How the Fear of Death Makes People More Right-Wing

Bobby Azarian: “…a highly influential and experimentally verified theory from social psychology predicts that, as long as an existential threat looms, the world will grow ever more divided and increasingly hostile. Terror management theory (TMT) explains how and why events that conjure up thoughts about death cause people to cling more strongly to their cultural worldviews – siding with those who share their national, ethnic or political identity, while aggressively opposing those who do not.”

“Another mortality salience study on aggression conducted on both Iranian and US college students shows disturbing results. One group of students was asked to ‘jot down, as specifically as you can, what you think will happen to you as you physically die,’ and to describe the emotions aroused. Participants in the control condition were given similar questions related to dental pain. The results showed that Iranian students who were made to think about death were more supportive of martyrdom attacks against the US, while those in the control condition opposed them. Similarly, death reminders made US students who identified as politically conservative more supportive of extreme military attacks on foreign nations that could kill thousands of civilians.”

Something Has Been Going Badly Wrong in the Neighborhoods That Support Trump

Washington Post: “An updated analysis from Gallup this week has revealed another factor that could be behind Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s popularity: expensive mortgage-interest payments.”

“According to the analysis, respondents in hundreds of surveys were more likely to view Trump favorably if they lived in Zip codes with heavy mortgage-interest burdens relative to local incomes, after taking into account a range of socioeconomic factors.”

“Even if Trump’s supporters have not themselves fallen on hard times, they often live in places where economic opportunity is scarce… Whatever the explanation, Rothwell’s previous analysis rebutted a widespread theory that Trump’s supporters live in areas where globalization’s costs have exceeded its benefits. Rothwell found that among voters who were demographically similar, those who lived in areas where the economy was negatively affected by Chinese imports were no more likely to view Trump favorably.”

Why Are US Presidential Elections So Close?

Nautilus: “There is another candidate explanation, and it is one that nearly every expert that I talked to zeroed in on: the median voter theorem.”

“The model dates to the work of the mathematician Harold Hotelling, later formalized by the economist Duncan Black and popularized by the economist Anthony Downs. Hotelling’s brief aside in 1929 was the paragraph that launched a thousand political science careers:”

The competition for votes between the Republican and Democratic parties does not lead to a clear drawing of issues, an adoption of two strongly contrasted positions between which the voter may choose. Instead, each party strives to make its platform as much like the other’s as possible. Any radical departure would lose many votes, even though it might lead to stronger commendation of the party by some who would vote for it anyhow.

Three Charts Make Painfully Simple How American Politics Became So Messed Up

Washington Post: “With less than a week to go until the election, the country seems to have descended into full partisan battle mode. It’s not just your imagination. The United States is more divided politically than it has been in years, and the gulf between the parties has surged since 2004, as seen in fascinating graphics created by Robert Rouse, an analytics consultant at data consulting company InterWorks.”

“Rouse has become increasingly turned off by the intense partisan divisions of the presidential campaign this year, and wondered how it compared to the past. So he used more than two decades’ worth of data on political polarization by the Pew Research Center to create graphics that were recently nominated for Kantar’s Information is Beautiful awards.”

Americans Are Dying Faster

Bloomberg: “The latest, best guesses for U.S. lifespans come from a study (PDF) released this month by the Society of Actuaries: The average 65-year-old American man should die a few months short of his 86th birthday, while the average 65-year-old woman gets an additional two years, barely missing age 88.”

“This new data turns out to be a disappointment. Over the past several years, the health of Americans has deteriorated—particularly that of middle-aged non-Hispanic whites. Among the culprits are drug overdoses, suicide, alcohol poisoning, and liver disease, according to a Princeton University study issued in December.”

Why Do Science Issues Seem to Divide Us Along Party Lines?

The Conversation: “In 2015, researchers asked 2,000 registered voters how deferential they felt politicians should be to science when creating public policy on a variety of issues. On a 10-point scale, participants ranked whether politicians should follow the advice of scientists (10), consider scientific findings in conjunction with other factors (5) or ignore scientific findings completely (1). Issues included climate change, legalizing drug usage, fetal viability, regulating nuclear power and teaching evolution, among other topics.”

“Breaking down responses based on political leanings did reveal some partisan differences. When it comes to deferring to scientific experts on policy issues, conservatives and independents look a lot alike. Averaged across issues, independents said policymakers should weigh science and other factors more or less evenly (5.84), only slightly more than conservatives did (5.58). Liberals, on the other hand, expressed much higher rates of deference to science – across issues, they averaged 7.46.”

“One area in which political beliefs do have an impact is the kinds of scientists that liberals and conservatives are likely to trust. A 2013 study of 798 participants found that conservatives put more faith in scientists involved in economic production – food scientists, industrial chemists and petroleum geologists, for instance – than in scientists involved in areas associated with regulation, such as public health and environmental science. The opposite was true for liberals. Again, this suggests that it’s not simply a matter of conservatives being skeptical of science in general; there’s a much more nuanced relationship between political leanings and trust in scientific expertise.”

The Political Environment on Social Media

A new report from the Pew Research Center analyzes public opinion on the role of social media in political discourse.

One key finding: “Some 82% of social media users say they have never modified their views on a particular candidate – and 79% say they have never changed their views on a social or political issue – because of something they saw on social media.”

How America Is Squandering Its Innovative Potential

Brookings Institution: “…we aren’t yet playing with the whole team. That was a clear takeaway from a paper released this summer, from a team led by Alex Ball and Raj Chetty, that examines the lifecycles of 1.2 million U.S. inventors (defined as patent holders or applicants).”

“Overall, children who are white, rich, male, and exposed to invention early in life are much more likely to invent than children who are non-white, poor, female, and socially and geographically isolated from innovation.”

“…this report is worrying for two reasons. First, it reinforces a growing body of evidence that United States remains far from providing equality of opportunity to all kids—in this case the opportunity to share in the fruits of invention—which is itself a collective moral failure.”

“Second, the constrained supply of inventors in the United States should worry anyone engaged in debates about the country’s innovation engine and future productivity. Clearly, America wastes a lot of potential talent by not—to extend the president’s metaphor—pulling more inventors off the bench in certain communities. Or, as the authors ask: ‘How many ‘lost Einsteins’ could there be due to inequality of opportunity?'”

Key Facts About the Latino Vote in 2016

Pew Research Center: “Here are key facts about the Latino vote in 2016.”

“Among Latino registered voters who are ‘absolutely certain’ they will vote, one-in-five will be voting for the first time…”

“Hispanic registered voters have grown more dissatisfied with the nation’s direction.”

“Hillary Clinton has more enthusiastic support from older Latinos than from Millennial Latinos.”

“Three-quarters of Hispanic registered voters say they have discussed Trump’s comments about Hispanics or other groups with family, friends or coworkers.”