This website places at your disposal a free ebook entitled The Authoritarians. I wrote this book in 2006 when a great deal seemed to be going wrong in America, and I thought the research on authoritarian personalities could explain a lot of it. (The book is set in that era, but you will have no trouble finding present-day examples of what the experiments found back then.)
Since then, I have written articles updating matters according to events of the time. The latest begins below, while others can be found in the right side-bar “Previous Observations”.
Why Do So Many People Still Support Donald Trump?
Bob Altemeyer, May 2023
If you go to https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/polls/favorability/donald-trump/ you will find a good summary of Donald Trump’s approval ratings in hundreds of polls from April 2021 to April 2023. While occasional “outlier” surveys have sparked off headlines about Trump’s popularity suddenly sinking like a stone (or soaring to new heights), the average of all the polls over the past two years produces essentially a straight line, with his approval rating almost always landing in the low forty percents. That is a few ticks less than the 46.9% who voted for him in 2020, but only a few. During the last two years Trump has constantly spread the thoroughly disproven lie that he actually won the election. He has been criminally indicted for violating campaign finance laws. His business practices have been exposed as a tissue of lies. The country learned that he sometimes paid no income tax whatsoever. A special prosecutor was investigating his removal of classified documents from the White House. He was being sued for sexual assault. And oh yes, he definitely tried to overthrow the Constitution on January 6, 2021 so he could stay in office.
P.T. Barnum famously said there’s no such thing as bad publicity, and Trump has proved him right. The horrendous revelations about Trump’s unethical and downright illegal behavior has cost him almost nothing in terms of popular support. Instead, his supporters have showered him with great piles of money so he can defend himself in court and run for president once again.
How can this be? People will vote for Donald Trump in 2024 for many different reasons, but foremost among them: They believe he stands for what they want and he is the best person available to get it for them. Which are perfectly good reasons for voting for someone. In this case, however, his enthusiastic supporters are willing to send a vengeance-driven, delusional autocrat into the White House to get what they want. A man who will know much better than he did in 2016 how to wield the vast powers of the presidency to corrupt and ultimately destroy America’s democracy. And in so doing put the other democracies in the world on quaking ground. That’s all.
What Do Trump’s Supporters Want?
Over 74 million Americans voted for Donald Trump in 2020, and two overlapping groups especially did so as they had in 2016. More than anything else, they tended to be white evangelicals. Second, white American men with less than a four-year college education notably backed “the Donald.” The only demographic factor that led to better predictions of endorsing Trump was preference for the Republican Party.
To the extent that these are two different groups, they want different things. White evangelicals want to abolish abortion, remove equal rights protections for the LGBTQ communities, re-impose traditional roles on women, return the Lord’s Prayer to classrooms, keep “unsettling” content out of public schools, and so on. They fill out the front ranks in the Culture Wars. White “under-educated” males (and females to a lesser degree) are economically threatened. Like the white baseball players who hit .250 before Jackie Robinson, they are most likely to be replaced if African Americans, Latinos and immigrants beating on the doors get a chance at their lower-level jobs.
Both groups long for a return to the good old days, a Christian, white-dominated America where (as Archie Bunker sang) “everybody knew their place, guys like us we had it made.” The fact that Archie’s song dates back to the 1970s shows this is an old yearning at least two generations deep now. Donald Trump made it a political force the day he came down the escalator in Trump Tower in 2015 and set aside his prepared speech to lambast Mexican drug dealers and Muslim terrorists. Millions upon millions of Americans heard him speak their own thoughts, which they had largely kept to themselves. But which now became part of the public agenda and had a (seemingly) powerful champion. He was their voice, and he had them at “Mexican rapists.” He sealed the deal with the white evangelicals when he discovered during the South Carolina primary that he was against abortion.