President Donald J. Trump’s 33 percent approval is the lowest six-month rating of any American president. But, Trump’s loyal followers continue to support and defend every one of his 991 tweets, 121 documented false statements, 80 broken campaign promises, unorthodox personal and presidential behavior and hiring decisions.
Who are Trump’s ardent supporters? After reading 19 different political authorities from publications like New York Times, Politco Magazine, Bloomberg News, The Atlantic, Miami Herald, Quora, The Washington Post, Vox, FiveThirtyEight, Foreign Policy Magazine, Business Insider and The Wall Street Journal, a consistent answer surfaced.
Research clearly indicates Trump’s core base believe in authoritarianism and are populists.
Authoritarianism is a personality trait that seeks order and control, dislikes outsiders (e.g., non-English speaking population, immigrants, non-fundamentalist Christians, etc.) and values strict child-rearing practices. Populists exhibit a deep mistrust of white collar workers and any group that claims expertise (e.g., media, political elites, lawyers, political commentators, etc.).
Besides authoritarianism and populists traits, research also reveals Trump die-hard supporters are less formally educated than the average voter, less likely to gather and analyze their own facts, unwilling to consider other points of view, poorer than the average citizen, have a sense of powerlessness (e.g., worried about stories of Muslim terrorists disguised as Syrian refugees entering America, jihad allegedly being declared on working Americans, etc.) and are terrified about the rising Latino, Asian-Pacific Islander and black population while white population decreases.
Since the rise of Nazi Germany, authoritarianism has been one of the most widely studied concepts in social science. Authoritarians respond aggressively to outsiders and truly believe building a wall, closing mosques, limiting LGBTQ rights, restricting trade with foreign countries and having strict voter I.D. will “make American great again.”
It’s evident Trump’s primary and general election campaigns, as well as his actions as our 45th president were, and are purposely, targeted to America’s authoritarianism and populist citizens.
Authoritarians and populists love it when Trump scorns mainstream media calling them “the opposition party” and “enemies of the American people.” Trump’s ardent supporters cheered when Trump gave press credentials to Gateway Pundit, InfoWars and alt-right Breitbart News.
Trump’s disregard for the rule of law (i.e., Domestic and Foreign Emoluments Clauses), challenging the independence of America’s three branches of government (i.e., judicial, legislative and executive), displaying no respect for constitutional order by trying to keep Muslims out of the USA, establishing a voter fraud commission that is a solution in search of a problem, belittling Republican and Democrat legislators who oppose his thoughts, etc., perfectly portrays him as the new law and order sheriff in town that authoritarian and populists love … to a fault.
Knowing characteristics of Trump’s base may help you understand the vocal minority of America’s citizenry. When you hear the Heritage Foundation, Tea Party Patriots, Fox News’s Sean Hannity, Family Research Council, Home School Legal Defense Association, Liberty University, Minuteman Project, Family Research Council, American Conservative Union, The Crusader, The National Enquirer, KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, David Duke, Grover Norquist, Kellyanne Conway and Stephen Miller wanting to bar transgender people from the military, urging police not to be “too nice” in making arrests, confronting civil rights advocacy groups, taking resources away from universities because their affirmative action policies discriminate against whites, to name a few, you’ll know they are among Trump’s 33 percent authoritarians and populists.
Meanwhile, two-thirds of Americans shake their head in bewilderment and disbelief at Trump’s loyalists. Whether you agree or disagree with the authoritarians and populists, the words of American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift ring true, “We don’t need to share the same opinions as others, but we need to be respectful.”
Steve Corbin is Professor Emeritus of Marketing, University of Northern Iowa, and a 1966 graduate of Nevada High School.