On Friday, two separate surveys revealed that Donald Trump’s supporters believe a lot of untrue things, and likewise, that they refuse to believe a lot of true things. In perhaps the starkest example, 40 percent of Trump voters think Trump won the popular vote, when in fact he lost it by over 2 million ballots. This and the rest of the studies’ findings are understandable, given Trump’s own aversion to the truth. However, they're nonetheless indicative of a serious problem in American politics, one without any clear solution.
One of the surveys comes courtesy of Democracy Corps, while the other was conducted by Public Policy Polling. Collectively, they contain many troubling findings. For instance, 73 percent of Trump supporters said it’s either probably or definitely true that the media intentionally misled the public about Trump’s poll numbers in order to hurt his chances of winning. In reality, the polls themselves were accurately represented by the media — it’s just that the surveys themselves were off.
A majority (55 percent) of Trump supporters are inclined to believe that millions of people voted illegally in the election, a claim Trump made on Twitter that has absolutely no evidence backing it up, while 67 percent of them incorrectly believe that unemployment increased under President Obama. (In truth, unemployment fell from 7.8 percent when Obama took office to 4.6 percent in November 2016).
Likewise, people who voted for Trump appear to reject provable facts that paint Trump and his campaign in an unflattering light. A majority of them refuse to believe that Trump has appointed more politicians, corporate lobbyists, and Wall Street billionaires to his cabinet than any of his predecessors, even though he has, while 40 percent think that he won the popular vote, which he most definitely did not.
When told that net migration to the U.S. has been zero or less since 2005, and that the number of undocumented immigrants in the country has declined by 1 million since 2007, 63 percent of Trump supporters said that these facts were probably or definitely false, perhaps because they undercut one of Trump's central campaign issues.
This is bad, bad news for the future of American governance. The fundamental appeal of democracy is that citizens deserve a say in their country’s policies, because those policies affect the conditions in which they must live. But when a good chunk of the public has a deluded and incorrect perception of what those conditions even are, the country’s ability to respond to actual real-life issues is greatly diminished. It’s an enormous problem, and there’s no obvious solution for dealing with it.