Can we stop calling Trump voters stupid, please?

Can we stop calling Trump voters stupid, please?


By all means hate on Trump. I do. He is a dangerous man and his ideas, and those who share them, should be publicly called out at every opportunity.

But the reality is over 72 million Americans voted for him.

And social media is full of people calling those voters, at worst, evil racists, and at best, uneducated and working-class. (As if those two things are someone’s fault and to be looked down upon).

There is no doubt that there is a cohort of Trump voters who are racist and stupid. But the idea there is 50+ million of them in that cohort is equally stupid.

Firstly, a quick debunk on Trump voters. A March 2016 NBC survey showed only a third of Trump supporters had household incomes that sat at or below the median average of $50k. Another third was in the $50-100k bracket and a third still in the $100K + bracket.

Hardly those on struggle street and definitely not all working class.

But, more importantly, if your answer as to why people voted for Trump is because they’re stupid or evil, then you are part of the problem.  

Casting a moral judgment on people is a sure-fire way to entrench them into a defensive position.

We saw the same thing in the last Federal election when Bob Brown’s ridiculous convoy went into Queensland mining towns to tell them why mining is wrong- the mining jobs that put food on the table of these people and help pay their mortgage.

Did he really think this was the way to win them over?

What he did do was push people from the centre to the right.

People don’t like being told they are bad, particularly when they are just trying to look after their family and keep their head above water. And particularly when there are simply not a lot of other options when it comes to work.  

Bob Brown’s convoy helped re-install a government with an appalling record on the environment. Slow clap Bob. 

Telling people they are stupid or evil for voting for Trump will not win them back. It will have the opposite effect. And the US race was too close to risk that again.  Another Trump will come along again. And next time he might be more palatable.

And the crucial point most seem to be missing in much of the commentary about the US election is that, like in any election, swing voters are far more likely to vote against things than for things.

So many of those voters didn’t vote for Trump, they voted against the Democrats.

And this is the bit we should be concentrating on.  It was a failing of the progressive side to sell a message.

If your campaign doesn’t connect with voters and answer their needs, either your policies are wrong, or your messaging is wrong or a bit of both.

Almost every day for the past year I’ve had people tell me we should be doing Lincoln Project style ads here. As I kept saying, they are simply not ads that would work effectively on swing voters. One of the reasons is that they are high information ads where swing voters tend to be low information voters.

This is NOT to say swing voters are uneducated or stupid– it means they don’t care about politics and often it’s because they feel that politics has never made their lives better. 

Lincoln Project style ads served to make those who didn’t vote for Trump feel better about their decision. It’s a waste of resources and it’s dangerous because people think its effective campaigning. As George Bernard Shaw said; “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place’’. 

If the progressive side of government is to win at a Federal level, we need to stop looking down on people and start listening to them and talking to them in a way that engages and persuades them.

And to do that we need to get out of the bubble and off our high horse.    

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