I’ve seen this question get asked a lot on social media. Here is Donald Trump, flagrantly lying about everything, caught up in almost every worst-type-of-scandal that a politician can face:

  • Openly doesn’t pay taxes
  • Openly mocks a disabled reporter
  • Openly mocks a respected war veteran
  • Uses his foundation for personal expenses, clearing his fraud charges and apparently bribing state officials
  • Has fraud charges
  • Has bribed state officials
  • Gets into a public war of words with a Gold Star Family
  • Accuses a judge of being unfit to rule on a Trump University court case because of his Mexican roots
  • Tells African Americans that they live in hell
  • Calls Mexicans rapists
  • Calls for bans on Muslim Americans
  • Gets caught on tape bragging about sexual assault
  • Then gets caught up in sexual assault scandal as multiple women come forward to accuse him of sexual assault
  • Threatens to sue said women
  • Has multiple public meltdowns during the Presidential Debates
  • Openly invites Russia to hack into his opponent’s emails
  • Openly declares that he’ll jail his opponent
  • Openly declares that he’ll only accept the election result if he wins
  • Gets the Election Date wrong

And despite all of this, I have family members who are continue to be fervently attached to the Trump train. Worse still, they’ll be voting on November 8th.

They’re also still talking about this 2011 ‘Trump Prophecy’ from a former fireman:

I mean, I still have no words. This particular word of God comes from a fireman who ‘is real’ because he actually thought that this prophecy was for the 2012 election – but then three months later he made another prophecy called “The Great Horse” in which he prophesied that there would be another triple crown winner which would be “a sign to the church that it was their time to break out”. For the record, a ‘triple crown winner’ is a thoroughbred horse that wins the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes. Somehow, that’s meant to explain things. So, you know, this is totally legit.

Here’s a quick transcript for you:

The Spirit of God says, I have chosen this man, Donald Trump, for such a time as this. For as Benjamin Netanyahu is to Israel, so shall this man be to the United States of America! For I will use this man to bring honor, respect and restoration to America. America will be respected once again as the most powerful and prosperous nation on earth, (other than Israel). The dollar will be the strongest it has ever been in the history of the United States, and will once again be the currency by which all others are judged.

The Spirit of God says, the enemy will quake and shake and fear this man I have anointed. They will even quake and shake when he announces he is running for president, it will be like the shot heard across the world. The enemy will say what shall we do now? This man knows all our tricks and schemes. We have been robbing America for decades, what shall we do to stop this?

The Spirit says HA! No one shall stop this that l have started! For the enemy has stolen from America for decades and it stops now! For I will use this man to reap the harvest that the United States has sown for and plunder from the enemy what he has stolen and return it 7 fold back to the United States. The enemy will say Israel, Israel, what about Israel? For Israel will be protected by America once again. The spirit says yes! America will once again stand hand and hand with Israel, and the two shall be as one. For the ties between Israel and America will be stronger than ever, and Israel will flourish like never before.

The Spirit of God says, I will protect America and Israel, for this next president will be a man of his word, when he speaks the world will listen and know that there is something greater in him than all the others before him. This man’s word is his bond and the world and America will know this and the enemy will fear this, for this man will be fearless. The Spirit says, when the financial harvest begins so shall it parallel in the spiritual for America.

The Spirit of God says, in this next election they will spend billions to keep this president in; it will be like flushing their money down the toilet. Let them waste their money, for it comes from and it is being used by evil forces at work, but they will not succeed, for this next election will be a clean sweep for the man I have chosen. They will say things about this man (the enemy), but it will not affect him, and they shall say it rolls off of him like the duck, for as the feathers of a duck protect it, so shall my feathers protect this next president. Even mainstream news media will be captivated by this man and the abilities that I have gifted him with, and they will even begin to agree with him says the Spirit of God.

I’m not sure when ‘America’ became the chosen nation before/alongside/after Israel, or why it’s so important that the dollar be the strongest that it has ever been and/or the currency by which all others are judged. But there we are. And to be honest, I’m not especially surprised that this man is a Trump supporter.

But I’m bringing this prophecy up because I think that it answers the original question:

Question: Why are there still Trump supporters?

Answer: Because Trump supporters are not going to be swayed by logic.

Instead, there’s going to be a lot of rationalisation. The Mexican wall? Oh no, that’s just mainstream media spin. Doesn’t pay taxes? He’s a genius. Trump tapes? Locker room talk. Sex scandal? The election is rigged.

It’s thinly-veiled confirmation bias: nothing seems to be able to contradict the internal belief.

And it’s not just Trump supporters…

Some Science

During the 2004 presidential election between George Bush (the Republican nominee) and John Kerry (the Democrat nominee), research psychiatrists did some testing of partisan voters in a study with the long-winded title of  “Neural Bases of Motivated Reasoning: An fMRI Study of Emotional Constraints on Partisan Political Judgment in the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election“.

Basically, the researchers did this:

  1. They found 30 partisan voters (15 committed, right-handed, Democrat men between the ages of 22 and 55, and 15 committed, right-handed Republican men between the ages of 22 and 55).
  2. They strapped them into an fMRI machine.
  3. And then the subjects were presented “with reasoning tasks involving judgments about information threatening to their own candidate, the opposing candidate, or neutral control targets.”
  4. The researchers then watched the voters’ brains light up.

The premise was that there are two different kinds of brain activity that can take place:

  • Cold logic, which is an unemotional assessment of the facts (lights up a part of the brain that has traditionally been associated with logical reasoning); or
  • “Motivated reasoning”, which is an emotionally-biased interpretation of the facts (lights up other parts of the brain).

The reasoning tasks that the subjects were given:

“…we devised six sets of statements regarding each of the following targets: George Bush, John Kerry, and politically neutral male targets (e.g., Tom Hanks, Hank Aaron, William Styron). (We tried to generate well-known targets who were emotionally neutral but ultimately selected politically neutral but largely mildly positive targets because of the difficulty identifying well-known figures of any kind about whom people have no feelings.) Although many of the statements and quotations were edited or fictionalized, we maximized their believability by embedding them in actual quotes or descriptions of actual events. Subjects were given detailed instructions prior to scanning and a practice run to familiarize them with procedure prior to imaging trials.

Each statement set consisted of seven slides presenting verbal material, designed to present a clear contradiction between the target person’s words and actions and then to resolve that contradiction.”

The unsurprising results:

  • The Democrats saw a lot of contradiction in George Bush’s statements and not so much in those by John Kerry.
  • The Republicans saw a lot of contradiction in John Kerry’s statements and not so much in those by George Bush.
  • Both Democrats and Republicans saw about the same amount of contradiction in the statements made by those ‘neutral’ male targets.

And perhaps more importantly:

  • Democrats engaged in ‘motivated reasoning’ when it came to contradictions in their candidate.
  • Republicans engaged in ‘motivated reasoning’ when it came to contradictions in their candidate.

Obviously, there are limits to how far these results can be extrapolated – but the point is that there seems to be clear evidence that voters’ minds work differently when they are already committed to a particular candidate/outcome.

That is: they can’t be objective. When they’re presented with a contradiction that threatens them emotionally, they act to reduce that cognitive dissonance by reinterpreting the contradiction in a more favourable light.

So what that means for this election season…

Well, the strong implication is that the core support base of a candidate is never going to be in question. It doesn’t matter how scandalous the scandal, neither committed Clinton supporters nor committed Trump supporters will abandon their candidates. Their vote is baked in.

Instead, the biggest determinant of the election outcome will be undecided voters. And those less-committed voters for whom the cognitive dissonance is so high that it conflicts with another internal belief*.
*I’m thinking here of college-educated white women, who traditionally vote Republican, but who seem to have peeled off from the Trump support base in the wake of Pussygate.

Also, we shouldn’t be expecting Trump’s support to drop below that 38%/39% mark. Those are his core supporters, and they’re already invested.

For more on this type of thing: Don’t Argue With Fanatics

Rolling Alpha posts about finance, economics, and sometimes stuff that is only quite loosely related. Follow me on Twitter @RollingAlpha, or like my page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/rollingalpha. Or both.