We’re Stuck in A Bubble: How Nobody Foresaw a President Trump

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Madeline Cohen Co-Editor-in-Chief   The morning of November 9th, when I woke up and groggily Google searched “who won the election,” I refreshed the page twice just to make sure I was reading the headlines correctly. My own personal political leanings aside, I didn’t think that a Trump presidency was even a real possibility, statistically speaking. Up until that point, everything around me screamed that our next president would be Clinton and that she’d win by a landslide, and I had operated under that assumption for months. I could count on two hands everyone I’d ever met who planned to vote for Trump, and on only one the people who actually loved him as a candidate, the other five voting just to not vote for Hillary. And so, when Trump was elected to be the 45th president of the United States, more than anything, I was shocked and confused. How did I— or anyone around me, for that matter— not see it coming? The answer (after a week of reflection and conversation, researching results and scouring graphs) was a realization as shocking to me as the result of the election itself. We’re living in a bubble. We could blame polls for the beginning of this bubble, the overwhelming majority of predictions calling for Clinton’s victory, and consequently, leading to a false sense that the race was less close than it actually was. As of the morning of the election, the polling website FiveThirtyEight showed a 71.4% chance of Clinton winning and only 28.6% chance of a Trump win. In the past, through polling and statistical analysis, FiveThirtyEight has predicted the outcome of presidential elections with astounding accuracy. So we trusted their numbers. Why wouldn’t we? mapp2 It’s going to take months, if not years, to analyze the data and crunch the numbers and figure out where exactly the polls went so incredibly wrong. Some people think it’s because of “secret Trump votes”— where, in such an undeniably polarizing and controversial election, some people might have answered pollsters dishonestly, unwilling to admit that they were voting for Trump. Others think that the inaccurate predictions were due to reaching out to the wrong people, either excluding certain groups or representing other ones disproportionately more. Whatever the case, one thing is certain: those initial polling numbers created a bubble that told us that the decision was essentially already made, and we shouldn’t waste our time seriously considering the possibility of an alternate outcome. But that bubble got even thicker and less transparent and more comfortable here in Chicago. Out of the entire United States, Chicago had the greatest majority of Hillary voters out of any major cities, with Cook County bringing in a 74.4% democratic vote. “We are increasingly sorting ourselves geographically,” explained Mr. Greer, a politics teacher at Latin. “More and more, we have the ability to choose where we live— especially with the much more flexible nature of work and the new jobs that are being created. So the kinds of people moving away from urban America to rural America, and vice versa, are intentionally selecting certain places to live where they can live around shared ideologies.” mapp One of Clinton’s biggest problems in the election was that college-educated voters, who are more likely to be democrats, moved from rural areas to urban areas. The high concentrations of these voters in cities collectively leave democrats running up huge margins in the popular vote— but doing nothing in terms of impacting the electoral college. So even on a scale as large as Chicago, we were inundated with overwhelming support for Hillary. This environment didn’t even come close to giving us a sense of the opinions of the nation, and may have given us a skewed view of how real and possible a Trump victory actually was all along.   Then, there’s the media. I came to the realization that nearly every single website I visited, TV show I watched, and musical artist I listened to— from Beyoncé to Buzzfeed— showed clear support for Clinton. And on Facebook, I realized I hadn’t seen a pro-Trump article in what was likely a year. Especially on Facebook, where clicks and likes and views on advertisers’ pages are translated into dollars, what appears on our feeds is so catered to us, it’s nearly impossible to see anything other than the ideas we’re already familiar with and agree with. Facebook has algorithms to recognize what kinds of pages and posts you and your Facebook friends “like,” and it cuts off any ideas that it calculates you might not agree with. Sure enough, under my setting, I found I was assigned an interest in “US Politics—Very Liberal.” (Curious what political ideology Facebook has assigned you? Check it out at www.facebook.com/ads/preferences. I’m curious to know if anyone in the Latin community, with likely so many mutual friends, has any different result!) And lastly, we’re all floating comfortably within Latin’s bubble. Latin has an active democratic presence to begin with, and with this election, that democratic voice became even more vocal. At the same time, the controversy that surrounded Donald Trump left many of Latin’s republicans divided and less comfortable sharing their own political opinions, similar to the “secret Trump voting” America saw in polling. So yes, there may have been more pro-Clinton rhetoric in the hallways, and yes, there may have been a more widespread sense of support for her, but the truth is, the bubble even crosses party lines. A lot of the time, it feels like Latin democrats and republicans are pitted against each other, when in reality, even the most radically opposed people in our community have more in common than we often acknowledge. As part of the Latin community and the Latin bubble, Trump and Clinton supporters alike have been educated on why Trump’s racist comments are unacceptable and the significance of Hillary’s nomination as a woman.    The bubble is multilayered and real, and we’re deep, deep within it, isolated geographically, isolated ideologically, isolated by the media that’s been programmed for us to see and isolated by, more than anything, a fear of confronting opinions that may fundamentally go against everything we stand for. This election was a wakeup call. We’ve got to step out of the bubble. It’s going to be scary and uncomfortable as we grapple with ideas and viewpoints we don’t agree with, that might unsettle our assumptions about the world. But the world is much bigger than our bubbles. And if we want to understand how America and the world functions in the future, and if we want to understand why Trump will be our next president, we’ve got to look at the bigger picture. ]]>