Election Facts That You Can Use

If you think you make decisions -- whether about which candidate to vote for or which house to buy -- based on objective facts, you're kidding yourself.

• In this unusually tumultuous election cycle, sobering information about how people make choices has become available. A variety of studies show that people’s choices are largely unconscious, in spite of what they say about evaluating “the issues.” Candidates that voters identified as “looking” more competent won 68% of the time. Another showed that candidates who most used collective pronouns, such as “we” and “us,” won 80% of the time.

The most striking was a study using 5-year-olds who were asked to pick the picture of the person best suited to be the captain of a long sea voyage. Nearly three-quarters (71%) of the time they picked the winner from pictures of candidates in obscure elections. Seeing all this information, Robert Sapolsky of the Los Angeles Times said “To pick this year’s winner(s), free yourself of the idea that humans are rational beings.

• More light was recently shed on another of this year’s hot-button issues, income inequality. In 2015, hedge funds had a 1.1% loss, yet this $2.9 trillion industry of some 10,000 funds paid its managers a staggering $14.9 billion. For starters, hedge fund managers rake 2% off the top every year for “expenses,” regardless of returns. Why do people invest with such load-heavy, indifferent vehicles… and why did we pick the wrong business?

• Another political subject is excessive Medicare costs due to alleged defensive medicine. In a survey, 68% of the docs in the five highest malpractice risk states self-reported “ordering some tests or consultations simply to avoid the appearance of malpractice.” Yet 64% of the docs in the lowest risk states also reported doing exactly the same thing. National standards of fact-based best practices, not local standards, and some sort of no-fault panels are needed. Costs would be cut, attitudes changed and justice served. It only takes the political will. Hah!

• While we’re focused on cutting medical costs, how about palliative care? Instituting outpatient palliative care cut hospital stays and costs by about 50% in a study from the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. Why isn’t there more national awareness and informed effort from docs in end-of-life care? On the civilian side, we need more progress as well, as only 44% of people reported ever having even discussed the subject with loved ones.

• There is a recurrent real estate mania affecting parts of the country, shades of 2008. If you are buying or selling in this environment, here is some useful, surprising data. Listings using the words “beautiful” and “landscaping” raised the final selling price by 5% and reduced the time to sale by 15%. The opposite effect on selling price, but the same effect on selling time was attained with the words “starter home,” “handyman special” and “good value.” Using the word “motivated” both slowed the time to sale by 30% and reduced the selling price by 8%.