Most political pundits in the United States were left scratching their heads when results of this year's midterm elections began to pour in. They had been projecting an outright rout of the ruling Democratic Party.

Rising inflation had badly impacted President Joe Biden's approval ratings. Former president Donald Trump (a Republican) had predicted a Republican sweep. After Trump's narrow defeat in the 2020 presidential election, the Republicans had been claiming that Trump was still the most popular politician in the country.

This claim was repeated over and over again by Republicans on TV news channels and on social media platforms. With Biden's approval ratings falling and inflation rising, even anti-Trump analysts had begun to 'accept' the staying power of Trump's popularity.

But contrary to what was expected, the Democrats performed rather well. Indeed, the Republicans won back Congress, but their majority in the new House of Representatives will be extremely thin. The results came as a pleasant surprise to Democratic Party supporters, most of whom were fearing a whitewash and a rout that would have made Biden a 'lame duck president'.

As the results of the recent mid-term elections in the United States show, the perception of popularity often takes on more importance than actual popularity. But this perception is highly degradable

Republican-leaning commentators, who had played an important role in proliferating the perception of Trump's popularity, suddenly turned their guns on him. They now think his 'extremism' dented the chance for Republicans to gain huge majorities in the Congress and the Senate.

Trump was allowed to handpick a number of Republican candidates. It was believed that Trump's controversial views still held great traction and would pull in voters unhappy with inflation. Even anti-Trump analysts were taken in by these perceptions.

The apparently 'unpopular' Democrats focused their campaign on the claim of having taken difficult decisions to protect the country's democratic institutions from being captured by 'dangerous' populists with rigid social/moral agendas and authoritarian tendencies. This perception was able to greatly neutralise the perceptions engineered by the Republicans, despite the fact that the latter had seemed to have more takers.

The results have been a setback for Trump's ambition to run again as a presidential candidate and also for his 'extremist' narratives that many in the Republican Party tried to...

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