Anchoring is the method of implanting a suggested value in the reader or viewer’s mind.
Can you spot the “anchor” in this passage?
Why immigration? It’s not the central concern of most voters. A Gallup survey in May found that 10 percent of Americans listed it as the most important problem facing the country.
When I read that, and likely when you read that, you internalized that as just 10% of Americans were concerned with immigration. Our quick System 1 thinking style (referring to Kahneman’s work) kicks in and quickly arrives at a conclusion.
The columnist uses the propaganda technique of anchoring, to focus your mind on the 10% figure. It’s a small number and that’s what he wants you to think in the context of his immigration policy argument.
The columnist, though, is intentionally misleading you by leaving out critical context.
In fact, immigration was #2 on the list of 13 issues polled by Gallup. The May 2018 poll results are here.
When you see that it is #2 on the list, you realize his argument is bogus. #2 on a list of 13 items is not the “central focus of most voters”? Voters can have precisely one area to be concerned about? His claims that this issue is not a central focus is highly misleading and is essentially a lie and refuted by the Gallup Poll itself.
When newspapers intermix news with syndicated opinion columnists, the line between news, opinion and propaganda becomes blurry. When a columnist – in column about political lies, no less – stoops to using Propaganda 101 techniques, our view of the media itself becomes tainted. They are burying themselves in the fake news mantra, and that is not good for them or good for their customers (the advertisers to whom they sell eyeballs).
Note – this post has nothing to do with immigration and is neither in favor nor opposed to any particular immigration policy. This post is about the use of a classic propaganda technique – anchoring, and a lie – in a newspaper column, surprisingly about the problem of lies told by politicians (it’s okay when columnists tell lies, however!)