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Friday, December 8, 2017

AN HYPOTHESIS

A recent poll reveals that 71% of Alabama Republicans do not believe the many women who have accused Roy Moore of molesting them when they were girls.  This has been taken by cable news commentators as a sign of (1) excessive tribalism (2) inside the bubble thinking or (3) sheer stupidity.  I should like to offer an alternative explanation for this and many other instances of seemingly incomprehensible opinion poll results.

I begin by assuming that people generally are neither so stupid nor so ignorant as to be unable to negotiate everyday life.  Most Americans may not know quite where Syria is or what the nuclear triad is or what the difference is between a Sunni Muslim and a Shi’a Muslim, but they do know how to find their way to the grocery store and they may even be able to make spot repairs on an automotive vehicle.

So what is up?  Well, here is my thought.  It is not strictly true that 71% of Alabama Republicans think Roy Moore’s accusers are lying.  What is true is that 71% of the Alabama Republicans who agreed to respond to a pollster answered “no” when asked whether they believe Roy Moore’s accusers.  So what is the difference? you ask.  Quite a bit, I suggest.  [I am here drawing on a very interesting journal article written sixty years ago or more by David Riesman at the dawn of public opinion polling.]  When a Roy Moore supporter is asked that question by a pollster, he or she understands immediately and intuitively that what is really being asked is “Whom do you support?  Moore or Jones?”  If, as is quite possible, that person believes the women but supports Moore anyway, he or she will be perfectly well aware that saying so opens the way to accusations of sexism, immorality, a failure of religious faith, or – worst of all – being a backwoods know-nothing Southern yahoo.  The answer that springs most immediately to mind in that situation is f**k you!  But being polite, as Southerners tend to be, he or she just says “no.”


Just a thought.

5 comments:

s. wallerstein said...

I agree with what you say.

When asked certain political questions, I myself answer according "what is really being asked". It's a "which side are you on?" answer.

By the way, your explanation of political commitments by the simple question "which side are you on'" is one the wisest things I've read in this blog.

Alexander McColl said...

I'll add another idea.

The subconscious mind of these women realises that if it accepts that what Roy Moore did or has been accused of doing to women and girls over his life is abuse, then it would in turn have to accept that things that have been done to it (to these women polled) was abuse.

This is much too psychically painful to accept, particularly as their whole local society, from church to political party to TV programs to probably place of work are also dead against it's acceptance.

Anonymous said...

That would account for roughly 35.5% of the no answers, assuming that males and females were equally represented among the Alabama Republicans. Some other explanation would be needed for the remainder other than cognitive dissonance for the non-women polled.

Austin Haigler said...

Obviously we need some dialogue on the Franken resignation situation. Good or bad move? Relative to long and or short term? It seems like- by some construal-- perhaps the most important construal- Franken is doing the ethically responsible thing. But so what? Franken resigns and Moore gets in effectively unscathed? Seems like 'we' lost.... again.

Here is an interesting article I read a couple weeks ago. Thoughts?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2017/11/17/im-a-feminist-i-study-rape-culture-and-i-dont-want-al-franken-to-resign/?utm_term=.adc36ef6bf40

Anonymous said...

If only Democrats defect, one has to wonder whether calls for Franken's resignation have medium and long-term Democratic political goals in mind. Republicans seem to be playing a longer game, even if this means hypocrisy. Another Republican in the Senate would be ghastly.