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NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, accompanied by President Donald Trump, speaks at a news conference in the East Room at the White House, Washington, April 12, 2017 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

Trump Might Be Learning to Trust Expert Opinion. Will His Followers Follow Suit?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

In the information age, we can all access more information than we can absorb, so the choices we make about what sources to trust may make us dumber, not smarter. U.S. President Donald Trump is a prime example of a very casual approach to accessing information, more often from social media rather than subject-matter experts, whose influence on public policy is declining. As a result, leaders are more likely to make poor choices in responding to the international challenges they face.

Watching Trump abruptly change his positions as he is exposed to more authoritative information about world problems is illustrative of a larger issue. Trump exemplifies the 21st-century consumer who grabs information nonchalantly from social media or other intermediaries, without pausing to consider the bona fides of the source of information. Since entering the White House, he’s been willing and able to change his views, often by 180 degrees, when provided with more convincing information that has been vetted and evaluated. His early judgment that NATO was obsolete, for example, was replaced last week by his pronouncement that it no longer was, presumably based on his exchanges days before with the visiting NATO secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg. ...

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