Prof accuses Trump voters of 'authoritarianism,' 'prejudice'
- The University of California, Santa Cruz recently highlighted a professor’s claim that Donald Trump supporters are characterized by traits like “authoritarianism” and “prejudice.”
- Professor Thomas Pettigrew says five personality traits led voters to coalesce around a core of “male nativists and populists who were less educated than the general population.”
The University of California, Santa Cruz recently highlighted a professor’s claim that Donald Trump supporters are characterized by traits like “authoritarianism” and “prejudice.”
In a post on the UCSC Newscenter website, the university touts an article by Professor Thomas Pettigrew that was recently published the Journal of Social and Political Psychology, in which he asserts that "authoritarianism, social dominance orientation, prejudice, relative deprivation, and intergroup contact” are the five social-psychological factors that led voters to coalesce around the “male nativists and populists who were less educated than the general population” who he says made up the “core” of the “Trump movement.”
“No one factor describes Trump’s supporters,” Pettigrew writes. “But an array of factors—many of them reflecting five major social psychological phenomena that form the tinder and the spark—can help to account for this extraordinary political event.”
Pettigrew repeatedly refers to Trump’s election as “unexpected,” but says the phenomenon is not unprecedented, comparing it to the Know Nothing movement in the 1850s, the Wallace movement in the 1960s, and the Tea Party.
In each of those movements, he says, the “tinder” that lit the “fire” of the movement was composed of “male nativists and populists,” who despite allegedly being “less educated than the general population” managed in this case to exploit several “highly interrelated characteristics” common to a critical mass of voters.
Pettigrew claims that “authoritarianism,” for instance, initially manifests itself as a “personality orientation” rooted in a preference for “social dominance,” but “typically leads to some form of a right-wing political ideology” because “anti-egalitarianism” is more common among conservatives than liberals.
“Though found among left-wingers, authoritarianism is more numerous [sic] among right-wingers throughout the words,” he elaborates, adding that “Republicans began averaging higher on authoritarianism [metrics] than Democrats before the rise of Trump.”
“[Trump’s] speeches are saturated with absolutes and fear-provoking statements,” Pettigrew told Campus Reform. “Authoritarians think this way and are easily threatened.”
Pettigrew’s article then goes on to address the alleged “prejudice” of Trump supporters, asserting that Republicans have been gradually gravitating toward racists for decades.
“Many outgroup prejudices characterize dedicated Trump’s followers, not just anti-immigrants, but anti-outgroups in general,” he states. “Since Richard Nixon’s ‘southern strategy,’ the Republican Party has employed strategies that appeal to bigotry with ‘dog whistles’—somewhat subtle codewords for race and other minorities designed to be heard by racists but not by non-racists.”
Pettigrew contends that “intergroup contact,” meanwhile, is a trait distinctly lacking among Trump voters, observing that “Trump’s White supporters have experienced far less contact with minorities than other Americans.”
As for the characteristic of “relative deprivation”, Pettigrew disputes the prevailing media narrative that support for Trump came primarily from “unemployed, angry middle-class voters in basic manufacturing areas,” pointing out that multiple analyses have shown that Trump’s voters were actually better off than Hillary Clinton supporters according to various metrics.
Rather, he suggests that perception was more influential than “the actual truth,” saying, “Trump adherents feel deprived relative to what they expected to possess at this point in their lives and relative to what they erroneously perceive other ‘less deserving’ groups have acquired.”
When asked whether he believes that the 46 percent of voters who supported Trump all possess one or more of the negative traits identified in his article, Pettigrew clarified that while the generally applicable, they are not necessarily universal.
“Yes, all surveys on the subject known to me show that a majority (but not everyone) of Trump voters show these characteristics,” he told Campus Reform, saying there are “highly-identified Republicans” who defy the mold.
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