Monday, April 25, 2016

Psychology Politics and Donald Trump

7 Reasons Why Donald Trumps



1. HE GETS OUR ATTENTION
Anyone getting news in the last month knows the name Donald Trump and a few of his ideas. His outrageous statements got the focus on him. No other GOP candidate got near the publicity. Donald played offense (offensively) and Democrat Clinton was on defense —about emails. Of course a lot of others were playing defense too—people defending immigration, John McCain, and they’ll likely be more.

2. HE APPEALS TO LOYALTY
Trump says what his conservative fans want to hear. For the conservative group that’s fed up with politics as usual, lost freedom of speech, perceived threats from immigration, Trump shows he’s part of the tribe.

Trump gets “Us vs. Them” tribal thinking.

Check out the word “you” and “They’re.”

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems,…” (wsj)

3. HE SPEAKS WITH AUTHORITY
Trump is a well-known brand name—that counts for authority in a nation where athletes sell sneakers and movie stars sell cosmetics. Take a sample of ad campaigns in the U.S. and you’ll likely find some celebrity touting the virtues of something unrelated to their education.

Authority is a commodity that can be created and sold. 

Publicity gets votes and votes create authority-even if not elected. 

Trump leads the polls.

4. HE WILL PROTECT US FROM HARM
Trump offers to protect the U.S. from harm—it doesn’t matter that the harm is a matter of perception or that the "Great Wall" on the U.S. southern border would cost billions. Most people respond to emotions not reason. People respond to threat. Why would we have immigration laws and border patrol in the first place if it weren’t for concerns about who gets in?

Trump knows what his conservative base wants to hear. It doesn’t hurt that an infamous Mexican criminal escapes from the most secure Mexican prison in July. And it didn’t hurt that a man deported five times killed a woman in San Francisco in July (CNN).

Check out the alleged threats from Mexico:

“They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” (wsj)

Now contrast this “harm alarm” with another candidate, Jeb Bush. Bush succeeds in scaring millions of seniors by raising the fear of cutting Medicare. What a headline! His explanation is lost—emotion trumps. Instead of “Us vs. Them,” Bush creates an “Us vs. Him” situation—at least for those worried that their last days may be horrible without the security of healthcare. (CNN)

Checking out a great wall

5. HE WILL DEFEND OUR SACREDNESS
Trump intuitively knows how to trigger disgust psychology—that powerful feeling that causes people to recoil and protect against anything that might contaminate and destroy us. We don’t just need a wall—we need a powerful filter. 

So, back to the speech lines above—notice the need for a filter to protect us from “rapists” and almost a question that “some, I assume, are good people.” 

The thought that rapists might be coming across the border and we can’t tell the good folks from the rapists is an emotionally charged image evoking the psychology of disgust linked to tawdry, life-destroying sex. His timing is incredible in the context of recent widespread rape news of an actor and terrorists in Iraq.

6. HE WILL FREE US FROM OPPRESSION
The Republican way to freedom from oppression is often linked to employment—hard work is the way you get ahead in the U.S. What’s not to like in the following quote by a successful business man who claims to be the best at producing jobs. And a nice touch—Trump gets in a link to God and creation. 

Trump will be "the greatest job-producing president that God ever created." (Arkansasonline)

7. HE IS A THREAT
Trump offers a credible threat to any opposition. Trump’s poll numbers make it clear that he can attract more voters than any other GOP candidate. It's possible he will stumble given his track-record of alienating various groups. Of course, his competition can stumble as well. Regardless of the 2016 election outcome, Trump has stirred up politics in his party, the nation, and wherever U.S. leaders have influence.

NOTES

Crime data. So how real are those threats from Mexico? The WashingtomPost reports Trump is wrong about immigrants and crime.

Branding. Many of us prefer generic products so Trump, as an expensive brand, may not attract a majority of voters. Trump has a niche market. And brand loyalty can be fickle. Brands stumble for many reasons and other brands can rise to become competitive. But he is a savvy businessman and may expand his market share by revealing new features.

Lessons. Those of you familiar with moral psychology will recognize several moral foundations that apply to politics and religion. In a sense, Trump has artfully captured a righteous constituency. A good summary of moral psychology can be found in Haidt's book, The Righteous Mind.

Update: I updated this after he became the official GOP candidate. The seven reasons are the same. The threat section is no longer focused on his GOP rivals-- since he won.



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