Cartoonist-turned-pundit Scott Adams, of Dilbert fame, told Breitbart News in an interview on Sunday that the mysterious “Godzilla” of persuasion, to whom he ascribes Hillary Clinton’s polling success, is behavioral psychologist Robert Cialdini.
Cialdini, who refers to himself as the “Godfather of Influence,” is a professor and bestselling author who specializes in the art — or, perhaps, the science — of persuasion. In 2012, he was part of a “dream team” of behavioral psychologists that advised President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, and helped propel that effort to victory despite slow economic growth, high unemployment, turmoil in world affairs, new terror attacks, and a motivated (though IRS-crippled) Tea Party opposition.
The New York Times reported in November 2012, after Obama’s victory — which stunned his rivals, who expected to win:
This election season the Obama campaign won a reputation for drawing on the tools of social science …
Less well known is that the Obama campaign also had a panel of unpaid academic advisers. The group — which calls itself the “consortium of behavioral scientists,” or COBS — provided ideas on how to counter false rumors, like one that President Obama is a Muslim. It suggested how to characterize the Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, in advertisements. It also delivered research-based advice on how to mobilize voters.
In addition to Dr. [Craig] Fox, the consortium included Susan T. Fiske of Princeton University; Samuel L. Popkin of the University of California, San Diego; Robert Cialdini, a professor emeritus at Arizona State University; Richard H. Thaler, a professor of behavioral science and economics at the University of Chicago’s business school; and Michael Morris, a psychologist at Columbia.
“A kind of dream team, in my opinion,” Dr. Fox said.
In recent blog posts on the election — followed increasingly closely by news junkies, and Trump supporters seeking consolation — Adams has referred to a “Godzilla” of persuasion who may have started working for the Clinton campaign.
That Godzilla, Adams says, is Cialdini.
Adams told Breitbart News that he believes that Cialdini may have sat out the Democratic Party primary — or perhaps worked for Sen. Bernie Sanders — then joined the Clinton effort once it became clear she would be the party’s nominee.
While Trump had been more effective at using persuasion techniques, he said, “the Clinton persuasion game went from non-existent, which I reported on for months, to solid-gold, weapons-grade, almost instantly, as soon as Bernie Sanders dropped out.”
Sanders had been outperforming expectations, and Clinton had been underperforming expectations. “Wherever you see somebody exceed expectations by that much, either they are a persuader, like Trump is, or they have somebody helping them,” Adams concluded.
That stopped, as soon as Sanders yielded to Clinton.
Adams explained: “Clinton stopped talking about her boring policies, and details, and her experience, and she went to pure persuasion. She went to the bigger scare,” which was the image of Donald Trump with his finger on the nuclear button.
The result, he said, was a lift in her poll numbers, and the ongoing slump in Donald Trump’s performance.
It would be “surprising,” he said, if Cialdini, or one of his students, weren’t helping Clinton, given his past involvement in the Obama campaign.
“His fingerprints are all over this.”
Breitbart News reached out to Cialdini’s office Sunday and Monday but requests for comment were unreturned.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, is available from Regnery through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.