Behavior Economics

The Colonoscopy that is America Explains Trump’s Consistent Approval Rate

3 Psych Tendencies the GOP Manipulates

Our good friends over at published an analysis the Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s approval-disapproval rating. They note that his approval rating has only fluctuated about nine points ranging between 36 and 45 points. They posit that this might be due to either a cult of personality or a loyalty to the person, not the party or partisan politics. I believe there is another more compelling explanation based on the behavioral economics heuristic, the peak-end experience.

Presidential Approval Ratings

But, before I explain how our current time is like a colonoscopy for the country and how this affects the old bastard’s approval rating, allow me a short aside to talk about the article itself. They created a chart, pictured at the right (I hope they don’t mind that I use it, but if they sue me, at least it means they’ve looked at Ye Olde Blogge, and wouldn’t that be cool… and worth it?). The light pink lines are the range that the president’s approval rating had during their presidencies. Of particular note, look at the range that W’s, Poppy’s, and Truman’s had. No president was as low as W — an illegal war and crippling recession will do that to you. Another item of interest is that JFK was never below 50%. The last note is that Obama’s mean range was about as wide as the Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s. Now back to our show!

The Peak-End Experience

In a fiendishly clever experiment, our good friend, Daniel Kahneman, suggested that how well we like an event or how positively or negatively we rate a remembered event is based on the most emotionally intense moment and our emotions at the end of the event. Thus the name, peak-end theory. Studies have been done concerning a variety of medical procedures including the aforementioned colonoscopy, contrived situations like immersing a hand in ice cold water for sixty seconds, and in surprisingly banal sequences like having gum after chocolate.

Kahneman’s original colonoscopy study of the peak-end heuristic he asked patients undergoing a colonoscopy to do rate their experience in several ways:

  • Every 60 seconds during the procedure, they were asked to rate the intensity of their pain on an eleven point scale (0 to 10) with ten being “intolerable pain” and 0, “no pain at all.”They were asked to rate the entire experience using a scale and to compare it to other unpleasant experiences.Later, they provided a variety of measures of their memory of the procedure.

One of the interesting findings from this study and others is that the patient who had the worst blow-by-blow rating of the procedure did not have the worst memory of the procedure. Kahneman claims this is due to three tendencies:

  • Duration neglect is the cognitive tendency to discount the effect that length of an event has on the overall memory of the event. In other words, the length of the colonoscopy had little bearing on the rating of the memory of the colonoscopy. Apparently, according to Kahneman, at least, these findings, as incredible as they are, are born out in other studies of memories of events.

  • The peak-end heuristic is the tendency to evaluate the quality of an event based on the most intense emotion felt during the event and the memory of how it ended. When comparing the blow-by-blow ratings of pain and the remembrance of the colonoscopy, Kahneman found that it was a combination of the average of the most intense levels of pain reported during the procedure and the average of the pain level reported over the last three minutes of the procedure. This retrospective analysis of the reports from the colonoscopy patients predicted their rating of the remembered experience.
  • Violations of dominance is the counter-intuitive tendency to use an average of intense moments to evaluate an experience rather than just the most intense moment. To test this idea, Kahneman and others tortured colonoscopy patients by randomly leaving the colonoscopes stuck up half of their asses for a full minute after the procedure had ended. It would be uncomfortable, but far from the most intense pain they had felt that day. They didn’t know that they were lucky enough to be included in this group or that this group even existed at all (until after the study that is). In case you think that this finding is a fluke of the sample or something, they used a sample size of 682 people. They found that the people who endured the extra minute of the colonoscope rated the colonoscopy more favorably than those who had not had the extra minute of discomfort. Because the extra minute had not contributed another intense moment of pain, but rather a milder level of pain, it brought the average pain level down in their recall of the procedure. Isn’t science wonderful?

The Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s Approval Rating

So, what does this have to do with The Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s approval-disapproval rating? Pollsters ask respondents to evaluate their memory of the Ol’ Pussy Grabber.  When an event happens, like say his “summit” with Kim Jong Un, and it goes “well” as the first one did, supporters all cheer — although, I bet his supporters chattered about Nobel Peace Prizes more than they cared about peace on the Korean peninsula or denuclearization, or the geopolitical issues of NorthEast Asia — and all of his detractors fretted about him giving away the farm in a vainglorious pursuit of a Nobel Peace Prize. However, the uninformed disconnected independent voter is swayable. And, you’ll notice that at times like these his approval ratings tick upward as these people shrug, go “meh,” and tell the pollster that he’s okay.

After weeks like this one in which all is chaos and there is much screaming, gnashing of teeth, rending of clothing, and scraping of boils with broken pottery shards. His ratings go down as these same low information non-participants shrug, go “meh,” and tell the pollster that he’s not okay.

It is a direct application of the peak-end heuristic. The average of the most intense emotions coupled with the feeling at the end of the experience. In this case the last few days when taking the poll. The problem that the Ol’ Pussy Grabber is having with his opinion poll numbers is the same problem he has with every other aspect of his life: HIMSELF. He can’t help but shoot everyone in the dick around him and then blame them, the 12 angry Democrats, and Clinton for it.

Last week, the Mueller report was released and it didn’t immediately call for his head, impeachment, or indictment. The Ol’ Pussy Grabber may have been happy for the first time since the election. He didn’t even tweet or nuthin’ for a whole weekend. Unlike the previous weekend when he was on an extended tweeting tirade as he anticipated the release of the report.

You’d think you’d see an uptick in his polling — you have — but then, he goes an pulls a boneheaded move like trying to immediately squash the ACA which will throw 20 million people off of their insurance! What are the social media immersed Netflix watching spring break partying public to make of such a thing? It leaves them feeling uneasy and doubting which factors into their evaluation of his performance so when the pollsters come knocking, they shrug, go “meh,” and say not so good.

It’s as simple as that.

8 replies »

  1. And, it is those “meh” folks who make the differences in the measurements. The hard core supporters (He can do no wrong.”) and solid opponents (“He’s a walking catastrophy.”) don’t change much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy Bob!

      That’s exactly what I mean. If he could keep himself from throwing his face out with the bath water, he could probably make it over 50% and quite possibly win re-election. But, he has to fight with someone, so when there’s nothing to fight about, he finds something. I just hope he isn’t re-elected, but who knows with the GOP refusing to do anything to stop Russian interference.


      Liked by 1 person

      • There is some slight hope that the Republicans on Capitol Hill will actually get the message on what the Russians were/are doing when they see (if they do) the full Mueller report. Unfortunately, much of the evidence will be redacted due to “sources and methods” and Grand Jury issues. That brings up the whole “collusion, coordination, and conspiracy” issue. I’ve reached the conclusion that it is most probable that it is not that the Trump gang did not choose not to collude with the Russians. They were more than ready to do that as shown by setting up the Trump Tower meeting and other contacts. That was in line with their accustomed behavior in private business and their inability to understand that running for President was a different context. The Russians chose not to collude with Trump. They didn’t need to because their operations were well under way and planned out, and they knew that as one commentator said, “If you are in a conspiracy with Trump, you are one Tweet away from disaster.” . After all, Trump’s own lawyers wouldn’t let him sit for a face-to-face interview with Mueller for much the same reason. The Russians did test the gang’s willingness to conspire and floated teasers, but when they got to the Trump Tower meeting, they didn’t talk about the “dirt on Hillary” and changed to subject to adoption issues about which the Trumpies knew nothing and cared less. I still want to know who pulled the plug on the Trump Tower Moscow deal, more likely the Russians than than Trump. They don’t trust him, or think they can control him (rightly) and decided their best advantage was in just letting Trump be Trump and go around creating chaos and breaking things.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Howdy Bob!

          I’ve floated a similar theory on the whole debacle: Trump is so manipulable and overconfident due to his narcissism that they didn’t need to collude. Between the Trump Tower Moscow deal and Manafort, the Russians had every thing they needed. Manafort was over a barrel indebted to his oligarch friend. Trump was compromised due to his tower deal and taking meetings with the Russians. And, even though, Trump has gotten zero — other than winning the election — from his, at least, flirtation with collusion with the Russians, he’s narcissistic enough to keep coming back because he “knows” the payoff is just around the corner.

          Between the ease of manipulating him and his unsecured cell phone, he is a clear and present danger to the US.


          Liked by 1 person

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