The availability theory of human psychology is very unifying this US political cycle

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL September 21, 2020

A voter marks a ballot for the New Hampshire primary inside a voting booth at a polling place in February 2016

All politics is about psychology but especially the part that forecasts results. So to the biggest question of the year: Will Donald Trump win re-election? No one knows but theories abound.

One goes by the human tendency described in 1974 by psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman as availability. That’s to say the mental shortcut that leads people to make judgments about the likelihood of an event based on how easily an example, instance, or case comes to mind. In the 2020 presidential election, the 2016 outcome – ie Mr Trump’s unexpected victory – is seared into the collective national and global mind.

This makes the idea of a Trump 2020 win more available to people than any other theory.

In turn, the availability theory is prompting others.

One is the so-called “red mirage”, in which Republican (red) voters cast more in-person votes than the blue Democrats, who mail them in. Accordingly, on election night November 3, there is the mirage of a Trump win.

The other theory that’s increasingly being touted comes in the guise of investment advice. J. P. Morgan recently told investors to position for rising odds of a Trump victory, partly due to the impact of violent anti-racism protests on public opinion.

No one really knows what to believe, but the availability theory undoubtedly holds water.

Additionally, it’s not polarising, offering hope to both the Trump and Biden camps.