believe the best hope for Constitutional government lies in understanding how things really are and dealing with reality on reality’s terms. That’s why I formally endorsed Donald J. Trump for President.

If you can’t vote for Trump because he’s too liberal, you probably couldn’t have voted for Reagan, either. You just don’t remember.

And if you’re thinking about voting for Hillary or working against Trump, you’d probably cheat on your wife to punish your daughter for marrying a guy you don’t like.

The Psychology of The Inevitable

Reading Time: 5 minutes

I have no idea who will win the Indiana primary 72 hours from the time I write. But the people inside Ted Cruz’s campaign seem to have an idea. And it’s not good for them. Cruz’s top team expects their candidate to lose. And Senator Cruz seems to have accepted that outcome.

Expectations Matter More Than Preferences

Regular readers know that polls that ask “who do you think will win” trump polls that ask “who do you intend to vote for” or even “who did you vote for?”

Social psychologists and pollsters give several reasons for this, but the one that seems most likely is sample size. When I think about who will win, I do a quick mental poll of the people I know and how they intend to vote. Late in 2015, I realized that most of my friends said they were voting for Trump. I wrote in Trump: Good, Bad, and Ugly:

It’s important because expectations are far better predictors of actual winners than preference polls. From a 2012 NY Times story by David Leonhardt:

“Over the last 60 years, poll questions that asked people which candidate they expected to win have been a better guide to the outcome of the presidential race than questions asking people whom they planned to vote for, the study found.”

That study, by David Rothschild of Columbia University and Justin Wolfers of University of Michigan, is worth a read. The reason “who do you expect to win” beats “who do prefer to win” is because the former question effectively broadens the survey by a factor of 20 as respondents mentally poll up to 20 of their friends and family.

Additionally, late deciders usually break for the candidate they expect to win by about 60/40, consistent with studies of other animals.

Then on August 24, 2015, I came across this poll: 57 percent of Republicans expected Trump to become the nominee. It’s possible that the whole nominating process was already finished last August. If race wasn’t over then, it’s over now.

Slouching Toward Indiana

Inevitability has crept into Ted Cruz’s mind, too. He’s behaving like a man who knows he’s lost.  I watched his rally speech in Jeffersonville, Indiana, last Friday, just four days before the Indiana primary. Cruz’s demeanor and even his words reminded me of Senator Marco Rubio’s speeches in the days before the Florida primary. The anger was gone. The energy was there, but it was a different kind of energy. In Jeffersonville, Cruz showed the sort of energy we see in a man who shrugged a great weight off his shoulders. The word “acceptance” comes to mind.

If Trump wins Indiana on Tuesday, expect Cruz to speak early, thank his supporters, congratulate Donald Trump, and set the stage for the next act in his political career. Just like Marco Rubio the evening of the Florida primary.

As explained in this Politico story, Inside the Cruz Campaign, Confidence Crumbles:

Within the campaign, some are turning to the question of what’s next. One senior aide said there had been no discussion about dropping out before the final primary contests are held on June 7 but noted that Cruz wouldn’t be eager to prolong a campaign he was convinced he couldn’t win.

I realize that strong Cruz supporters will see his Jeffersonville performance differently. That’s okay. They’re supposed to keep the faith. The most likely outcome–almost inevitable at this point–is that Donald Trump will leave Indiana without a major opponent to the nomination.

Yes, I’ve seen the reports that Cruz intends to continue his campaign even if he loses Indiana. But before Florida, Rubio said he’d continue on even if he lost his home state.

To detect a difference in Cruz’s demeanor, I compared two speeches. One from Iowa just a week before the Iowa caucuses. The other from Jeffersonville, Indiana, the Friday before the Indiana primary. I looked for tone, volume, tempo, body language, and facial expression. I also looked at language.

Waterloo, Iowa
Jeffersonville, Indiana

In Iowa, Cruz was fired up and combative. In Indiana, Cruz was almost apologetic at first, in the theological sense of the word. He was explaining his campaign rather than prosecuting it. Again, the polls could be wrong. But Cruz seems to believe the polls showing Trump in charge in the Hoosier state correct. A CNN source revealed those Cruz internal numbers:

But earlier in the week, Cruz allies and people close to the campaign described a budding sense of gloom, with internal polls diving as Trump mounted even stronger than expected showings in his native northeast. In Indiana, which Cruz backers once believed they were favored to win after his strong defeat of Trump in Wisconsin, Cruz’s numbers have fallen precipitously: Once leading, Cruz now trails in the state by eight to 10 points, according to a person who has seen the numbers, with Trump over the 40% mark. Cruz’s campaign did not respond when asked about those figures.

Remember the fish study. People want to go with the winner.

We See What We Want to See

Of course Trump haters and Cruz lovers will see things a little different. What I saw in Iowa was a man on the ascent, fairly confident of victory. In Indiana, I saw a man who has accepted defeat but soldiers on to fulfill a commitment to his supporters. In between, Cruz passed through several stages including denial and anger. But that anger has gone away now.

Senator Cruz probably knows what I know, that expectation polls trump preference polls. And the latest poll of Republican expectations came out on Friday. Here’s how Rasmussen described the results:

Belief that Donald Trump is the likely Republican presidential nominee has soared to its highest level ever and matches perceptions that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic standard-bearer in the fall.

The latest Rasmussen Reports weekly Trump Change survey, taken following Trump’s five state primary wins on Tuesday, finds that 89% of Likely Republican Voters now think the billionaire businessman is likely to win the GOP nomination. Two-out-of-three (67%) say Trump’s nomination is Very Likely, up 18 points from 49% last week and up from 38% two weeks ago before Trump’s fortunes turned around with his mega-win in New York State.

It’s still possible, of course, that Trump could stumble, but he’ll have to fall fast and hard to lose the nomination. Cruz knows Screenshot 2016-05-01 11.08.53this and indicated on Friday that his campaign is dead if he loses badly in Indiana. And the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows that the Cruz internal numbers were right: Trump is surging in Indiana. Via WSJ.com:

Donald Trump holds a 15-point lead in the Republican presidential primary in Indiana, and a majority of GOP voters disapprove of the effort by underdogs Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. John Kasich to coordinate a strategy to block him, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Marist Poll finds.

Gateway Pundit has more.

For the record, I have not endorsed Donald Trump or any of the candidates still campaigning. (I supported Ben Carson.) I have warned that Trump is not a conservative, but I’ve also pointed out that a Trump presidency probably won’t be as bad as many people think. And I prefer Trump to any Democrat because Trump will likely appoint more reasonable federal judges and Supreme Court justices. You know how important the courts are.

Time to Start on Hillary

When asked about national head-to-head polls against Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump likes to say, “I haven’t even started on her yet.”

It’s time. Everyone expects Trump to be the Republican nominee, and expectations matter.

The good news: the civil war on the right probably ends Tuesday when Senator Cruz suspends his campaign. Better news: if Senator Cruz can get his new friends in the US Senate to pass some of the legislation he’s campaigned on, President Trump will sign it.

Finally, I’m a strategist, not a pollster. I am less concerned with what will happen than what people should do about what happens. If Cruz loses Indiana, the best outcome would be for Cruz to suspend his campaign and focus on influencing his fellow Senators to send great legislation to President Trump’s desk in 2017. On the other hand, Cruz could win Indiana in a landslide and make me look like a terrible forecaster.

So don’t place any $17.99  bets on what you read on my blog. Instead, spend that $17.99 on the hardcover edition of my latest book.

 

Fascinating Results from Leaders Eat Last Poll

Reading Time: 3 minutes

This is the story of hard choices and how people resist making them.

Last week’s poll asked you to watch a video by Simon Sinek before answering two, simple, two-part questions: which Republican candidate for President and Missouri Governor is most likely and least likely to eat last?

I intended the poll to be hard. Not complicated, not long, but emotionally challenging.

Why the Poll Was Emotionally Challenging

For several weeks, I have built a case for the importance of leadership. Along with St. Louis Tea Party Coalition, I’ve conducted two surveys about preferences for Missouri Governor and US President and one about most important qualities of a candidate. While analyzing the results of the polls and looking at verbatim comments about those polls, I spotted a disconnect: many respondents hold vague notions of what leadership is.

Looking across these and other polls, it’s clear that leadership is the most important quality to voters, but without a working definition of leadership, people can call just about anyone a leader. For example, studies have shown that people consider extroversion a sign of leadership, yet other studies find that ambiverts–those who have both extroversion and introversion traits–are much more successful than extroverts.

The Fascinating Stat

So what is this fascinating statistic?

It’s completion percentage.

Typically, between 75 percent and 80 percent of people who start my polls finish them. This is true of both long and short surveys.

But the completion percentage of the Leaders Eat Last poll was only 54 percent–20 percentage points lower than the previous two polls.

I’m speculating here, but I think the reason for the high abandonment rate is simple cognitive dissonance. People watched Simon Sinek’s video on leadership and agreed with the premise that leaders eat last. Then they were asked to decide which of the leading candidates for President and Governor is the kind of person to eat last or to use power and privilege to eat first. When a person’s chosen candidate failed the eat-last leadership test, he abandon the poll.

Put another way, when faced with the difficult choice of a) sticking with a candidate who lacks a key leadership quality, or b) re-evaluating support for a candidate, many people invented a third option: don’t choose.

When 46 percent of respondents abandon a 30-second poll, it’s safe to say many of them were avoiding a hard choice. It makes sense. No one was required to complete the poll; there was no penalty for abandonment. If your first choice for President or Governor is clearly the kind of person who would eat last, the poll takes only a few seconds and leaves you feeling more confident in your choice of candidates.

If, however, you cannot honestly say your first-choice candidate would eat last, you’re faced with a dilemma. You can lie about your prediction of your chosen candidate’s leadership qualities, or you can admit that your candidate lacks a quality you value. Given that choice, I believe many people chose not to choose.

The Results

The results of the poll did not surprise me at all. In general, Ben Carson and Eric Greitens were viewed as MOST LIKELY to eat last.

Screenshot 2015-08-22 11.37.19 Screenshot 2015-08-22 11.37.47

Donald Trump and Catherine Hanaway were seen as LEAST LIKELY to eat last.

Screenshot 2015-08-22 11.37.36 Screenshot 2015-08-22 11.37.57

My Take

Overall, I agree with the readers’ choices, but this poll requires more commentary.

First, I’m surprised Carly Fiorina received so few LEAST LIKELY votes. While I admire a lot about Ms. Fiorina, I have raised the question of her leadership style at HP which seems to indicate she’d eat first.

Second, I should point out that my intent was to force hard choices. Another method would be to allow respondents to rate each candidate on a scale. If , instead, respondents had rated each candidate on a zero to ten scale, I believe the order of ranking would have been the same, but the margins would have been much closer, especially for Missouri Governor.

Here’s why: Peter Kinder could have made a lot more money practicing law or as a business executive these 13 years. He had the opportunity. Instead, he has spent over a decade ensuring Missouri Republicans have a senior statewide officeholder. That tells me Kinder is the kind of leader who will eat last. Likewise, John Brunner is a Marine officer, and Marine officers by long tradition eat last. Eric Greitens is certainly the kind of leader Simon Sinek recommends in the video. That doesn’t mean Peter Kinder and John Brunner are not that kind of leader.

Finally, I don’t think anyone was surprised that most readers believe Trump is the kind of leader who elbows his way to the front of line.

Thank you for taking the poll. Because I’ve had a lot of business travel the past few weeks, this week’s poll will launch late, probably on Monday.