Thursday, March 31, 2016

Religion And Science

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"Religion and Science"
Albert Einstein
New York Times Magazine
November 9, 1930

Dear D,

Thanks for forwarding these articles.

Reading the Huff Post piece I immediately thought of the following article:

I realize it will be past your bedtime, but this coming Monday, from 9 p.m. til 11 p.m., Spanish student/friend, Byron Howe, and brother Kevin (in town for two days) will be gathered in my living room, discussing "Life" over cups of red wine. 

It would be sweet if you could join us... if only for an hour.

Pax tecum


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On Thu, Mar 31, 2016 at 7:43 PM, DK M.D. wrote:

Hi Alan,

I came across this Huff Post article today and it made me think of you. It describes the "deep seated tension" between the analytical reasoning part of the brain and the moral reasoning part of the brain. Apparently, these parts of the brain don't play nicely together. The lead author, Anthony Jack, posits that “Our dialogue around religion would be more productive if scientists respect the insights that religion can offer, and if religious individuals would respect the insights science can offer.”

I am also sending you separately the referenced article from PLoS, the "Public Library of Science".

Probably best discussed over a decent bottle of red ;-)


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: DK M.D.
Date: Thu, Mar 31, 2016 at 7:35 PM
Subject: Conflicts Between Science and Spirituality Are Rooted In Your Brain

D sent you this article on the Huffington Post..
Conflicts Between Science and Spirituality Are Rooted In Your Brain
The standoff between science and religion -- between fact-based and faith-based ways of thinking and explaining the world -- is nearly as old as ...

Read the entire article here:
D: Here is the link for the PLoS article:

Conflicts Between Science and Spirituality Are Rooted In Your Brain & Are "Just" Different Insights

Neuroscience can help shed light on the complex relationship between religious belief and analytic thinking.

Conflicts Between Science and Spirituality Are Rooted In Your Brain

“They are different kinds of insight, so there is really no reason for so much conflict to arise.”

Carolyn Gregoire
The standoff between science and religion — between fact-based and faith-based ways of thinking and explaining the world — is nearly as old as human thought itself. 
In fact, the conflict may be rooted in the very structure of our brains, according to research published last week in the journal PLOS One. 
The researchers observed on the neurological level a deep-seated tension between analytical reasoning — which is associated with disbelief in God — and moral reasoning — which is associated with belief in God or a “universal spirit.” 
The new study reinforces the findings of a previous study by the same research team which showed that the brain has an analytical network used for critical thinking and a social network that allows us to empathize and engage in moral reasoning.
There is an opposition between the two networks, according to the research team. When people are experiencing faith in a supernatural entity, they suppress the brain network used for analytical thinking. And when they reason about the physical world, they disengage the brain network involved in empathy and moral reasoning. 
The findings echo the philosophy of German idealist thinker Immanuel Kant, who held that there were two different types of truths, the empirical and the moral. 
“Kant distinguished between theoretical reason (science) and practical reason (morality),” the study’s lead author Dr. Tony Jack, a professor of philosophy and neuroscience and director of the Brain, Mind and Consciousness Lab at Case Western Reserve University, told The Huffington Post in an email. “Kant pointed out these two types of reason can conflict, and that is pretty close to what we now see in the brain. So in some sense the conflict is rooted in the brain.”
Because these two networks suppress each other, we come to favor one mode of thinking over the other — setting the basis for the conflict between science and religion. 
“Our dialogue around religion would be more productive if scientists respect the insights that religion can offer, and if religious individuals would respect the insights science can offer.”Dr. Tony Jack, director of the Brain, Mind and Consciousness Lab
In the new study, Jack and his colleagues conducted a series of eight experiments on groups of up to 527 adults. In the first experiment, for instance, the participants were asked to fill out a series of questionnaires measuring critical and mechanical thinking (both measures of analytic reasoning), empathic concern and spiritual and religious beliefs. The other experiments were a variation of the initial study.
The results of the experiments revealed that the greater a participants’ belief in God, the more moral thinking and less analytic reasoning they tended to show. 
“Believing in a religion or being spiritual is linked to empathic feelings, concerns and views,” Dr. Richard Boyatzis, a professor of cognitive science at the university and a co-author of the study’s co-authors, told HuffPost in an email. “People with some form of faith — be it a church-attending Catholic or someone practicing yoga regularly and enjoying the spiritual sensations — appear to think about their relationships with others and are seen by others as demonstrating more empathy in day-to-day interactions than others with less faith.”
Moral concern was positively correlated with regularity of prayer, meditation and other spiritual practices. The experiments also revealed that favoring analytic thinking correlated with a disbelief in spiritual or religious ideas — likely because faith requires the disengagement of brain networks associated with analytical thought. 
“Taking a leap of faith involves shutting down brain regions involved in analytic reason,” Jack said. 
So will we ever reconcile scientific and spiritual approaches to looking at the world? The two ways of thinking may be converging, but the gap is unlikely to ever close entirely — and that’s probably a good thing, according to Jack. 
We can learn something different from each way of thinking, and can draw on analytic and moral reasoning in different situations as they are required. 
“Our dialogue around religion would be more productive if scientists respect the insights that religion can offer, and if religious individuals would respect the insights science can offer,” Jack said. “They are different kinds of insight, so there is really no reason for so much conflict to arise.”
And as individuals, optimal thinking likely results from a dynamic interplay of these two types of reasoning, based on the nature of the particular problem we’re facing. 
“We, like Kant, think these two types of reason are best applied to different sorts of issues,” Jack said. “So long as each type of thinking is kept to the appropriate domain, no conflict emerges.”

Arizona White Man, Husband And Father, Shot Dead By Police While Sobbing "Please Don't"

Daniel Shaver is pictured with his family.

‘Please don’t shoot me’: Man pleads for life before being killed by police

Read more here:

Arizona officer was responding to a call about a suspect with a gun
Victim made move toward his waistband while approaching police, report says
Officer was charged with second-degree murder, fired

Read more here:
In Daniel Shaver’s final moments, he was heard pleading for his life - sobbing and saying to police officers, “Please don’t shoot me.”
Shortly afterward, Shaver was shot and killed by one of them, according to an investigation report from the Mesa Police Department in Mesa, Arizona.
In January, authorities said former officer Philip “Mitch” Brailsford fatally shot Shaver after responding to a call about a suspect with a gun. He has been charged with second-degree murder and fired from the force.
On Tuesday, according to the Arizona Republic, authorities released a report detailing witness testimony as well as audio and video footage from a body camera that suggests an unarmed and intoxicated Shaver was begging to be spared. The report also indicates Brailsford may have had cause for concern as Shaver made a move toward his waistband while approaching police.
Authorities said Brailsford then fired five shots.
Late at night on Jan. 18, an employee at a Mesa La Quinta Inn & Suites phoned police to report that someone had been pointing a rifle from a fifth-floor window.
“A couple of the guests have come to me,” the La Quinta Inn worker said, according to the Arizona Republic. “I’m an employee and they’ve come to me and they’ve told me that somebody is pointing a rifle outside of one of the windows in our building.”
A woman later told police that she and a colleague were in Mesa for a Dollar General training conference and that Shaver had invited them into his room for “shots,” according to the report.
She told police she saw a case in Shaver’s room that contained a gun and a dead sparrow.
“Shaver told her he was on a business trip with Walmart and his job is to kill all of the birds that get inside the buildings,” according to the report. Shaver’s wife, Laney Sweet, said on Facebook he would travel from their Texas home to Mesa a few times per month to service pest removal stores.
The woman told police that Shaver and her male colleague started messing with the rifle, pointing it out the window. Her colleague later left the room.
When the officers arrived, they called Shaver on the phone and asked them to exit the room.
The woman later told investigators that she heard police yell at Shaver because he was not “following protocol.” She then saw police shoot him and “saw him go down,” according to the report.
But moments before he was killed, the woman said, he was crying, saying: “Please don’t shoot.”
Body camera footage shows that during the confrontation with police, Shaver was on the ground with his hands extended above his head, according to the report. At one point, the report stated, he tried tried to raise his body.
“If you do that again, we are shooting you,” an officer said, according to the report. “Do you understand?”
Shaver responded: “No, please don’t shoot me.”
Authorities said no weapon was seen on Shaver, but it was unclear whether he had one.
An officer told Shaver to crawl toward them.
Sobbing, he said, “Yes, sir,” and started to move.
Once he reached the area where the woman’s purse was, the report stated, “his left hand moved across his body and around the purse in order to crawl past it. Shaver was audibly sobbing as he crawled.”
The report stated that Brailsford’s rifle was pointed down the hall until that point.
“Brailsford then swung his rifle back toward Shaver where Shaver could be seen with his braced left hand and his right hand moving back toward his waist with his elbow raised behind him,” according to the report. “Shaver’s head appeared to be down with his face looking at the carpet.”
The report stated that “multiple voices” began to say “don’t” as “Shaver’s hand moved back toward the front of his body.”
“Brailsford fired his first shot as Shaver’s hand was moving toward the front of his body and as at least one officer was heard saying ‘don’t,’” according to the report.
Authorities said Brailsford fired about five shots.
Shaver, 26, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Officer was ‘high achiever’

On Tuesday, Mesa police also released Brailsford’s personnel file, which was obtained by the Republic. The newspaper said it painted a picture of “a high achiever who scarcely received criticism from his employers or the public.”
In 2013, Brailsford spoke with the Arizona Republic when he became one of the first rookies to receive Axon body cameras during the department’s push for greater security and transparency.
“I definitely think there is a benefit to start out with this so young,” he said then. “It’s like learning a new tool right off the bat.”
The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office announced earlier this month that it was pursuing second-degree murder charges against Brailsford.
“The use of deadly physical force by law enforcement is governed by Arizona law and is always a tragedy when the loss of life results,” Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said, according to the Arizona Republic. “After carefully reviewing the relevant facts and circumstances, we have determined that the use of deadly physical force was not justified in this instance.”
Brailsford told investigators that “a million things” were racing through his mind and he felt threatened when Shaver was crawling, “trying to gain a position of advantage in order to gain a better firing position on us,” according to the report.
Brailsford entered a not-guilty plea. Shaver’s widow, Laney Sweet, has started adamantly fighting against a possible plea deal in the case.
Sweet told the Republic earlier this month that she had been frustrated by the lack of information available in her husband’s death.
“I can’t bring him back, but I will fight for justice for him,” she told the newspaper. “My kids are absolutely heartbroken and I can’t fix it.”


d more here:

Trump's Favorability With American Voters Sinks To New Low

PALM BEACH, FL - MARCH 01:  Republican Presidential frontrunner Donald Trump speaks to the media at the Mar-A-Lago Club on March 1, 2016 in Palm Beach, Florida. Trump held the press conference after the closing of Super Tuesday polls in a dozen states.  (
Kerry Eleveld
The more American voters see of Donald Trump, the less they like him. Even as Trump gets closer to seizing the GOP nomination, he gets less and less popular, with nearly two-thirds of the electorate viewing him unfavorably. Steven Shepard reports
How bad are Trump’s image ratings? The HuffPost Pollster average of recent national polls puts Trump’s favorability at only 31 percent, while 63 percent view him unfavorably.
That’s a notable decline from late January, on the eve of the first votes in the GOP nominating process, when Trump’s average favorability rating was 37 percent, with 57 percent viewing him unfavorably.
Not bad—32 points underwater. We're actually betting he can do even worse if he makes it to the general election. But it does pose a challenge for Trump as he heads into contests in the next 17 states: The lower his numbers sink, the less likely he is to secure the 1,237 delegates necessary to avoid a contested convention.  
That’s a win-win for Democrats. What would you guys prefer: Contested convention, or Trump as the sure nominee? 

KY Tea Party Governor, Matt Bevin Sets About Destroying Obamacare To Prove It Doesn't Work

Matt Bevin, Kentucky's tea party governor, has a lot to prove—namely the tea party principle that government doesn't work. He's doing that by overseeing an ongoing disaster of a computer system that has a side effect of destroying his predecessor's successful healthcare program, thereby "proving" Obamacare can't work.
FRANKFORT, Ky. - A new state computer system meant to help people get public benefits more easily instead is creating turmoil throughout Kentucky, interrupting health coverage, food stamps or other assistance for countless individuals, according to health and social service advocates.
People seeking help must wait hours or days, repeatedly calling a state helpline only to get a recorded message that advises them to try later and then hangs up, the advocates said. Others visit overcrowded state benefit offices where they must wait for hours - sometimes the entire day—to get help, they said.
"It's really frustrating," said Emily Pickett, a Louisville mother who learned Feb. 29 two of her three small children had been cut off from Medicaid coverage. […]
Benefind is wreaking havoc with the previously smooth-running kynect  because many of the more than 500,000 Kentuckians who got health coverage through kynect were moved to the Benefind system with no warning and no explanation, advocates said.  Consumers are getting form letters telling them health coverage has been cut off or demanding more information, such as proof of income or citizenship that they already had provided through kynect, advocates said.
Bevin, critics say "has been excruciatingly slow to respond" to the crisis of Kentuckians thrown into the chaos, unable to reach anyone who can help them restore benefits.
Says Cara Stewart, a legal aid lawyer with the Kentucky Equal Justice Center, "[i]t's a dramatic reduction in accessibility. […] There's no way you can look at it and say it's not a dramatic reduction."
Now, it's entirely possible that Bevin isn't allowing this disaster to continue because of his warped ideology. He could also be massively incompetent and incapable of running a government.

Great Tweet By Former Congressman John Dingell: "GOP Candidates Don't Even Want..."

Barney Frank Is Not Impressed By Bernie Sanders

Barney Frank

Barney Frank Is Not Impressed by Bernie Sanders

“Bernie Sanders has been in Congress for 25 years with little to show for it.”

Barney Frank, the former Massachusetts Congressman who retired from the House of Representatives in 2013, is perhaps best known for a bill that carries his name: the Dodd-Frank Act, which aimed to reform Wall Street after the financial crash. Frank is also known for his acerbic personality and willingness to speak freely.
Isaac Chotiner is a Slate contributor. 
With the primary season in both parties dominating the news, I called Frank to get his views on both races. We discussed his problems with Jon Stewart, Justice Scalia, Bernie Sanders, Bernie Sanders supporters, The Big Short, and, of course, Donald Trump. The conversation has been edited and condensed.
Isaac Chotiner: What do you make of Bernie Sanders’ success thus far, even if he is likely to come up short in terms of delegates?
Barney Frank: Remember he’s way behind not just in delegates but in votes.
Yeah I know, but still—
It’s ironic that we complain about voter suppression and shortened voting times and then we have so many caucuses. The caucuses are the least democratic political operation in America. They cater to the people who have a lot of time on their hands, and what’s interesting is Sanders is the nominee of the caucuses and Hillary is the nominee of the primaries.
I am disappointed by the voters who say, “OK I’m just going to show you how angry I am!” And I’m particularly unimpressed with people who sat out the Congressional elections of 2010 and 2014 and then are angry at Democrats because we haven’t been able to produce public policies they like. They contributed to the public policy problems and now they are blaming other people for their own failure to vote, and then it’s like, “Oh look at this terrible system,” but it was their voting behavior that brought it about.
So it seems like you’re saying Bernie’s voters have a slightly unrealistic sense about the political process. And that this is driven—
I didn’t say slightly.
Bernie Sanders has been in Congress for 25 years with little to show for it in terms of his accomplishments and that’s because of the role he stakes out. It is harder to get things done in the American political system than a lot of people realize, and what happens is they blame the people in office for the system. And that’s the same with the Tea Party. It’s “I voted for these Republicans, we have a Republican Congress, we voted for them, they took over Congress, they didn’t accomplish anything.” You gotta win at least two elections in a row.
How do you think Dodd-Frank is working?
Very well. I think Steve Eisman, who is the Steve Carell character in The Big Short, and one of the heroes of this issue, had a very good article a couple weeks ago talking about how well things are working.
We’re not getting the bad loans made, and there’s a substantial increase in capital and stability. And I will say two things: First, people on the left who thought it would have no impact were clearly wrong, and [so were] people on the right who thought it would be a job-killer. It has allowed the financial system to continue to do its job, financing equity, but with much lower level of risk.
What did you make of The Big Short, by the way?
I didn’t see the movie. I read the book. Why?
It’s good.
Well, I know the situation, I read the book. I am told at the end of the movie they say nothing changed, which is nonsense.
The movie does say something like that. The politics of the movie are actually interesting because it’s more cynical than I think people like you are.
Right, so why would I want to see it?
Well, it’s got good acting and things like that.
I’m not a drama critic. Part of the problem is there is a tendency in the media to demonize politics to the extent that it’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Whether with Jon Stewart or House of Cards or The Big Short. It basically tells people, “Everybody stinks, they’re all no good,” and that’s one of the reasons people don’t participate.
I think that part of the argument that people like Sanders would make is that, the financial system is corrupt fundamentally and that we don’t want to merely make it slightly more stable—
Well if that’s the case it’s even dumber than I thought. The financial system is people lending money to other people so they can do things. I do think that he overstates it when he says, “they’re all corrupt.” It’s simply not true. And by the way, when it comes to specifics, the only specific I have heard is Glass-Steagall, which makes very little change in the finance system.
I think he gets a pass from the media. Other than Glass-Steagall, what did he propose in 2009 and 2010 when he was a senator when we were dealing with this? The answer is nothing. Why haven’t you looked at his record?
Well if I ever interview him I’ll ask him that.
The media collectively.
What do you make of Hillary’s campaign?
I think it’s been good on the whole. I think she should have admitted earlier she made a mistake on the emails. I am struck by the fact that with all these emails of hers getting out, there hasn’t been a single really embarrassing one. I’m pleasantly surprised by that.
Do you think she should release her Wall Street speeches?
Yeah, but I don’t think anybody is really against her because she won’t. By the way, I think Sanders has been outrageously McCarthyite on that.
Yes, I saw one commercial that said the big companies weren’t punished. Why? Well, maybe it’s because Hillary is getting speaking fees. So the secretary of state should have been indicting people? I mean, yes, McCarthyite in the sense that it’s guilt by association. He complains about what she did with regards to all this money stuff. Where’s the beef of that?
What Sanders basically says is, “They’re trying to bribe you.” Well what do they get for money? He shows nothing.
There have been a couple of cases of Republican senators trying to weaken the Dodd-Frank Act. Elizabeth Warren has been a much more successful defender of that bill than Sen. Sanders has been.
There was this complaint, “Oh she had contributions from Wall Street.” So did Barack Obama. So does almost every Democrat because you can’t unilaterally disarm.
How do you feel about Obama’s presidency, looking back?
Well I’m on the whole supportive. I will tell you this, I am now ecstatic about his interview with Jeff Goldberg from the Atlantic. That is the most thoughtful presidential statement on a major issue I’ve seen in a very long time.
The one thing that disappoints me is on trade. I think he bought into the orthodoxy that says trade is good for everybody. What he should have said is, “here’s the deal I will support for trade, I want fast track, but only as part of a package which would raise the minimum wage and re-energize unions and restore the legal rights of unions, and do a massive construction program.” That was a fundamental error, and I don’t understand why he didn’t do that, and why he gives Republicans what they want without demanding things. Other than that I think he’s been very good.
Why do you think Trump did so well in your home state of Massachusetts?
Because the Massachusetts Republican Party has moved to the right along with the rest of the Republican Party. The Republican side in Massachusetts is a lot less different from the rest of the country than it used to be.
What have you made of your former governor Mitt Romney’s attempt to insert himself into the process?
It’s too little too late. It goes back as far as Sarah Palin. Having made Sarah Palin the vice presidential nominee, they shouldn’t be surprised when this kind of belligerent, angry, unintelligent, resentment politics comes forward. I think Mitt Romney woke up to the disaster that Trump is for the Republican Party.
Do you know Romney well?
No. He was a pretend governor. Actually, I debated him once when he was running against Kennedy in 1994. He was a pretend governor and immediately began running for president. He had no real interest in the state. He tried to choke off same-sex marriage, so I was pretty much on the other side of him, and he just didn’t want to have anything to do with anybody in the congressional delegation.
You don’t give him much credit for Romneycare, then?
That is true, but he did that along with Sen. Kennedy. I think it was so-so. Remember, at that point, even the Heritage Foundation was pushing for it.
Is there one explanation for Trump’s rise you find particularly convincing?
I guess the question in some ways is why didn’t it happen before, because what you had was a lot of people voting Republican out of anger and unhappiness with the way the world was going and then voting for the authors of most of the unhappiness. I think they were finally awakened to that disparity.
I think it’s relevant that Trump comes from outside the political system. That is, until recently, it was impossible to prosper as a Republican with national ambitions if you broke with the free market, economic conservative, free trade orthodoxy, and Trump has this unusual situation of having a great deal of prominence outside the political system, so he never had to follow that line.
What do you make of these state bills in places like Georgia that seek to limit gay rights?
I was pleasantly surprised: The fact that in Indiana and Georgia they can be vetoed is a very good sign. The other thing is now that Scalia is dead I am confident that the Supreme Court will not allow them.
Did you ever know Scalia at all?
I met him a couple of times.
What did you think of him?
I was troubled that his homophobia never got mentioned when he died. If he had been as comfortably prejudiced against African Americans, or women, or a lot of other groups, he would not have been considered such a wonderful person. He was a bigot. He expressed prejudice in his opinions.
Did you ever notice his bigotry in personal situations?
Oh, I never had enough contact with him to know that. Another thing, by the way: A lot of the Southern racists were notably courteous to people in person.

LBJ Knew He Had Lost Vietnam When He Lost Walter Cronkite. The Donald Is Losing Ann Coulter

Abortion gaffe underscores why Trump would not put Wisconsin in play during a general election
James Hohmann, WAPO

-- Lyndon Johnson knew, when he lost Walter Cronkite, he had lost Vietnam. Well, Donald Trump is losing Ann Coulter. And he’s almost certain to lose the Wisconsin primary next week.
Coulter became rich by courting controversy, being intentionally provocative and insensitive to build a fan base on the far right. She’s been one of The Donald’s staunchest defenders for months. But even Coulter couldn’t bite her tongue after the Republican front-runner retweeted an unflattering picture of Heidi Cruz juxtaposed against one of his own model-turned-trophy wife.
Compendium Of Pax Posts About Donald Trump

“I’m a little testy with our man right now,” Coulter told Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos in a podcast that posted earlier this week. “Our candidate is mental. Do you realize our candidate is mental? It’s like constantly having to bail out your 16-year-old son from prison!”
“Everything else I could defend,” she added. “He has been more a victim than victimizer. … This is the worst thing he’s done.”

-- Trump, whom a significant majority of American females already disliked, managed to make himself more toxic yesterday when he said “there has to be some form of punishment” for women who undergo illegal abortions. Facing an onslaught of criticism from pro-life and pro-choice groups, he walked back that comment a few hours later. He sought to clarify that he wants doctors to face punishment for terminating pregnancies. But the damage is done. It’s yet another data point in a “war on women” narrative that could prove fatal should he secure the Republican nomination in Cleveland this July.
A Washington Post-ABC poll conducted earlier this month found that just 23 percent of U.S. women viewed Trump favorably. In the intervening weeks, even before the abortion gaffe, he’s disparaged Mrs. Cruz and gone after a female reporter who was allegedly grabbed by his campaign manager. He’s also continued sniping at Fox News host Megyn Kelly with deeply gendered language.
It should go without saying, but let’s be clear: Women are not just some demographic. They constitute the majority of the population, and they vote at higher rates than men.
-- Wisconsin could be Trump’s Waterloo. Ted Cruz leads him in the Badger State by 10 points in a poll released yesterday by Marquette University law school. The survey, looking at next Tuesday’s primary, shows Cruz has gained 21 points since last month while Trump held steady. Trump gets 35 percent among men and 24 percent among Republican women.
There have been dozens of stories over the past few weeks about how Trump changes the electoral map in a general election. Some experts and strategists speculate that he might be able to compete in the industrial Midwest – states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania that have seen their industrial cores hollowed out as manufacturing jobs went overseas. The idea is that Trump would activate some reservoir of blue-collar folks who have either stayed home in the past several presidential elections or voted for Democrats.
What this misses is how many Republican base voters are deeply uncomfortable with Trump and becoming more so. An unknown but not insignificant number of Republican-leaning women in the suburbs of places like Milwaukee will never cast a ballot for Trump, even if they do not like Hillary Clinton. They will either not vote or choose the candidate they perceive to be the lesser of two evils. I picked up on this anecdotally during more than a dozen interviews with conservative women in southeastern Wisconsin last week.
The new Marquette poll backs it up. Overall, 7 in 10 Wisconsinites view Trump unfavorably. In head-to-head matchups of Wisconsin voters, John Kasich led Clinton by nine points (49 percent to 38 percent) and Cruz tied her (44-44). But the Democratic front-runner beat Trump by 10 points (47-34). Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist without Clinton’s high negatives, beat Trump by 19 points (54-35) when those polled were forced to choose.

Trump Has Collapsed In General Election Polls

Donald Trump has collapsed in general election polls

Donald Trump loves to brag that he's ahead of Hillary Clinton in the polls. "I beat Hillary Clinton in many polls," he repeatedly insisted at a debate earlier this month.
Here on planet Earth, that isn't true or even close to true. In 33 general election pollstracked by HuffPost Pollster over the past two months, Trump has led Clinton in just one.


Trump now trails Clinton by 9 points in the HuffPost Pollster polling average and by 11.2 points in RealClearPolitics' average — and he's behind Bernie Sanders by even more inboth. Any of these showings from Trump would be the weakest performance from a major party nominee in the past 20 years.
The trendlines for the billionaire are terrible too. Back during the waning months of 2015, he regularly came within a few points of both Clinton and Sanders. But historically, polls conducted so far in advance have been essentially meaningless.
Crucially, Trump's decline has happened just when these polls actually start to mean something. In newer polls, Trump almost never comes close to either Clinton or Sanders anymore. And in past races, changes in general election polling that have occurred during this period of the campaign have often ended up sticking.
"Were this a few months ago, I'd say, 'What's the big deal?'" says Christopher Wlezien, a political science professor at the University of Texas. "But polls today are much more meaningful than they were 90 days ago. And the polls today are much less favorable for Trump."

General election polls usually start telling us something around this time of year

Wlezien is the co-author, with Robert Erikson of Columbia, of The Timeline of Presidential Elections, a political science book that provides an invaluable guide for anyone trying to make sense of polling data.
The two crunched general election polling numbers for the past 60 years of presidential contests. And the below graph shows, essentially, how closely the polls tend to be related to the eventual outcome at various points in the campaign. The higher a point is on the y-axis, the more predictive the polls for that time in the campaign:

 Robert Erikson and Christopher Wlezien, The 2012 Campaign and the Timeline of Presidential Elections, Figure 6
Adjusted R-squared predicting the Democratic presidential vote division from the Democratic division in the polls by date, starting 300 days before Election Day, in 12 elections from 1956 to 2012 (certain elections in that period are excluded due to lack of early polling data).

Unsurprisingly, Wlezien and Erikson found that as the campaign goes on, the polls start looking more like the eventual outcome.
But they also found that the rate of this improvement isn't linear. There are some volatile periods of the campaign in which the polls' predictive value surges quite quickly. And there are other, more stagnant periods in which the polls might change, but those changes don't tend to have any lasting impact.
One of those volatile and consequential phases is the one we're in right now. The authors found that around 300 days before the election (mid-January), general election polls are essentially meaningless — their predictive value is close to zero. But by the time we get to mid-April of the election year, polls explain about half the variance in the eventual vote split. And mid-April polls have correctly "called" the winner in about two-thirds of the cases since 1952.
Things still change quite a bit afterward, of course, but in that three-month period (which encompasses most or sometimes all of the contested primary voting), we've gone from polls telling us basically nothing about what will happen to polls telling us "about half the story" of the election, says Wlezien.
That means that poll changes between January and April have often told us a great deal. "A meaningful portion of changes in preferences during this period tend to stand the test of time and impact the election result," Erikson and Wlezien write.
In contrast, poll changes in the following three months or so — between April and the conventions (which this year are in July) — tend not to "stick" as much. The polls may move around, but their predictive value doesn't get much better. The next volatile period in which poll predictability usually surges is the convention season.

Why Poll changes around this time often stick
The most likely reason polls around this time start telling us more is pretty simple: With the primaries winding down, voters now know more about the candidates and have spent more time thinking about them in an electoral context. "By the time we get to this point, we pretty much know the candidates," says Wlezien.
Indeed, much of the early poll movement is just because "people flirt," Wlezien says. "These are just survey responses, not signed contracts. Especially early on, some people tend to flirt around and say, 'Yeah, I could vote for so-and-so.'"
But as the election year goes on, voters get more serious. One of the key dynamics Wlezien and Erikson describe in their book is that "the campaign brings the fundamentals [of the election] to the voters." Rather than simply deciding between two names on a list, many voters begin to incorporate how they feel about things like the incumbent's job performance and the state of the economy into their decision-making.
Meanwhile, perceptions of the candidates themselves harden. This is what seems to be hurting Trump at the moment, since a sizable majority of voters view him unfavorably, and his GOP rivals aren't similarly declining in the polls — Ted Cruz's performance against Clinton has remained constant, and John Kasich's has even improved. So the poll change seems to indicate Trump's personal weakness, not any strength from Democrats in general.
However, another pattern Wlezien and Erikson identify could theoretically help Trump later on — maybe. Around this time of year, they write, it's common for some partisan voters to flirt with supporting the other party. But "it's not clear that the decision is fully factored in yet," Wlezien says. Historically, many of these voters have "come home" to their usual party after the conventions. "The conventions really, really bring it home; this person is a Democrat, this person is a Republican," he adds.
So, he suggests, it's possible that many Republicans who say they wouldn't vote for Trump now would in fact do so later on, which could lead to a tightening in the polls. "When it becomes clear that it’s a choice between the Democrat Hillary Clinton and the Republican Donald Trump, they might vote for the Republican," he says. This is what's tended to happen in the past.
But Trump is very different from the typical Republican, and perhaps his extreme personality could prevent these wayward partisans from coming home. Furthermore, the GOP's convention could end up being quite bitter and chaotic — depending on how it goes, it could divide the party's voters further rather than uniting them.
So we don't know how the polls will move in the future, and this election has often defied historical trends so far. What we do know, though, is that we're right around the time previous polls have started to become predictive — and this year's polls are saying Donald Trump is a loser.

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