Donald Trump, a former reality TV star-turned-head-of-state, won the presidential election last year and many were left wondering how a person, known for making inflammatory remarks, managed to amass such massive support among voters — especially when he had no political experience whatsoever. Well, as it turns out, science might have an answer to this baffling phenomenon.
According to an analysis, published in the Journal of Social and Political Psychology by psychologist and UC Santa Cruz professor Thomas Pettigrew, ardent Trump supporters generally have the following five traits in common.
1. Authoritarian Personality Syndrome
Authoritarianism is a state of mind, defined as a “state of mind that is characterized by belief in total and complete obedience to one’s authority.” People who suffer from this syndrome believe in complete obedience to an authoritative figure, and they are submissive to authority even at the cost of their own freedom.
According to Pettigrew, “Those with the syndrome often display aggression toward outgroup members, submissiveness to authority, resistance to new experiences, and a rigid hierarchical view of society. The syndrome is often triggered by fear.”
A 2016 Politico survey revealed that high authoritarians majorly favored the then-candidate Trump, helping him win the election, despite the polls predicting otherwise.
2. Social Dominance Orientation
Such people live in a shell, where they live in the societal hierarchy of groups and believe the group to which they belong has more power or control over others. For instance, people of high-status group suffering from SDO likely think they are superior to people with lower statuses in the economy. Trump repeatedly enables such people, by making a clear distinction in his speeches, where he has referred to the “white people” as having a higher status in the society, whereas immigrants and minorities are believed to belong to a lower status in the society.
It's not fair to call all Trump loyalists prejudiced, however it's also not wrong to say most of them are when it comes to ethnic and religious minorities. And it is not a hidden fact how Trump routinely appeals his prejudiced based with derogatory comments, like calling Muslims, “radical Islamic terrorists” and calling Mexicans, “rapists.”
According to a recent study, support for Trump is correlated with a standard scale of modern racism.
4. Intergroup Contact
Such people have limited or no access to people who are different from them, they isolate themselves from others who may belong to a different race, religion or even a different economic background. It is pertinent to note that there is growing evidence stating Trump’s white supporters have experienced significantly less contact with minorities than other Americans.
A 2016 study found that “…the racial and ethnic isolation of Whites at the zip-code level is one of the strongest predictors of Trump support.”
5. Relative Deprivation
Such people feel deprived of something they think they are entitled to. They compare their life with others, and if they aren’t in a good place, they feel discontent and deprived. Several Trump supporters believe they are losing jobs to people of color and immigrants.
Previously, several psychologists argued on what might be wrong with Trump himself, this analysis sheds light on the way Trump supporters think, however more research and examination is needed to know the exact psychological and social factors underlying peculiar human behaviors.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters, Jonathan Ernst