Why Do So Many Americans Continue to Support Donald Trump? In a Word: Authoritarianism -
“How can you defend a president who is a danger to democracy?” Stated more broadly, why do so many Americans support Donald Trump who not only is singularly unqualified for office, but who presents a clear danger to our democracy? Appropriately, Gerson says the issue would benefit from psychological study.
In fact, over the last six-plus decades that study has largely been done. Social science has studied (and continues to study) both authoritarian leaders, and people who support such leaders. Clear answers have emerged, although we are addressing only a few that Gerson raises. For example, the motivations of the wealthy conservative funders Gerson mentions are not the same as the evangelicals, who are Trump’s largest group of supporters. The overriding answer of why these people support Trump can be stated briefly, albeit bluntly: There are a lot of Americans who do not care for democracy (Altemeyer, 2006 at www.theauthoritarians.org). They do not mind that he fails to follow the Constitution, or that he poses a danger to democracy. In fact, surveys of these people show they would prefer a demagogic autocrat who will “stomp out the rot,” which they believe infects society. Because most Americans see the world differently, this finding may be difficult to accept. It is, however, based on solid science.