Many voters bought into this early portrayal of Romney as one who does not care for people. Others, who did not quite buy into it, still held it as a potential lens through which to consider his future actions and statements. Thus, when Romney essentially proclaimed that the 47% of Americans who receive government assistance were a lost cause, the statement confirmed, to the others, the narrative that he does not care for people.
You might ask, could not a rational voter get beyond whether they felt a candidate cared for them, and ask which candidate’s policies would best care for them and future generations? Such a purely rational decision-maker, often referred to as homo economicus, is rare among human beings that are first driven by their moral intuitions, like compassion, before their strategic reasoning.
In The Righteous Mind, moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt presents volumes of research demonstrating the primacy of moral intuitions which “reason” is then used to buttress. It includes his in-person interviews where, of the 1,620 times that the interviewees were told of a repulsive story that explicitly stated no one was harmed, 38%, tojustify their revulsion at the outcome, nonetheless said that someone was harmed. The interviewees’ moral intuitions immediately led them to condemn the repulsive story, claim there was a victim, and then use their strategic reasoning to support their position rather than truly consider whether there was a victim.
If you do not meet people’s moral needs, their strategic reasoning will not be unlocked to consider your arguments, but instead used to search for reasons to reject your arguments.