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Astral Codex Ten Podcast

Jan 22, 2023

Four years ago I wrote Trump: A Setback For Trumpism, pointing out that when Trump became president, his beliefs became much less popular. For example:

More recently we’ve seen what seems to me to be a similar phenomenon (source):

After a major conservative victory (the Supreme Court overturning Roe), Americans’ opinions shifted heavily in a pro-choice direction after a long period of stalemate. The change seems to be of about equal magnitude regardless of political affiliation:

In the original Trump post, I speculated that the effect might come from people’s dislike of Trump’s personality spreading to a dislike of his policies. I don’t think that can be true here - the abortion ruling was a straightforward policy change with no extra personality component.

One natural alternative theory is a thermostatic effect. Voters want some medium amount of abortion, so if they hear that pro-abortion forces are winning, they say they’re against abortion. But if they hear that anti-abortion forces are winning, they say they’re pro-abortion.

The problem is, I can’t really find this effect for recent Democratic victories. For example, in 2015 the Supreme Court ruled (in Obergefell) that gay marriage was legal. On a thermostatic picture, one might have expected the public to turn against gay marriage. Here’s the data (source):