One of the most common mistakes we all make is to assume that everyone in the world secretly thinks exactly the same way we do. “Oh sure,” we say, “they may express a different opinion in public, but that’s only because they’re afraid of the PC police, or the media has poisoned their minds, or they just don’t know all the facts. But believe you me – whatever I think is true, rest assured everyone else is thinking the same thing. They’re just not as courageous as I am, to say it out loud.”
This is a reassuring belief. Trouble is, it isn’t true. The world is full of diverse opinions – and if the numbers say you’re in the minority, there’s a pretty good chance you’re actually in the minority.
Listen to Aaron’s commentary.
Case in point: Gary Johnson.
Now, we all know how this presidential election is going. We’ve got two extremely unpopular candidates. The two most unpopular presidential candidates in history, in fact. Nobody likes Donald Trump. Nobody likes Hillary Clinton. And so, this year, more people are taking a look at Gary Johnson – and that’s got his supporters excited. (I assume you know this already: if you yourself are not a Johnson supporter, you probably have some Facebook friends who are.) Johnson’s the best candidate in the race, they say, and everybody knows it. And yeah, he’s only polling 6, 7, 8 percent – but obviously that’s just because we’ve deluded ourselves into thinking third parties are wasted votes.
“Man,” they say, “if all the people who preferred Gary Johnson actually voted for him – he’d win!”
That’s the line. And it kinda makes sense. I mean, nobody likes Clinton and nobody likes Trump – so it stands to reason that if everyone who dislikes both Clinton and Trump voted for Johnson, he’d win in a landslide.
Except for one thing:
It isn’t true.
All year long we’ve been telling ourselves that everyone hates both Clinton and Trump. But the fact is – hard as it may be to believe – the vast majority of us do, in fact, like one of those two candidates.
Here’s the latest national survey from Public Policy Polling: 52 percent of us have an unfavorable opinion of Clinton, and 55 percent of us have an unfavorable opinion of Trump. But 44 percent of us like Clinton, and 39 percent of us like Trump. That adds up to 83 percent. True, there’s a little bit of overlap – those rare crazies who somehow like both Clinton and Trump – but even then, three out of four Americans do like at least one or the other. We assume they’re universally despised – but if you dislike both candidates, you’re not in the majority. Only about 25 percent of us agree with you.
So if the Gary Johnson fans get their way – and everyone who hates both Clinton and Trump actually goes out and votes for their guy – he’d still only end up with 25 percent of the vote. That’s pretty good for a third-party candidate – but it’s still a distant third.
Of course if you like Gary Johnson, by all means vote for him. If you really don’t have a preference between Clinton and Trump, vote for Johnson instead. But don’t assume everyone else is secretly on your side and just too chicken to act. Sadly, that ain’t true. And it’s never true – not for you, not for me. We have to live in a diverse world, whether we like it or not.
(And hey, that’s partly what this election is all about in the first place.)