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« Law & Cognition 2016, Session 7.5: probing the SSK data | Main | Weekend Up(back)date: 3 theories of risk, 2 conceptions of emotion »
Monday
Oct172016

Women for & against Trump: who sees what & why . . . .

If you focus on what highest-profile media commentators are saying about the revelations about Trump’s treatment of women, you will get a nice lesson in the cultural & psychological illiteracy of the mass media’s understandings of US politics.

The story being pushed—or really just assumed—by the “move as an unthinking pack” media is that the Trump’s sexually assaultive behavior and worldview must be alienating women en masse, making the imminent collapse of Trump’s campaign inevitable.

But as the most recent polls show, the race is about as close as it ever was in the popular vote.  Looking at sentiment among expected voters,  The Wash. Post/ABC Poll, produced by top-notch Langer & Assoc., has Clinton ahead only 47-43.

But even more significant is what the Langer poll shows about female voters. “Clinton leads by 8 points among women,” the poll finds,

while she and Trump run evenly among men -- an unexpected change from late September, when Clinton led by 19 points among women, Trump by 19 among men. This reflects greater support for Trump among white women who lack a college degree, partly countered by gains for Clinton among white men.

According to the survey,

Among likely voters, just 43 percent of non-college white women see Trump’s treatment of women as a legitimate issue, essentially the same as it is among non-college white men, 45 percent. By contrast, about two-thirds of college-educated whites, men and women alike, say the issue is a legitimate one.

Similarly, 56 percent of non-college-educated white women agree with Trump that his videotaped comments represent typical locker-room banter. So do 50 percent of non-college white men. Among college-educated whites, that falls to barely more than a third.

Got it?  Women aren’t reacting in a uniformly negative manner but in a polarized one to the latest Trump controversy.  So are men.

This doesn’t fit the conventional narrative, which simplistically attributes a monolithic attitude on gender equality issues to women.

But it does fit a more nuanced view that sees sex equality as involving an important cultural dimension that interacts with gender.

In her book The Politics of Motherhood, sociologist Kristin Luker points out that the abortion debate features a conflict between two larger visions about gender and social status.

On the one side is a traditional, hierarchical view that sees women’s status as tied up to their mastery of domestic norms like wife and mother.

On the other is a more modern, egalitarian one sees mastery of professional roles as status conferring for men and women alike.

Luker argues that abortion rights polarize these groups because that issue is suffused with social meanings that make it a test of the state’s endorsement of these competing visions and what they entail about the forms of behavior that entitle women to esteem and respect in contemporary society. 

The same sorts of associations, moreover, inscribe the battle lines in debates over the definition of “rape” in campus sex codes and “sexual harassment” in work place ones (if you think these issues aren’t matters of intense disagreement in today’s America, you live in a socio-ideological cocoon). 

Moreover, while these debates are ones that pit men and women who hold one set of cultural outlooks against men and women who hold another, the individuals who are in fact the most intense divided, Luker points out, are the women on the respective sides, because they are the ones with the most at stake in how the resolution of these issues link status and gender.

This view is borne out by polls that consistently show women to be the most divided on abortion rights.

They are borne out too by studies that show that women with opposing cultural worldviews are the most divided on date rape.

They are the most divided, moreover, not just on what the law should be but on what they see, the study of cultural cognition shows, in a typical date rape case in which factual matters like the woman’s consent and the man’s understanding of the same are in issue.

Perceiving that women who behave as independent professionals or as independent sexual agents are lying when they assert that they have been sexually harassed or assaulted affirms the identities of those whose status is most threatened by the norms that license such independence and impel respect for those who exercise it.

It’s not surprising—it’s inevitable—that when Trump is attacked for his attacks on women, women of a particular cultural identity will be among those  who most aggressively “reject the controversy over his sexual behavior as a legitimate issue” and “rally” to his side.

So if you want to learn something about cultural norms in America, stay tuned.  Not to the simplistic narrative that dominates our homogenous, homogenized media. But to the complex, divided reactions of real people, men and women, who are fundamentally divided in their perceptions of who deserves esteem for what and hence divided in their perceptions of who did what to whom.

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Reader Comments (7)

I think that a further twist to the analysis above in this election season is the polarizing effect of Hillary Clinton on liberal women. On one hand, she is a strong and effective leader who has successfully navigated some really hostile situations, such as the Benghazi hearings or the Trump debates. On the other, she is someone who apparently startled some of her Wellesley classmates by marrying that "creep from Arkansas" because he was "going places" and has successfully ridden that linkage (in addition to her own intelligence) to get to the position where she is a Presidential candidate. She has also stood by her man, and defended him in ways many see as unjustified, against the accusations of women who feel they experienced Bill Clinton as a sexual predator. In my personal opinion, many women identify with those victims. Many politicians have such family dynasty linkages of course. GW Bush is a prime example. Still, I think that it prevents Hillary Clinton from being seen as a clear feminist role model.

Overall, I believe that the underlying problem is that we do not have politicians that are addressing the cultural shift that is now needed. Serious societal changes are being driven by not only anthropogenic climate change but also improvements in technologies, especially automation and information handling. This is a disruption at least as severe as that of the industrial revolution. The impacts and advantages fall disproportionately on different segments of society and in different regions of the country. And, in my opinion, this disruptive force will require similarly large socio-economic changes. As before, this will have big effects on what it means to have a job, and how families relate to the rest of society. And again, affecting the role of women in society.

October 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

==> The story being pushed—or really just assumed—by the “move as an unthinking pack” media is that the Trump’s sexually assaultive behavior and worldview must be alienating women en masse, making the imminent collapse of Trump’s campaign inevitable ==>

Hmmm. I wonder if you might be mixing up your carts and your horses.

I see it reported quite a bit in the press that the reaction to Trump's bragging about sexual assault is significantly influence on political ideology. I have seen a number of stories that the negative reaction is much less prevalent among Republicans than among Democrats, and certainly must less prevalent among Trump supporters. And I have even seen some reports that break out the associated splits among men and women, respectively. I'm not sure where you see this nearly uniform "assumption" that ALL women are alienated by Trump's behavior...as opposed to presenting evidence that his hot mic behavior has had the effect of exacerbating the preexisting gender gap in his support.

Along similar lines....

You say: "...Moreover, while these debates are ones that pit men and women who hold one set of cultural outlooks against men and women who hold another,..."

And "...They are borne out too by studies that show that women with opposing cultural worldviews are the most divided on date rape..."

Where do you draw the line between "cultural world views" or "cultural outlooks," and flat out ideological identification? My sense is that many women whose "cultural world view" would lead them to hate on Trump's accused assaultive behavior would be less inclined to feel as exercised about Clinton's accused assaultive behavior.

In other words, when you say:

"It’s not surprising—it’s inevitable—that when Trump is attacked for his attacks on women, women of a particular cultural identity will be among those most aggressively “reject the controversy over his sexual behavior as a legitimate issue” and “rally” to his side."

I would say that women Republicans are more likely reject the controversy of Trump's behavior because they want to vote for him, whereas they are more likely to be outraged by Clinton's behavior. And visa-versa, of course. Does that mean women of a "cultural identity" in a way that generalizes more broadly? Hmmm.

Of course, there is a direct connection between "cultural world view" and political identity, but no doubt, the explaining the views of women towards Trump's and Clinton's behavior shows the same kind of "cultural view" inconsistency as Republicans have displayed when viewing the healthcare mandate. Seems to me that flat-out ideological identity, that isn't directly liked to "cultural world view" in other aspects, has to be given its just due.

Similarly, where do you tease out the explanatory power of education level from the explanatory power of party affiliation? Seems to me that in the findings you've highlighted, there's probably a lot of crossover. Note that there is a lot of evidence that Trump/Clinton support, or in other words, party identification, is strongly associated with educational status.

I'll also note that you highlighted a poll which is at the high end of the range of polling on Trump vs. Clinton, w/r/t to support for Trump. I wonder if the contrast that you highlight might look somewhat different in polls where support for Trump is lower, overall.

That's all not to completely dismiss the point that you're making here, but to point out that I think that you might be over-egging the pudding a bit.

October 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

In addition to my usual assortment of typos, syntax slips, and grammatical goofs, I should correct this part of my previous post, by adding the part in bold at the end...

" ..as opposed to presenting evidence that his hot mic behavior has had the effect of exacerbating the preexisting gender gap in his support particularly among independents or undecided voters

It seems to me that anyone serious about looking for some kind of differential effect, should look most at the group that isn't already highly identified. Trump supporters will dismiss the behavior as insignificant, irrespective of their gender and I would guess perhaps education level. Trump haters will find it abhorrent regardless of gender and, I would guess, education level. I would also venture a guess that a negative judgement of his behavior among unaffiliated or undecided women shows much less of differential effect contingent on education level.

October 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Related:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/page/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2016/10/16/National-Politics/Polling/question_17616.xml?uuid=HGQHiJNWEea8ABqXVtQRGw#

October 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Dan:

You write, "as the most recent polls show, the race is about as close as it ever was in the popular vote." I don't think so. For example, go to Pollster.com: http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/pollster/2016-general-election-trump-vs-clinton
Current gap is 8 points, and the closest gap was about 2 points in mid-July.

I'm not disagreeing with your main point, but here I think you're letting your contrarianism take control...

October 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Gelman

@Andrew--

I agree I am guilty of 1-pollism.

But glad you agree w/ main point, notwithistanding my contrarianism.

Wasn't the 2-points in July around time of Republican convention? I remember reading a great paper that convention-bumps are artifact of selection-bias arising in how events in campaign affect partisan respondents' response rates. You know that one, right?

October 21, 2016 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

On trying to do sampling when your system is neither well distributed nor at equilibrium: http://www.rawstory.com/2016/11/fivethirtyeights-extraordinary-prediction-model-is-failing-in-the-clinton-trump-race-and-thats-according-to-its-guru-nate-silver/ and http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/election-update-the-how-full-is-this-glass-election/.

As I see it, the big problem, only partially addressed by Bernie Sanders (as income disparity) or Donald Trump (as the world is rigged against us) is the series of huge systemic cultural shifts we face. Automation and mechanization that make many current jobs obsolete, and perturbations that are compounded by climate change, including water shortages, soil depletion, natural disasters in now highly populated vulnerable areas, and shifts to new energy sources and reductions in fossil fuel use. Given that we are having political 'discussions" that take nearly none of this into account, it is hard to pin down voters as to positions.

Dan, as I recall, was in England at about the time of the Brexit vote.

Part of what can go wrong about polls is that opinions can change, but part is that the responder may want to portray a different identity to the poll taker than the one actually held.

I saw the following tweet from Steven Pinker: Steven Pinker ‏@sapinker

Why Hillary (like everyone) Needs to Be Two-Faced: That's how human cooperation works. XLNT op-ed by Jonathan Rauch.

Which leads to this NYT piece: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/23/opinion/campaign-stops/why-hillary-clinton-needs-to-be-two-faced.html?smid=tw-share&_r=0

To a large extent, I disagree. I think that we could conduct politics with greater transparency, and without the pork barrel. This would involve communication with the public, so that they were well appraised of trade-offs in advance and as new issues arise. No pork barrel politics. Personal alliances between individual politicians of differing political opinions could still be made during such negotiations. But then rather than a private deal, they would need to go public together to persuade others.

But what do we do when new "reagents" are added to the system, promoting new reagent pathways with combined reaction kinetics that are unpredictable? When what you've been told is the major constituent (belief) of the system, but there are other hidden constituents (agendas) out there?

How do humans try to predict which trajectory is most likely? Maybe CBR? http://www.culturalcognition.net/blog/2016/9/30/modeling-the-incoherence-of-coherence-based-reasoning-report.html

November 4, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

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