After seeing a reenactment of the debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in an experiment at New York University, it turns out that a lot of viewers were shocked by the results — and their prejudices.
Hotair explained the premise of the experiment:
A professor of economics named Maria Guadalupe was watching the presidential debates last year and had a thought. What if Trump were a woman and Hillary were a man? How would that change people’s perceptions of the exchanges in the debates?
The role reversal changed people’s perceptions in a big way, it turned out, but not the way they had hypothesized.
Professors Maria Guadalupe and Joe Salvatore switched the roles believing that the audience would never accept Donald Trump’s words and mannerisms coming from a woman. Salvatore said they were so wrong:
I was surprised by how critical I was seeing [Clinton] on a man’s body, and also by the fact that I didn’t find Trump’s behavior on a woman to be off-putting. I remember turning to Maria at one point in the rehearsals and saying, “I kind of want to have a beer with her!”
The majority of my extended family voted for Trump. In some ways, I developed empathy for people who voted for him by doing this project, which is not what I was expecting. I expected it to make me more angry at them, but it gave me an understanding of what they might have heard or experienced when he spoke.
That reaction could confirm what Atlantic reporter Selena Zito once said of the difference between how Trump’s supporters hear him versus his detractors:
Getty Images/Paul J. Richards
“The press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.”
The NYU news story about the experiment found viewers came away with a solid appreciation of Trump:
We heard a lot of “now I understand how this happened”—meaning how Trump won the election. People got upset. There was a guy two rows in front of me who was literally holding his head in his hands, and the person with him was rubbing his back.
The simplicity of Trump’s message became easier for people to hear when it was coming from a woman—that was a theme. One person said, “I’m just so struck by how precise Trump’s technique is.”
Another—a musical theater composer, actually—said that Trump created “hummable lyrics,” while Clinton talked a lot, and everything she was [sic] was true and factual, but there was no “hook” to it.
New York Times reporter Alexis Soloski said people’s expectations also played a role in how they perceived the real debates versus the dramatic reenactment:
“Most of the people there had watched the debates assuming that Ms. Clinton couldn’t lose. This time they watched trying to figure out how Mr. Trump could have won.”
Salvatore also said he was put off by all the smiling ‘Hillary’ did during the debates and how “effeminate” it made the man playing the role. One viewer said all the smiling made her want to punch ‘Hillary’:
“People felt that the male version of Clinton was feminine, and that that was bad. Never once in rehearsal did we say, “play this more feminine.” So I think it was mostly the smiling piece—so many women have told me that they’re taught to smile through things that are uncomfortable.”
The actors playing the roles studied the real Clinton and Trump for mannerisms, tone of voice and energy. The professors chose key parts of the three debates to reenact.
Audience members were asked to fill out a questionnaire before and after the performance.