In attacking Trump, did Clinton strengthen support for him?

A week later, America is still struggling to understand what produced last Tuesday’s election stunner, but here’s one factor that’s too little discussed: Hillary Clinton’s relentless (and in my view, accurate) attacks on Donald Trump’s character may actually have made his supporters more entrenched.

One of my closest high school friends drove home this point in a message last Thursday, as the country was struggling to process the election results. “As a traditional Christian, I felt attacked, myself — not implicitly, but explicitly — during the entire election cycle,” he emailed me. The attacks on Trump by Clinton and the media backfired, he argued.

I’ll come back to my friend’s comments in a moment, but first some background.

This “backfire effect” was something I explored in a column in August. I cited behavioral science research by Christopher Graves, global chairman of Ogilvy Public Relations, and others showing that attempts to refute false information could actually reinforce people’s misperceptions.