Many of us are living in a bubble.
Since Donald Trump won the election less than 24 hours ago, it feels like everything has already been said. It’s been non-stop. My social feeds have been filled with everything from frustration and anger to Canadians offering marriage to the highest bidders. (Obviously tongue-in-cheek?)
I didn’t think Trump would win the election, but he did. I also didn’t think Brexit would happen, but it did.
Part of the reason I thought this is because nobody seemed to be supporting Trump. My friend graph was virtually 100% Clinton (and vehemently opposed to Trump). The media I consume – Globe and Mail, New York Times, Twitter feed (interest graph), and so on – was virtually 100% Clinton. And the polls told us that would be the outcome.
But what I just described is – now quite obviously – a filtered view of the world. I was thinking within my own little bubble and I was wrong. The number of biases at work here are numerous.
Firstly, it has been well documented that we prefer to associate with people that are most similar to ourselves. It gives us comfort when someone shares the same religious views, sports-team loyalty, education level, socioeconomic status, and so on. And you see this in cities. We cluster in so many different ways.
Secondly, we often privilege information that reinforces our own view of the world (see confirmation bias). We believe what we want to believe. Here is an excerpt from an op-ed in the New York Times this morning that stood out for me
(see, I’m again reading the same media):
“The silence in this great city, a stronghold of Clinton and the Democratic Party, is revealing: The elites of the East and West coasts, betraying a dangerous arrogance, were dismissive and ignorant to the last of the heartland anger feeding Trump’s rise.
This is the revenge of Middle America, above all of a white working-class America troubled by changing social and cultural mores — not every American loves choose-your-gender bathrooms — and by the shifting demographics that will make minorities the majority by midcentury.”
Thirdly – but probably not lastly – I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw the social desirability bias play out here. It is possible that many people simply did not want to openly admit that they were supporting Trump. And they perhaps responded that way in the polls. But privately, when it came time to vote, they went with what resonated most.
I say all this simply to suggest that now is not the time to get angry. Now is the time to open our eyes and pay attention to our rapidly changing world. Globalization and technology are transforming what we know and it is not benefiting everyone equally – far from it. Trump overwhelmingly won the support of white people without college degrees; people who are feeling left behind.
This divide is real.