It’s called “confirmation bias,” and Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, Republican/teabagger extraordinaire, is positioned to become its unintended poster boy this week after he asked his Facebook “friends” what they thought of ObamaCare, aka the Affordable Care Act.
“Confirmation bias,” per psychology and cognitive science, is the tendency of people to seek out information that confirms their preconceptions, often at the expense of reality. Call us crazy, but it always seems that the more dogmatic the individual, the greater the propensity for confirmation bias.
And when it comes to dogma, Senator Cruz is a pit bull.
So one morning late last month, Cruz (or his surrogate) posted this little nugget on Cruz’s FB page: “Quick poll: ObamaCare was signed into law four years ago yesterday. Are you better off now than you were then? Comment with YES or NO!”
As any litigator will tell you, never ask a question that you don’t already know the answer to. And Cruz (or his surrogate) must’ve been astonished to see the plethora of responses coming down on the “I’m better off” side of the issue.
“I’m a small business guy and I don’t have to worry because insurance companies can’t drop us anymore,” said one comment.
“My wife’s little niece who is very sick would have hit her lifetime limit by now if not for the ACA. The nation is better off,” said another.
“Impeach Ted Cruz! He caused the shutdown that hurt this country badly!” opined a woman sporting a “vote blue 2014” profile pic (and up until now we didn’t think Cruz had any “friends” of the “vote blue” persuasion).
“YES, YES & YES!! Hands Off My ObamaCare!! Something tells me this isn’t quite the response Mr. Cruz was hoping for ROFLMAO,” observed another, piling on and enjoying it.
As of this week, the “likes” on the original Cruz post exceeded 10,000, and the “shares” half of that (to read them yourself, click here.)
Cruz’s Facebook folly caught the attention of L.A. Times business columnist Michael Hiltzik, who regaled us with a couple of other high-profile social media fails.
“In October, Fix the Debt, the plutocrat-backed front group for deficit-cutters, staged a question-and-answer session on Twitter, evidently hoping to instill the younger generation with its message that Social Security and Medicare were a plot by seniors to land the millennial generation in the poorhouse,” Hiltzik wrote. “Didn’t play out that way. The group’s Twitter feed was inundated with impertinent queries (‘What’s more popular at your board meetings, the blood of workers or tears of homeless seniors?’)”
In the other, JPMorgan Chase had scheduled a Twitter Q&A with one of its investment banking honchos, only to draw sample questions such as, “Did you always want to be part of a vast, corrupt criminal enterprise or did you ‘break bad’?” The firm waved off the event.
If there’s a lesson here, it’s that the interweb is a dangerous place to ask questions, even ones you think you know the answers to.
But perhaps the most important lesson for Cruz or any other person/company/association/cause that has a public Facebook page, as opposed to a personal one, is that “followers” are not to be confused with “friends.” Many of the people who follow you might just be folks who are waiting to weigh in and post comments because they vehemently disagree with you.
It is a pretty safe bet that Ted Cruz knows that fact very well today.