19th January 2017 by Adam Crizzle & Angela Zvesper with editorial by Mat Dowle
2016 was an unpredictable year. The UK EU Referendum results and the US elections confounded many, including professional pollsters. Numerous articles and explanations have been offered about why these results were predicted wrongly. What about those whose predictions were consistently right?
Through my work as a Website Developer, I came across a firm which specialises in analysing human behaviour. Their Managing Director explained how they had used their behaviour analysis to accurately predict a number of key events, including the results of the UK EU Referendum, and the consequent resignation of David Cameron, and in 2008, that Gordon Brown would not win the 2010 General Election. I was cynical about his remarks as it is easy to make such statements after an event. At the same time he then went on to predict a clear victory for Donald J Trump in the November 2016 US elections with the Democrats losing heavily in the electoral colleges. In view of the polls at the time, I was again sceptical about how his firm could make this prediction.
After the US election, like many others, I was stunned to hear the results of such a major defeat for the Democrats. I went back to the prediction I had discounted to try and understand how a firm specialising in human behaviour analysis was able to make what seemed accurate counter-intuitive predictions. In time for the inauguration of President Elect Donald Trump as 45th President of the United States of America, at my request, they have written a summary article for this website explaining why Donald Trump won, why the Democrats lost, and how this result was predictable. I hope that this will be the first of several articles.
Perhaps the final point to make is that their predictions do not reflect their political opinions or preferences: the predictions are based on analysis of behaviours.
Coeō Creator and Developer
Little is certain in this life. The work of Hillcroft House is about developing probabilities in a range of situations. It is based on an understanding of behaviour, how people learn and communicate and our knowledge of key events in their lives. In the case of predicting Donald Trump’s victory we set it against the wider political and economic context. Although similar conclusions have been drawn since the election about why Trump won, everything stated here was predicted in advance of polling day. By the time that day arrived the Hillcroft House team believed that his victory was assured.
Key factors: the post-recession economy created a swathe of middle Americans who felt that they had lost out; that money was being ‘wasted’ on liberal projects while the quality of their lives declined. In these circumstances they wanted someone to listen and reflect their concerns and in Donald Trump they saw strength. He is a perfect model of a modern day demagogue.
His key behaviour: a highly dominating and charismatic style with a strong aural learning and communication preference.
The series of 2016 Republican Presidential Debates where Donald Trump took out the opposition, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, show precisely how he was so effective. Essentially he defeated the official Republican party. This should have been a profound wake-up call to the Democratic Party.
There is nothing essentially new in post-truth politics.
Although more work is required, our indicative research findings suggest that a significant number of core Trump voters share behaviour patterns which are diametrically opposed to Trump’s own. This group’s upper quartile needs are for security, order and safety: in Trump they saw someone who would meet their needs, and they were prepared to discount or overlook what they may not like.
He also appeared to understand rather than dismiss their concerns.
His use of social media enabled him to connect with this core group and form an in-group who felt included.
The Democrats lost themselves the election: it wasn’t simply that Trump won but that once he was confirmed as the candidate it was clear that Hillary Clinton did not have the behavioural style and skill set to take him on. She and her team were not expecting anyone like Trump. Her style relied on rational dialogue, and an established way of engaging. The Democrats believed that people would see through him, and did not take his threat seriously. They failed to see, to paraphrase Terry Pratchett, that many voters are “not at home to Mr Reasonable”.
Unlike Trump, Clinton appeared to dismiss the concerns articulated by many voters as unworthy instead of engaging and addressing them. While not all voters would have been satisfied by more moderate proposals, they would have felt listened to.
When Clinton secured the Democratic nomination she then failed to make Bernie Sanders her running mate. This was a crucial error. He would have secured key demographics that switched to Trump. Clinton did not have the critical powerbase among key swing voters.
By remaining in the race, Clinton helped to ensure Trump’s victory. With a higher level of behavioural awareness, she would have pulled out of the race and conceded to Sanders. With Sanders as the Democratic candidate, it would not have been a foregone conclusion that Trump would have won the election on 8th November 2016.
To defeat Trump required an aggressive style from the outset which mirrored Trump’s own. His misrepresentations required constant challenge in the simplest terms, repeated over and over: as in ‘That is a lie’. The Democratic candidate needed to come down like a hammer, over and over again.
By effectively mirroring Trump’s own behaviour Sanders would have put Trump in a stressed position, increasing the probability that he would have lost control at key points during the campaign, and risked undermining himself in the eyes of his supporters, who would then have looked to Sanders as the strong man.
Sanders had the necessary behaviour skills to take Trump on effectively: Clinton allowed Trump’s misrepresentations to go unchallenged until they were lodged in the public mind as ‘truths’.
The Democratic party also failed to read the signals, using old style polling techniques of doubtful value: footage of people being questioned about their voting intentions showed clear body language and speech pattern evidence of lying to the pollster. While some of Trump’s supporters were open in their support of him, others were embarrassed about what their peers would think of them if they came out in support. Nevertheless they voted for him and not Clinton on the day, as the visual evidence indicated they would.
The Pussy-gate scandal in October 2016: using video footage from 2005 so late in the campaign failed to have the impact that the Democrats wanted and hoped for. By that point it could even be said to have appeared desperate. Using it earlier on, in the context of a more hard hitting and aggressive campaign, would have increased the probability of its impact. By this stage of the race we saw increasing evidence that more people were inspired by Trump than they were admitting in the polls.
Celebrity Concert early November 2016 in support of Hillary Clinton: people were leaving early and not staying on to hear what she had to say.
Trumps response was stunning... “...by the way I didn’t have to bring JLo or Jay Z the only way she gets anybody, I’m here all by myself. Just me, no guitar, no piano, no nothing.”
The election was not a foregone conclusion from the outset, but as events unfolded it became increasingly likely that Trump would win.
In a different economic environment Trump would have had little appeal, but once he had secured the Republican nomination so convincingly, the Democratic candidate was no match for his message and style. We watched while Hillary Clinton floundered against him. What the Democrats required was a candidate who mirrored Trump’s style and could have taken him on with an equal measure of aggression, and given their own promise of change.
How big a factor was the Russian involvement?
Whether or not Russia did contribute towards undermining Hillary Clinton prior to the election, while a serious matter, this had relatively little overall impact on the outcome of the election on 8th November 2016. Those who tended to believe it most strongly were already Clinton supporters.
How Obama helped Trump’s resolve
The 2011 White House correspondents’ dinner was an indicator. President Obama mocked Donald Trump. Although some found this amusing, there were other options available to a serving US President to prove the authenticity of his birthplace.
Seth Meyers speech afterwards did very little to help matters either.
Based on Trump’s stressed behaviour pattern, and other case studies, these events would suggest a high probability that Donald Trump would react and want payback for this humiliation.
Did it matter that Hillary Clinton was not a man?
Our contention is that it was more about behaviour and style than the sex of the candidate, although the probability is that conservative Trump supporters, and some of the swing voters did not have confidence that a woman would have possessed the necessary skill set. But it was not primarily a vote against a woman candidate.
Mocking Trump in the Media did not help the Democrat cause
US TV programmes such as ‘The Daily Show with Trevor Noah’, ‘Late Night with Seth Meyers’ and ‘Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’ who routinely mocked Trump did not undermine him with his core voters, but conversely were seen as offering overt and ‘unfair’ support for the Democratic Party.
Trump’s Learning and Communication style
This was a key factor in Trump’s success: from what has been observed Clinton relied heavily on the written word, and on evidence and facts. There was no vision and dream presented. By contrast Trump showed a clear preference for an aural style: he talked and shared dreams: his constituency was not looking for substance but inspiration.
Social Media and generational differences.
We have already noted that a factor in Donald Trump’s success was his more effective use of social media. His victory confounded the view that presidential candidates require youth. Bernie Sanders, another strong contender, is also five years older than Trump. The role social media now plays in reaching out in a targeted way to groups of electors may have contributed.
Clinton won the popular vote but
“Keep in mind that campaigns make strategic and resource decisions based on the rules in place. If the rules were different, the strategy would be different. That in mind, there's no way to know for sure how the 2016 election would have turned out if another methodology had been in place.”
Source: 270 to win
Adam Crizzle & Angela Zvesper
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