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Sanders, Clinton, and loss aversion

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loss aversion

Consider the following categories of Bernie Sanders’ supporters:

A: People who support Sanders without regard to what effect a Sanders candidacy would have on the chances of the GOP candidate winning the general.

B: People who support Sanders at least in part because they believe Sanders would have a better chance of winning the general than HRC.

C: People who support Sanders and who are at least at this point essentially agnostic on the question of whether he would have a better chance of winning the general than HRC.

D: People who support Sanders, but who believe that HRC would have a better chance of winning the general. People in this group have a preference for Sanders over HRC that is strong enough to cancel out the cost incurred by HRC’s better chance of winning the general.

E: People who support Sanders only in the sense that they are supporting him in order to help push HRC left, but who don’t actually want him to win the nomination, largely if not wholly because their risk tolerance for a GOP candidate winning the general if Sanders is nominated isn’t great enough to take the risk involved in nominating Sanders.

I suspect that a large portion of Sanders’ support comes from people in the last two categories. What will the effect be on people in these latter groups on the growing realization that Sanders could actually defeat HRC? In other words, how much increased risk of a GOP victory are Sanders supporters who believe, reasonably enough, that HRC would have a better chance in the general willing to run?

This is the kind of question that can only be answered, individually and collectively, when it starts to get real, as opposed to remaining an abstraction, which it seemed to be when Sanders’ candidacy appeared to be an extreme long shot.

A key factor here is loss aversion: most people hate losing about twice as much as they like winning. This is something that one would expect will begin to hurt Sanders’ support among people in groups D and E, as his chances of winning the nomination start to become real as opposed to merely hypothetical.

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