The escalation of rumors that DACA was to be rescinded caused shockwaves throughout the Latino community and beyond. When Jeff Sessions made the official announcement terminating the program, the backlash was loud and swift. Flash-forward to present day fraught with rumors that President Trump may be open to keeping a variation of DACA, pundits, detractors, and supporters alike have labeled him a political flip-flopper.

That may or may not be true, but what stood out to me as a market researcher is how Trump has used the ultimate pulpit – the internet – to test ideas and measure a nation’s response.

With a couple of tweets, Trump can test policy ideas, political positions, and social issues. Whether he’s doing it consciously or not, Trump is using 140 characters or less to get a feel for what the country thinks about various positions before they are implemented.

Not convinced? Well, consider his narrative on immigrants during his 2016 presidential campaign:

  • The campaign kicked off with an unsavory statement about Mexican immigrants. That test was a winning message among his core supporters.
  • Using the insights from that test, Trump refined his messaging on immigrants to include Muslims. Another winning idea among his supporters.

A Master of Design Thinking?

Talk about an expert display of design thinking. Design thinking is, at its core, the practice of putting a concept out to the consumer to test immediately, evaluating the results, and then refining the concept based on those results, quickly and successively. Research is the most critical component of design thinking and Trump has seemingly mastered this approach and applied it to the political landscape like a boss.

Trump’s ability to test ideas and source insights is made possible by a vehicle that’s only job 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is to be a conduit of information. And tools like social media, specifically Twitter, in this case, supply both quantitative and qualitative data, in real time, unfiltered, immediately.

So, does that make Trump the ultimate researcher? Is he the moderator of history’s largest focus group? If so, what is he really testing? But most importantly, what are the results telling us about ourselves?

A Cautionary Tale for Researchers

From fake news to Charlottesville, Hurricane Irma to the wildfires across the west, we’ve had a president who has posed questions to us about what we value. How we see ourselves and how we want to see ourselves.

For market researchers, it can be easy to fall into the existential trap of thinking what we do is not important. But it is. Sure, some products that we test may not be groundbreaking or life-changing. But, through our research, we unveil human truths that ultimately help companies make our lives better through the products and services they offer.

Let’s hope our president is doing the same for our futures.