The 'Trump theory' - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Elections 2016

The 'Trump theory'

(Flikr/Michael Vadon) (Flikr/Michael Vadon)

Republican hopeful Donald Trump wins big on Super Tuesday and while he hasn’t guaranteed himself the nomination, he certainly is the front runner. But many people are still asking why and UC political professor Dr. Richard Harknett has a theory as to why Trump is leading.

Dr. Harknett says although there are a number of qualities that people feel that children should have, every person thinks that some are more important than others. In each of these pairs, which one do you think is more important for a child to have:

Is it more important for a child:

--to be independent or respectful?

--to be obedient or self-reliant?

--to be curious or well-mannered?

--to be considerate of others or well-behaved?

The typical demographics within the electorate do not actually explain voter preference, so that income, education level, ideology, gender are not statistically relevant. There is only one variable that captures the Trump voter and that is the personality trait of authoritarianism. This who have this trait seemed to be voting for him and those that do not are not. These 4 questions have been asked in the National Election Survey since 1992, so we have a lot of data. They produce a scale that has proven very accurate.

What we have found in political science is that this trait gets activated in environments of threat. When people are under siege they are willing to obey and follow a strong leader. That is what is happening now. The siege is across different areas for different people, but Trump is the answer for all. He does not need to give specifics, he just needs to promise action. So people may feel threatened by immigrants (economic threat and nationalist threat), others questioning their values (religious/constitution), terrorists (national security), other countries (trade). He covers it all.

5 pts = "respect for elders", "obedience", "good manners", and being "well behaved"

1 pts= "independence", "self-reliance", "curiosity", and "being considerate"

3 pts= both

(Sum of four responses rescaled to 0-1). (20pts to 5 pts) Dr. Harknett says a high score means you have a propensity toward a willingness to follow a strong leader in times of pressure/threat.

What is interesting is that a survey was done on this at end of December: 49% of republican voters are strong authoritarian (high score), but so are 39% independents and 17% democrats. So, he has a chance to win the presidency based on those numbers.

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