Michael Ashcroft’s latest collection of focus groups and polling around a specific election, Hopes and Fears: Trump, Clinton, the voters and the future looks at the 2016 US Presidential election with a strong passing showing for the 2016 British referendum on the European Union.
The referendum features so strongly not only because it is another contest he has polled, but also because the tale of both elections is in one respect the same: political pundits surprised by a result that was caused by voters who feel left behind by economic growth and at odds with changing society.
Ashcroft’s research suggests that Donald Trump’s supporters were not blind to his faults. They saw him as flawed but judged Hillary Clinton to be even more of a flawed choice, especially as she represented a continuation of a status quo which did not suit them.
There are some fascinating details scattered through the text, especially this one regarding how much fake news spread on Facebook mattered. Or rather didn’t matter:
Just over a quarter of voters [said] they had used Facebook to share political information. But we also found that Facebook sharers’ mean likelihood of believing the controversial theories listed above [a series of fake news examples] was not significantly higher than for the population as a whole.
That backs up other research which also suggests the gloom over fake news can be much overdone.
When it comes to the future of US politics, Ashcroft wisely does not go overboard on assuming that those who won have a happy outlook ahead of them and that those who lost must radically change. Rather, he reminds the reader that both Democrats and Republicans have different reasons to fear the future, and a wise candidate for either party will seek to address them.
If you like this, you might also be interested in Minority Verdict.
Note: a review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher.