AUSTIN (KXAN) – “I saw people on the ground crying.” KXAN State of Texas moderator Josh Hinkle recalled the scene Tuesday night at the Democratic election watch party in downtown Austin. “It was like someone died.”
This week, State of Texas: In-Depth looks closer at the psychology behind the emotional response to the election. A panel of experts also examines the problems with polls that led many people to expect a different election result.
For some people, Donald Trump’s victory actually triggered a sense of loss similar to what people feel when a loved one dies. “This was an utterly unexpected result,” said Dr. Art Markman. The University of Texas psychology professor noted how most polls predicted victory for Hillary Clinton.
The actual result surprised almost everyone. “If you were a Trump supporter, you are now elated in an unexpected way,” Markman said. “But if you were a Clinton supporter, you are going through a mourning process right now.”
The stages of the mourning process, of course, include anger. But for many people, that anger was building well before the election.
“I think what people are seeing is that a lot of people felt like the government may have been of the people, by the people, and for the people, but they didn’t feel like it was actually for them,” Markman said. The burden of moving on from that anger affects many Americans. “The new administration is going to actually have to take the concerns of those people who don’t feel like they’re being heard seriously,” Markman said. “But it actually means the rest of us need to begin to do that too.”
The people behind polls that predicted Hillary Clinton’s victory are beginning to look at what went wrong.
“A lot of the national polling is not going to be too far off,” said Jim Henson from the Texas Politics Project, referencing results showing that Clinton will win the popular vote. “The problems came at the state level,” Henson said, referring to polls that wrongly predicted several key states, and their Electoral College votes, would go to Clinton. Henson said it’s likely that a task force will be formed to look closer at what needs to be done to improve future polls.
For many people, the focus is on President-elect Trump’s transition to power.
“This is very unknown territory,” said Sherri Greenberg from the LBJ School of Public Affairs. “You have someone who has been a celebrity with no experience in government.” Some Texans could play key roles in the Trump administration. But for now, there are more questions than answers. “Lots of people are talking about transition,” Greenberg said. “But it seems to be mainly the rumor mill and none of it is really substantiated at this point.”