There is little that offers more insight into the current divisive state of the nation than the recent presidential election results, and the fact that President Donald Trump was elected to the highest office in the land despite losing the popular vote by nearly three million votes. Now that he is in office, views about whether he should be embraced or rejected by the American public continue to vary broadly. Does his election offer evidence of an extremist culture, and does following his lead only ensure more of the same? Or do Americans have a patriotic duty to rally behind their leader, because doing anything else would only further divide the public, and therefore not benefit anyone?
Pre-Debate Poll Results
Prior to the debate, 28 percent of audience members were in favor of the motion that the American public needs to give President Donald Trump a chance, while 43 percent were against the motion and 29 percent were undecided.
I’m a big fan of the Intelligence Squared US (IQ2US) debate program, so when I learned that the program had compiled data on the 119 debates it had held since 2006, I was eager to dive in. And in doing so, I learned a few things: People do change their minds a fair amount. They are more likely to change their minds on science and technology issues; on politics and economics, opinions tend to be a little more stable, though still somewhat fluid. Also, what appears to be consensus at the start of a debate is often illusory.
Yes, this is a small and nonrepresentative sample with a self-selected audience — and generally thoughtful debaters on both sides. But the relative fluidity of opinion is important. It suggests that ideas and arguments can actually matter, and that when both sides get a fair and equal shot to make their case, minds can indeed be swayed.