The Psychology That Leads People to Vote for Extremists & Autocrats: The Theory of Cognitive Closure

in PoliticsPsychology | November 30th, 2016.

There's a political disconnect in the United States. We have two political parties, each now living in its own reality and working with its own set of facts. The common ground between them? Next to none.

How to explain this disconnect? Maybe the answer lies in the theory of “cognitive closure”–a theory first worked out by social psychologist Arie Kruglanski back in 1989.

“People’s politics are driven by their psychological needs,” Kruglanski explains in the short documentary above. “People who are anxious because of the uncertainty that surrounds them are going to be attracted to messages that offer certainty.”

He sips a soda, then continues, “The need for closure is the need for certainty, to have clear cut knowledge. You feel that you need to stop processing too much information, to stop listening to a variety of viewpoints, and zero in on what appears to be, to you, the truth.” “The need for closure tricks your mind to believe you have the truth, even though you haven’t examined the evidence very carefully.” And that, unfortunately, can be very dangerous.

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Youth Flocking to Sanders Because 'You're Right, Bernie, You're Right!'

b2ap3_thumbnail_Screen-Shot-2015-07-07-at-9.47.06-PM.png"From Maine to California," said Sen. Bernie Sanders to great applause, "the American people understand that establishment politics and establishment economics is not working." (Photo: Common Dreams / CC BY 3.0)

If you're wondering why the campaign continues to build momentum and attract big crowds, one person among the many thousands in Portland shouted his answer.

Published on Tuesday, July 07, 2015 byCommon Dreams byJon Queally, staff writer

Continuing to draw large and enthusiastic crowds wherever he goes, Sen. Bernie Sanders attracted approximately 9,000 people to a downtown sports arena in Portland, Maine on Monday evening as throngs of people—with a noticeable presence of students and young adults—waited for more than an hour in a line that stretched around the building in order to hear the presidential candidate's populist message.

Though the campaign only put the number at 7,500 in the crowd, those familiar with building—which was filled to capacity—placed the number well over 9,000. Though not quite so many as the record crowd of 10,000 that turned out in Madison, Wisconsin the week before, many noted that the coastal New England city of Portland has less than half the population. And with other big turnouts recently in Iowa, Colorado, and elsewhere—this is becoming the new normal for the campaign.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Screen-Shot-2015-07-07-at-9.44.44-PM.pngThe line stretched around a full city block in downtown Portland, Maine on Monday evening. (Photo: Common Dreams / CC BY 3.0)

"In case you didn’t notice, this is a big turnout," Sanders told the excited crowd as he took the podium. A longtime political observer in the state told this writer that never in his long history of attending rallies in the state—from Barack Obama to Bill Clinton to Jimmy Carter—did he ever see such an enormous showing for a presidential candidate at this stage of the campaign season—or possibly ever.

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Massive turnout is latest sign the Vermont senator is gaining on Hillary Clinton

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Massive turnout is latest sign the Vermont senator is gaining on Hillary Clinton

Published on Sunday, June 21, 2015 by Common Dreams by Sarah Lazare, staff writer

At least 5,500 Coloradans crammed into a Denver gymnasium, an adjacent atrium, and lacrosse field Saturday night to hear presidential candidate and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders speak, in what is being reported as one of the biggest political rallies so far in the 2016 election cycle.

Addressing the crowd at the University of Denver, Sanders said: "What we are doing tonight is we are sending a message to the billionaire class and that is: You can't have it all!"

"This campaign is not about me," he continued. "It is not about Hillary Clinton or any other candidate. This campaign is about you, your kids and your parents. It is about creating a political movement of millions of people who stand up and loudly proclaim that this nation belongs to all of us and not just a handful of billionaires."

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Catching Clinton, Sanders Surges

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Published on June 17, 2015 in Common Dreams byJon Queally, staff writer

Several polls now show Sen. Bernie Sanders closing the gap between himself and frontrunner Hillary Clinton

Several new polls from the early battleground state of New Hampshire indicate that the progressive message of Sen. Bernie Sanders—who has been busy talking about the troubling supremacy of Wall Street banks, vast economic inequality, the crisis of money in politics, and the imperative to address the climate crisis—is resonating with prospective voters in the early battleground state as he rapidly closes the gap with Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

According to a Suffolk University poll released Tuesday, Sanders garnered the support of 31 percent of likely Democratic primary voters compared to Clinton who received 41 percent. With just ten points now separating the candidates, Sanders' increase in popularity is happening much faster than many political observers say they expected.

In late May, a University of New Hampshire pollshowed that only 13 percent of likely New Hampshire voters would vote for Sanders.

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