R Douglas Fields in Scientific American:
Will we be surprised again this November the way Americans were on Nov. 9, 2016 when they awoke to learn that reality TV star Donald Trump had been elected president? That outcome defied prognosticators and polls, and even Trump’s own expectation. “Oh, this is gonna be embarrassing,” Trump later recalled he had said at the time, anticipating defeat.
Another surprise victory is unlikely to happen again if this election is looked at from the same perspective of neuroscience that I used to account for the surprising outcome in 2016. Briefly, that article explained how our brain provides two different mechanisms of decision-making; one is conscious and deliberative, and the other is automatic, driven by emotion and especially by fear. Trump’s strategy does not target the neural circuitry of reason in the cerebral cortex; it provokes the limbic system. In the 2016 election, undecided voters were influenced by the brain’s fear-driven impulses—more simply, gut instinct—once they arrived inside the voting booth, even though they were unable to explain their decision to pre-election pollsters in a carefully reasoned manner.
In 2020, Trump continues to use the same strategy of appealing to the brain’s threat-detection circuitry and emotion-based decision process to attract votes and vilify opponents. “Biden wants to surrender our country to the violent left-wing mob…. If Biden wins, very simple, China wins. If Biden wins, the mob wins. If Biden wins, the rioters, anarchists, arsonists and flag-burners, they win,” Trump declared at his Wisconsin campaign rally on September 17, 2020, offering new alleged threats to our nation as his 2016 bogeymen of rapist immigrants and foreign terrorists have lost potency.