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VOTER PERCEPTIONS: SEPARATING FACT FROM FICTION

Posted by Tim Bryce on March 15, 2012

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)

To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, click HERE.

One of the most fundamental lessons to learn in business and in life, is that people act on their perceptions, regardless if it is right or wrong. If we believe something is true, even if it is fallacious to everyone else, we will act accordingly which may prove disastrous to our well being. To illustrate, if I believe the flame will not hurt me, I will stick my hand in it; if I believe the car is shifted to “Drive” (as opposed to “Reverse”) I will likely accelerate faster and look the wrong way; if I believe it is warm outside, I will not wear a coat, etc. All of our decisions are based on how we perceive a situation. Success, therefore, is predicated on who is the most alert, can process the data properly, and arrive at the correct conclusion.

As an old systems man though, I can tell you authoritatively: If the input is wrong, everything that follows will be wrong. So, a lot depends on our senses, our intelligence and education, our attention span and power of observation, our sense of right and wrong, and our general awareness of the world around us.

On November 6th, American voters will be asked to elect a president, congressmen, and several state and local officials. Voter perceptions will obviously play an important role in our decision making process and already we are receiving conflicting messages. For example, the president’s campaign proudly proclaims: “We’ve added back 2.6 million private sector jobs as of September 2011.” (Source: https://my.barackobama.com/) Yet, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the 2011 Unemployment Level was 13,747,000 people, and the Unemployment Rate is yet to dip below 8%, regardless of the president’s stimulus bills. As Stephen Gandel of TIME Magazine wrote (July 14, 2009), “Back in early January, when Barack Obama was still President-elect, two of his chief economic advisers (Christina Romer and Jared Bernstein) — leading proponents of a stimulus bill — predicted that the passage of a large economic-aid package would boost the economy and keep the unemployment rate below 8%. It hasn’t quite worked out that way.”

There is also a lot of spin being offered regarding taxes, spending, and of course the national debt and deficit. The president blames the GOP-led House of Representatives for obstructing progress, and the Republicans blame the president for reckless economic policies. So, who should we believe? What is the correct perception? It ultimately depends on your ability to separate fact from fiction. Only by taking the initiative and digging into statistics will we discover the facts:

Federal Spending

UP

Federal Deficit

UP

Federal Debt

UP

Food Stamps

UP

Gas Prices

UP

College Tuitions

UP

Americans in Poverty

UP

Home Values

DOWN

US Global Competitiveness

DOWN

Exports

DOWN

Federal Credit Rating

DOWN

Yet this is what the Obama administration wants us to perceive as a “Recovery.”

The problem associated with gathering facts is two-fold: first, most people do not take the time to study the news, and; those who do, tend to listen only to those people we believe and trust. As to the former, a recent Harvard survey found that only one in 20 teens and one in 12 young adults read a newspaper on a daily basis. Another study in 2008 found that roughly 64% of 18-to-24-year-olds said they had viewed a newspaper online within the last year, but by 2009 the number dropped to 54%. Regardless of the overwhelming amount of news and information available through the Internet, printed media, radio and television, people understand only a fraction of what is going on in the world and rely on others to filter and prioritize the news for them. As to the latter, we tend to gravitate to those people who appear to share our same interests and morality which is normally along ideological lines. Whereas Democrats frequent those news outlets who share their interests, the Republicans do likewise. The concept that news is independent and unbiased is a naive notion based on a bygone era. It’s a matter of what is hip and who people trust.

Young adults are less interested in facts and more interested in what is fashionable or popular. The problem though is they will be eligible to vote in November, and the media specialists are fully cognizant that younger minds can be more easily shaped than older ones who are set in their ways. Political strategists are also acutely aware of this and are trying to manipulate the masses like a magician’s slight of hand, causing the audience to look one place where the truth actually lies somewhere else.

Message X Media = Perception

Repetition of the message is essential for conditioned response as in the case of Pavolv’s Dog. If you say something enough times, people tend to believe it, regardless if it is right or wrong. Such repetition must be relentless and tends to be long term in nature in order to penetrate the human psyche. The message must capture the hearts and minds of the people, such as:

“everyone should pay their fair share”
“Win the future.”
“pass this jobs plan right away”

Short sound bites that are easy to comprehend, remember, and repeat.

Behind all of this is a deep seeded contempt for the human spirit, that people are cattle and easily swayed. Using brainwashing techniques, lying and misleading people is considered perfectly acceptable in politics as long as it ends with the desired results. Thereby truth and honesty are often sacrificed in the process.

President Obama’s campaign strategy seems rather obvious: he desperately wants to distract people from his record, which ultimately cost him the House of Representatives in 2010. He will try to put the spotlight on others, as opposed to himself. He will blame the Congress, blame the rich, blame business, blame the GOP candidates, and Yes, he will continue to blame Bush. Plus, he is counting on the American public having a short memory. He will inevitably engage in a campaign of brainwashing using the media as his ally. The president and his minions will spin, attack, deceive, intimidate, ridicule, and assassinate character; anything but discuss the facts.

The GOP, on the other hand has to stay focused on the president’s failed record and hold him to the facts. They must stop the bickering and close ranks once their candidate has been established. The real question they must ask the country is, “Can we afford four more years of President Obama?” Ultimately, they have to delineate two distinctly separate views of America:

MASSIVE GOVERNMENT – where business is evil and cannot be trusted.
or
SMALLER GOVERNMENT – with less red tape allowing the country to go back to work.

MORE TAXES & SPENDING
or
FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY

A LAND OF ENTITLEMENTS
or
A LAND OF OPPORTUNITY THROUGH PERSONAL INITIATIVE

A NANNY STATE
or
PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY

RIDICULE RELIGION
or
IN GOD WE TRUST

SOCIALISM
or
CAPITALISM

UNDERMINE THE CONSTITUTION
or
REVITALIZE THE CONSTITUTION

In order to win the day, Republicans need to stay informed, educate others (particularly the young), and vote. More than anything, each person has to “FIND YOUR VOICE.” No, not everybody can deliver a speech or write an article, but each person has to find a way to let their opinions be known, such as:

* Attending meetings to discuss issues, at all levels of government and for both parties.
* Read and research, challenge and publish the facts.
* Network and talk to young people.
* Attend rallies, host meetings.
* Write letters to the editor on-line.

Where Democratic Congressmen will try to divorce themselves from the president’s record, Obama will try to ride their coattails back into office. This is to be encouraged. The more we can tie the Democrats to the president and his failed policies, the more likely they will lose the election.

As this election year progresses I have on more than one occasion heard Republican friends lament, “I’m scared; I’m starting to believe Obama will get voted back into office for another term.”

Such comments are more indicative of the vicious GOP campaign thus far as opposed to President Obama’s leadership. I counter by reminding them of three things:

1. The Supreme Court’s review of Obamacare on March 28th-29th. Regardless of the decision to uphold or reject it, the decision will be a rallying cry for the GOP.

2. We are all facing a summer of high gasoline prices which will not endear the president to the American taxpayer.

3. The turmoil in the Middle East is a liability to the president, particularly if more violence erupts thereby affecting our fragile economy. He will likely be blamed for a weak and reckless foreign policy.

The November election is not about a fabricated “War on Women,” Rush Limbaugh, a candidate’s gaffe, or political correctness. These subjects are nothing more than deceptive distractions. In reality, it’s about the economy, unemployment, energy, and foreign policy. You are admonished to stay focused on the real issues of this campaign.

Republicans must always be mindful the 2012 election is not about facts and figures, but “mind share.” In other words, controlling the perceptions of people and creating the illusion as to who our leaders should be. If it were as simple as just interpreting facts and figures, President Obama would have been driven out of office already.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

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Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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2 Responses to “VOTER PERCEPTIONS: SEPARATING FACT FROM FICTION”

  1. Jenn said

    Great post Tim–so much to think about and to get involved with this upcoming election. Wonder how many people will get off of FB and the “hyped mantra” that exists in certain political circles there and become involved in the process? I know my husband and I always start locally—and meet with our reps up for reelection. We go ask questions. We take our kids… they need to learn this!! It can get really fun! And you feel as if you know your candidates and their positions just a bit better than before.

    Cheers, Jenn.

    Like

  2. Tim Bryce said

    A J.P. of Toronto, Ontario wrote…

    “An old saying comes to mind, ‘There are liars, damned liars and statistics.’ In fact, I agree with you in one of your essential points: The numbers, as such, do not actually lie. In a base ten number system, 2 and 2 are really 4. What constitutes “the lie,” is firstly the interpretation placed on the numbers, which can often be driven by prior expectations or desires, or by political ideology, or by biases, some known and some subconscious (the most dangerous ones.) Also, ‘the lie’ can be found in a deliberate exclusion of other statistics, studies or polls, with emphasis only on the set of numbers congenial to one’s own world-view.

    In one sense we have the large-scale media to blame. Any hope of a calm, rational and detailed discussion or presentation of relevant information on any major public agenda issue is impossible on network or cable TV in our time. Oddly enough, only the detailed analysis and evaluation found in long-established newspapers or magazines provides the kind of discussion so desperately needed. That being said, I also agree with your other point, namely that most voters most of the time do not have either time, interest or ability personally to explore relevant issues in great depth. They do, indeed, tend to believe a messenger they trust a priori, or to vote on the basis of pereceived personal self-interest as opposed to broader considerations of public policy alternatives. Oddly enough, other than the very youngest of adults, I don’t think the private political or social opinions of peers counts for very much in how individuals actually vote.

    There are, however, two rather obvious and deep divisions within the USA, indeed in many other democratic nations as well, and that is the clear chasm between those who believe government in general should be small, limited and not much involved beyond keeping law and order and providing for national defence, and those who believe the exact opposite, namely that government should be large, much involved in economic and social management, an active agent in the management and distribution of national wealth, and very protective and supportive of those and their children who cannot or will not make the right choices for themselves. These divisions of political and social philosophy go well beyond arguments about objective fact and are readily understood in themselves by most adults. The problem arises, however, when one attempts to assess how the rival ideologies actually “work” when applied to the real world. Firstly, because no one can really agree on how to define “works,” so deep are the ideological divisions to begin with. Secondly, it is never actually true that the ‘pure’ system has actually been applied with any consistency to a real society for any length of time. Thirdly, in most real democracies the society as a whole is so deeply divided on the fundamentals that it is virtually impossible to ever apply either view at political and social levels and processes. Indeed, I believe even a dictatorship would have trouble, in this century, doing so.

    Finally, I also support your intitial statement entirely: people act on what they believe to be true, and often on what they believe is in their personal self-interest. This is also true of governments and of political leaders. It has always been true. Hitler invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, with Britain undefeated in the west, because he believed it was a war-winner and in his own and Germany’s best interests. Obviously, he did not get up the previous morning, look in the mirror, and say to himself, ‘Tomorrow I will lose the war.’

    Similarly, the Bush Administration attacked and occupied Iraq because he and Chaney, at least, probably with Wolfowitz and Rumsfelt in close support, honestly believed it was in the best interests of the United States to do so, probably honestly believing at the time that Saddam Hussein really did have weapons of mass destruction. One can hardly imagine Bush, the day before, getting up and looking in the mirror, and saying to himself: tomorrow as President I will authorize the greatest mistake in foreign policy of my Presidency.”

    And so on and so forth….”

    A J.S. of Skidway Lake, Michigan wrote…

    “On target as usual, Tim. I am also afraid that not enough Americans are sufficiently disillusioned by Obama’s failures. We may, indeed, suffer another four years of the same and worse. In the last election, I was pleased to learn that almost none of my daughter’s college age peers were taken in by the ‘campaign for change.’ Their votes were split between McCain and Ron Paul. Unfortunately, the split put Obama in office, but these youngsters are smart. They’ve worked hard for their degrees and intend to get jobs and begin repaying their student loans. We’ve already seen evidence of crossing over in primaries by Democrats to knock out Romney. Evidently, they believe he is the man who can beat Obama and are feeling threatened. Let us pray!”

    An E.M. of Oxford, United Kingdom wrote…

    “People did NOT vote for Obamanation because he is endowed with intellectual capabilities, they voted on the basis of the color of his skin, OBAMA alleges to have graduated from LAW SCHOOL and has no clue how to BUDGET? Let’s look at POLITICIANs in Washington, D.C., and the manure they expect American citizens to swallow by the loving spoon full, they granted themselves PAY RAISES in what they allege is United States of Americas so called QUOTE ‘economic crisis’ exactly how much cocaine are these people snorting on a daily basis?

    Obama spent more in three years during his administration than the BUSH administration in eight years, that’s a load of manure for the American public to absorb. 2012 won’t be won by OBAMA!”

    Like

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