Jonathon Weiler, a political scientist at the University of North Carolina, explained on Sunday’s Fareed Zakaria GPS how authoritarian style politics is the number one reason why we are seeing the rise of one particular candidate.
Those who favor authoritarian style politics generally are people who strongly believe in a “need for social order as traditionally defined,” according to Weiler. He explained that those who like authoritarian style politics want a candidate who talks in “clear, simple, direct terms.” The candidate’s message generally addresses their fears and resentment of anything that “might challenge” what they feel is a traditional order.
Does this sound familiar? It should since this exactly describes those who support Donald Trump.
The Rise of American Authoritarianism
Political and social scientist have been fascinated by those who want an authoritarian government since the rise of Nazi Germany. Over the last few decades, these scientists have moved their interest to growing authoritarianism in the United States.
Weiler told Fareed Zakaria that over the last 30 years, the rise of the “intense and acrimonious polarization” in American politics:
“[I]s actually being driven at the grassroots level, at the base of the two parties, by differences in personality among the voters supporting the two parties.”
This statement is the thesis of a book he co-authored titled, “Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics.”
Number One Predictor on Why People Vote Trump
Those who study this subject found that the number one predictor for whether a person will vote for an authoritarian politician has nothing to do with normal demographics, such as race, gender, income, education, or even political party. Rather, the best predictor is whether they are authoritarian.
In a survey conducted this past December, Matthew McWilliams discovered that whether a person will vote for Trump depended on answers given on a parenting style/child-rearing questionaire. In this survey, McWilliams asked whether participants preferred children who were:
- respectful or independent
- obedient or self-reliant
- well-behaved or considerate; and
- well-mannered or curious
When I first saw these choices, I thought to myself that I want children to be all eight of these things; clearly I am somewhere in the middle of this spectrum. Those, however, who solely picked respectful, obedient, well-behaved, and well-mannered, are considered “strongly authoritarian.”
McWilliams discovered that those who pick the authoritarian answers–respectful, obedient, well-mannered, and well-behaved–have a greater tendency to vote for Trump. This was true for 49% of the Republicans and 17% of the Democrats surveyed. All of these individuals self-identified as strongly authoritarian.
White Working Class and the Republican Base
Most pundits will argue that Trump is attracting the white working class, however, when these individuals ranked low in authoritarianism, they disliked Trump. Whereas those who ranked high in authoritarianism unabashedly supported him.
Weiler explained to Zakaria that the Republican party, in particular, has “cultivated a base” that they are now “beholden to,” who want a specific, traditional social order. As a result, Trump will not be the last of his kind, rather we are just at the beginning of many politicians who will purposely pander to those who reject change.
To listen to the podcast of Weiler’s and Zakaria’s discussion, click here. Their discussion starts at 30 minute mark.
Featured image is a screengrab from Youtube.