Trump-ocalypse: The Social Science Behind Donald Trump’s Popularity

By: Molly Meisels  |  November 2, 2016

Post-apocalyptic novels and movies have been enjoying heightened popularity as of late.  Many spend their days reading about zombie-infested cities, nuclear wastelands, and robot takeovers. These books satiated the heroine buried within all, who wanted nothing more than to save a devastated world. During this election cycle, a political apocalypse has been predicted by politicians, news anchors and political experts, in the form of Donald Trump’s campaign, which many believe would be incredibly harmful to the country.

It’s tough for many to comprehend what drives Trump supporters to support this seemingly unqualified candidate. Many believe that an outsider would benefit the White House. Someone with fresh eyes, who hasn’t been dirtied by the mud pits of politics might bring this nation to extraordinary heights. Does this mean that Donald Trump is the answer? Many feel that, though his outsider status is appealing, Trump is not the answer, since many citizens find his policies and comments to be very offensive. If this is the case, why does Trump have so many staunch supporters? Psychologically, what takes place that makes people flock to someone so unpopular with the masses?

The answer lies in Authoritarianism. According to Vox Media, Authoritarianism is “a term political scientists use for a worldview that values order and authority, and distrusts outsiders and social change.” Authoritarians adore tough and hard-hitting leaders who they believe will protect them in case of a perceived threat. Authoritarians are wary of outsiders, like immigrants and individuals of foreign religions and are quickly frightened by social change, like same-sex marriage, abortion and civil rights. Authoritarians don’t occur in just one political party, but exist among both the Democrats and Republicans. However, in recent years when threats have been perceived or social change has brewed, Authoritarians on Democratic tickets tend to run towards Republican ballots once their Authoritarian sixth sense is triggered by events.

After the civil rights movement, the Republican party adopted more traditional values, and in do doing, became attractive for Authoritarian Americans. During the surge of civil rights in the 60s, the Republican party began its attempts to gain the votes of Southern Democrats who identified as social conservatives. This group was especially inclined to conservatism, given that Lyndon B. Johnson, a Democratic president, signed the Civil Rights Act into law. Many believe that Johnson’s decision signed away the Southern Democrats and many Authoritarians to the Republican party forever.

For a while, the Authoritarian faction of either party was dormant. Our past few presidents weren’t Authoritarian and ran their campaigns on a typical of platform.

But with the 2016 election, Donald J. Trump entered, a billionaire and reality TV star. He ran his campaign on promises to “Make America Great Again” by expelling illegal immigrants, building a wall between the American and Mexican border to keep out “rapists and drug dealers,” and plans to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. His “strongman” rhetoric is what attracts the masses to his campaign. Authoritarians across America see their ideal leader in Trump. He is everything that they crave in a president, because he will bring what they believe to be safety, comfort, and control. molly-meisels