The Fears that Haunt Us and Election 2016

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke these now famous words almost 85 years ago during his first inaugural address.

It was the height of the Great Depression, and he told Americans that their “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror” only made matters worse.

One wonders what Roosevelt would have made of this election cycle, where fear is driving voters to focus more on who they are voting against than who they are voting for.

 Gaining insight into voter fear

A few weeks ago, we used Shapiro+Raj’s Rapid Research technology to gain insight into the developing brand story about Trump and Clinton. Rapid Research enables us to tap into people sharing their in-the-moment views and experiences on social media.

We sent surveys to more than 500 Twitter users and asked them to share their thoughts with us on the worst thing they believe could happen if Clinton or Trump were to become President of the United States.

The answers we got were, well, pretty scary.

“Clinton will sell out America!”  

Abraham Lincoln may have feared a “house divided,” but Trump supporters reveal a palpable fear that a Clinton presidency would sell the house right out from underneath them.

Fear of refugees, immigrants, terrorists and “globalism” underpin their assertion that Clinton would allow outside forces to destroy the “American way of life.”

Our Rapid Research show these fears are linked to a fundamental belief that Clinton is a corrupt creature of wealthy donors and Wall Street. It’s this belief that produce some of the scarier comments in our survey.

“More Deaths of People Who Wanna go Public because they intended to testify against Her….”

“Get us into WW3 with Russia, destroy our constitution and replace our culture and continue the destruction of our European western civilization.”

“Continue lying, stealing, and cheating the American people and running off with the White House furniture.”

“Trump will incite world war!”

No less fearful of a Trump presidency, Clinton supporters worry that Trump’s intemperate personality will simply burn the house down. What haunts Clinton supporters about Trump is their belief that he will alienate America’s allies and enrage its enemies, raising the specter of “the ultimate thing…nuclear war.”

“If he were elected, I’m sure he’d try to do all the crazy things that he’s said he’d do.”

“He would destroy our credibility in the world.”

“Get provoked by tweets and start a war.”

The view from the end of the world

The irony is both Clinton and Trump supporters have one fear in common: If their candidate loses, it will be the end of the world as we know it.

“In the United States today, we have more than our share of nattering nabobs of negativism.” The year was 1970 and Vice President Spiro Agnew used these words to lambast members of the national media with whom he had an acrimonious relationship.

As Twitter and other social media channels have become outlets where voters broadcast their fears, it’s a sure bet this is a world Agnew never imagined.

In the final weeks of this campaign, we’ll use Rapid Research to explore what it would take allay these fears.

This could be a really scary October.

by Lauren Tucker  SVP, Strategy, Research, Analytics