Influence of presidents on public opinion

Barack Obama Rethinks The Bully Pulpit: via HuffPost The theme of the article is that politicians usually don’t influence changes in public opinion. So who does? The media are more influential than politicians, but they usually just preach to the converted as well. And that is how they blunt the effects of their own message. One of the sins of politicians is that they tend to ignore what their opponents’ arguments, which often are the the arguments of their supporters. If you do not take on the argument you are conceding the point. It also lacks psychology. One of the first things you learn in conflict resolution is that people need to feel heard before they are prepared to listen. Another weakness of politicians is they always take the short view. Take the present gun control debate. If you make a serious dent in gun deaths do you think that anybody is going to care if you banned “assault rifles” or large clips? They may be winners in polls…now…but that’s just pandering to use that. It’s something that sounds like common sense until you look at the facts and statistics and realize that it is unclear if the proposed measures will save even a single life. If you heroically enact this policy then what do you do in two or four years when you’ve wasted lots of time and money and gun deaths aren’t down and there have been a few other massacres? Then you can’t use it. But your opponent’s can. So you successfully turn an advantage into a disadvantage, and entrench the opponent’s base who have reason to believe that you don’t listen to anything and can’t be bothered to get your facts straight. Which is why politicians have a poor track record for changing minds.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: