Science Knows Why People Love Donald Trump — and It's Scary
Donald Trump is the topic of our national conversation, and the reason for his popularity seems to revolve around his distaste for political correctness—but why do we love that?
The most interesting candidate in the presidential race is, unequivocally, Donald Trump. He is drawing crowds and doing well in polls, and at the Republican debate he dominated the stage and the next day’s headlines. Trump is in our Twitter feeds, in our dinner conversations, and currently the ringleader of the political arena. But why is that?
A riveting series of articles in Scientific American has attempted to explain why, psychologically, the public is so enamored with a business tycoon that “tells it like it is.” They are hypothesizing that his very open distaste for political correctness is at the core of his popularity, and while he “flip flops” as much as the next politician, we’re fooled into believing him because what he says is so far outside what is expected. That is a type of dependability: We can count on him to say whatever he is thinking or feeling with little regard of how it will be perceived. That dependability is vital when considering “ambiguity intolerance,” or how comfortable people are with not knowing the future.
The science shows that people who are anxious about the future tend to lean more politically conservative. They want someone that is not going to act erratically, someone you can predict. Trump, while his statements are sometimes shocking, is at the very least consistent. What is most interesting is that while people may be turned off by the content of Trump’s statements, they are so at ease with his persona of “truth telling” that what he is saying seems to matter less than the fact that he’s saying it. That means that we as a public can think that Trump is sexist, racist, or whatever the inflammatory comment du jour is, and still be more comfortable with him as a candidate because he appears to not be lying or hiding his feelings.
This is due to how we perceive “non-normative” statements. A statement that strikes us as against the grain will cause us to feel we know the person better. For example, if I’m at the concert of a country star and I say “You know, I really prefer the Bee Gees,” you would be inclined to think I’m telling the truth (and I am). Why would someone surrounded by people of one opinion state their own radically different (and unpopular) opinion if it were not true? That’s the genius of Trump. He seems trustworthy simply by making non-normative statements. To borrow a line from Anchorman, “I’m not mad; I’m impressed!” There is an air of authenticity that feels like the antidote to the pandering politician. We may not agree with him, but at least we know he actually believes what he’s saying. Right?
It becomes slightly frightening to unpack the implications of this. Have politicians gotten so PC that we will praise anyone who embraces a lack of it? And also, isn’t it odd that we should be so enthralled with someone who says things the majority of Americans may find problematic (e.g., his comments on John McCain and Megyn Kelly)? It’s a troublesome sign implying we are so used to politicians lying that we actually expect it, and that when someone comes along who is refusing to play the game, we reward them even if we don’t like them. There are lessons to be learned on both sides. Politicians should take note that the public is tired of hearing what they think we want to hear, and the public should, as always, stay informed and aware. I for one find it difficult to trust someone that thinks Famiglia’s is real New York pizza, but then, perhaps his pizza choice was just one of his first non-normative statements.
Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.
- Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
- At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
- Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?
- Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
- The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
- If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
Research has shown that men today have less testosterone than they used to. What's happening?
- Several studies have confirmed that testosterone counts in men are lower than what they used to be just a few decades ago.
- While most men still have perfectly healthy testosterone levels, its reduction puts men at risk for many negative health outcomes.
- The cause of this drop in testosterone isn't entirely clear, but evidence suggests that it is a multifaceted result of modern, industrialized life.
Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's CEO, believes we're entering the age of smart medicine.
- The United States health care system has much room for improvement, and big tech may be laying the foundation for those improvements.
- Technological progress in medicine is coming from two fronts: medical technology and information technology.
- As information technology develops, patients will become active participants in their health care, and value-based care may become a reality.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.