Much as been written about the lamentable psychological condition of Donald Trump. He’s pathologically dishonest, narcissistic, greedy, petulant, vengeful, immature. But less has been written about the psychology of Trump voters. We’ve heard them described and categorized, but most of the commentary has been anecdotal and superficial.
A fascinating and comprehensive article was posted recently in Raw Story by Bobby Azarian about the Trump voter, and it’s worth reading. Some of it is old news but there are many new and instructive insights.
There is no doubt that some Trump supporters are simply angry that American jobs are being lost to Mexico and China, which is certainly understandable, although these loyalists often ignore the fact that some of these careers are actually being lost due to the accelerating pace of automation.
These Trump supporters are experiencing relative deprivation, and are common among the swing states like Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. This kind of deprivation is specifically referred to as “relative,” as opposed to “absolute,” because the feeling is often based on a skewed perception of what one is entitled to.
He also writes about Social Dominance Orientation and a lack of “intergroup contact”, among many others psychological factors and traits.
A common thread through many of the psychological factors outlined in the article is fear. Conservatives are more reactive to fearmongering and are more likely to look for an authoritarian figure to keep them safe if they feel threatened. So it stands to reason that an important part of our approach toward combating the fearmongering spewing from Trump and Fox and Hate Radio is to beat back their dishonest propaganda with facts. For example, immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native born citizens. This is a fact.
Perhaps more importantly, our own personal feelings and reactions should be a part of the discourse.
“I’m not at all afraid of immigrants or asylum seekers. They’ve been in my community for decades, they’re peaceful and hardworking just like the rest of us. I have much more to fear from random gun violence or white supremacist terrorists.”
If our neighbors and fellow citizens see us unafraid, they may wonder why they are such snowflakes. They may reconsider their own fear–out of practicality or shame. Fear is the fuel that powers hatred, bigotry, exclusion and intolerance, so anything we can do to diminish unjustified fear is positive.