Why Sticking to One Side of an Issue Can Be Perilous to Politicians

For politicians, it’s important to keep voters happy in the moment – and the long-term.

By Rhonda FanningNovember 23, 2015 12:16 pm

“In real life, when someone is upset or worked up over something, you try to calm them down. Politicians reach for the gasoline.” Or so writes Ross Ramsey, co-founder and executive editor of the Texas Tribune.

Ramsey recently wrote that while controversies can fuel a campaign – such as Republican frontrunner Donald Trump’s recent call for stricter scrutiny on American muslims – it’s “perilous” for politicians to take a side on contentious political issues and stick to it.

Voters are volatile, Ramsey says. “The easy way to describe it is that voters are the biggest flip-floppers in politics,” Ramsey says. “You’re making a bet when you’re taking a hardline position that the voters are going to do the same thing and not move. But if the voters move… then you could be out there all alone.”

What you’ll hear in this segment:

– How taking a strong position can hurt a politician’s career

– The recent controversy over accepting Syrian refugees into the United States

– On predicting voters’ opinions and whether politicians should do what the voters elected them to do, or vote their conscience

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.