Why it's so Hard to Change People's Minds about Politics: Finding Facts in an Alt-Fact World
By Michelle Martin, PhD, MSW
Have you ever had one of those conversations with someone where you try your best to point out the fallacies in his or her argument, and rather than acknowledging the facts, he or she responds with the unchallengeable statement: "I just know what I know, period!"? I sure have, and I have to say, these types of conversations are increasing in frequency, particularly on social media, and they're incredibly frustrating.
The big question I want to address in this blog post is why is it so hard to change someone's mind about something (particularly political issues), when facts exist to prove them wrong? And of course the other way is true as well. Why is it so difficult for us to change our own minds when others come at us with facts to prove us wrong?
There are many possible answers to this question, and I'm going to share a few of my thoughts on some reasons for our collective stubbornness, and seeming inability to compromise on important issues. My hope is that this post will also shed some light on how it's possible that there is such a gap in how people in this country are perceiving the exact same dynamics and set of events so differently.
A unifying chorus on the left and middle asks how in the world anyone could still support Donald Trump and any politician who endorses his behavior and policy stances. A similar collective chorus involves the "why" questions, including why in the world Trump does what he does and says what he says, and why in the WORLD he feels the need to play it all out on Twitter.
I believe I have the answer to these questions, or at least some of them.
By Michelle Martin, PhD, MSW
Ever wonder why we’re getting so many waves of desperate Central American migrants coming north to the United States?
The waves began in 1979 following the U.S. intervention in the Nicaraguan Contra War, in an attempt to overthrow the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua. The Reagan Administration provided substantial financial and material support for the Contras operating in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, despite reports of vast corruption and mass human rights violations.
Out of the Mouths of Republicans
By Michelle Martin, PhD, MSW
I began collecting Republican quotes some time ago because it seemed like every time I heard about some outlandishly sexist or racist comment made by a politician or other community leader, it always turned out to be a Republican, and just as often, a self-identified Christian (of the Evangelical kind). So whenever I heard or read about such a comment, I added it to a Word document I kept on my laptop.
Soon, the list was getting long, with 10, 15, then 20 outrageous comments, that if one didn't know better, might assume were a part of either a propaganda plot, or a misguided piece in the Onion. But no, after thorough vetting the comments, (which most often involved going to the direct source and reading the comment for myself) the majority (99.98%) were accurately reported. I've posted the list on Facebook and Twitter, and I go back periodically to update the list as new comments emerge.
This list does not necessarily reflect the attitudes and perspectives of all Republicans, but I do believe they reflect the increasing shift of the Republican party toward the political Right. Perhaps the GOP has always had sexist and racist strains, particularly due to the party's commitment traditionalism, or perhaps the Republican party has been hijacked by right-wing populism. Regardless, I present to you members of the GOP:
Many people have commented on my "grace" in responding to people who disagree with me and aren't very nice about it. Well, I wasn't always so gracious—there was a time when I could be pretty snarky. I corrected people's grammar (how funny is that? #karma),
I bombarded people with facts, I interspersed my comments with "oh please!" or "typical!" and although I didn't engage too much in name-calling, I did use a fair amount of sarcasm (still do at times), and a minor epithet every now and then.
I'm certain I didn't change a single person's mind with that type of engagement. But what I did do is exhaust myself, make people feel bad about themselves, and drive an even deeper wedge into our already polarized society.
By Michelle Martin, PhD, MSs, MSW
I’ve been blogging about the humanitarian crisis involving Central American migrant families separated at the U.S. border for months now, and I along with so many others in the United States and around the world, have been trying to find an explanation, some type of rationale for the Trump administration’s handling of the political asylum seekers coming across the southwest border. After reviewing all the pleadings in the federal case filed against the government by the ACLU, as well as many of Trump’s speeches related to immigration, I think I may now have a better understanding. I think I have insight into his and his closest advisors’ perspectives on political asylum; their ultimate, buried-under-the-rhetoric ideology, so to speak.
Trump let his real agenda slip out in a recent speech. The scene was the Cabinet Room, a historic meeting room at the White House. The setting, a luncheon with Republican members of Congress. Trump began his speech by referencing the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold his “Muslim ban,” calling it a victory for the Constitution.
Although there is great variation in the opinions of immigration policy experts on the most effective way of managing cross border migration, throughout this speech, Trump presents the immigration debate in simplistically polarized terms: Republican want closed border and low crime, and Democrats want to open the floodgates to gang members and murderers, stating,
Dr. Michelle Martin is a social worker, policy specialist and Assistant Professor at California State University, Fullerton in the Department of Social Work, where she teaches social welfare policy, and researches dynamics related to immigrants, political asylum-seekers, refugees and other displaced populations.