Freedom to Flip-Flop
Research Explains Why a Sudden About-Face Doesn’t Affect President’s Public Approval
President Donald Trump publicly backtracked last week on his monumental decision months earlier to pull U.S. troops out of Syria—an about-face of the sort that conventional wisdom says should be politically damaging. But it wasn’t for Trump, according to an article published yesterday in The Washington Post by University of Maryland researchers.
Sarah E. Croco, an associate professor of government and politics, along with doctoral candidate Jared A. McDonald and Candace Turitto Ph.D. ’18, a D.C.-based lecturer for New York University and a professor of politics and government at California State University, Northridge, argue that in today’s ultra-polarized political atmosphere, flip-flopping by the president doesn’t change anyone’s opinion about him or his policies.
Flip-flops make leaders look unreliable and indecisive—and generally, scholars find, Americans disapprove of leaders who renege on their commitments.
But Trump needn’t worry, our just-published research finds. Americans’ opinions of Trump are so entrenched that they don’t change even when he publicly vacillates on major policy issues. When Trump flips to a position his supporters like and his opponents don’t, it confirms their existing opinions of him. And when Trump flips to a position that his opponents like—however rarely it happens—their approval tends to be fragile.
Read more at The Washington Post.