Psychologist explains how the looming terror of death drives support for Donald Trump
Those afraid to die are apparently more likely to support Donald Trump for president, according to psychologist Sheldon Solomon.
In an interview with Scientific American, Solomon prefaces that terror management follows cultural anthropologist theories that humans will do pretty much anything to increase their chances at survival. But when you apply this logic to moments of our lives other than fleeing a mass shooting, the emotional toll bleeds into other decisions in our lives, including our choice for president.
“We are (from a purely biological perspective) breathing pieces of defecating meat no more significant or enduring than lizards or potatoes,” Solomon says. Yet, humans cling to psychological comfort mechanisms that help us manage our “terror” by feeling we are “individuals in a meaningful universe.”
He explained that the 2004 election was a major example of voters being forced to face their fears. “Americans reminded of their mortality or the events of September 11, 2001, reported that they intended to vote for President George W. Bush by an almost 3:1 margin,” he said. The control group voted for John Kerry 4:1.
This ultimately helps Donald Trump, because studies show that people reminded of their mortality are `more likely to support those who share their cherished beliefs. The flip side is that it also increases “hostility and disdain for people who are opposed to our beliefs.”
“After 9/11, President Bush garnered tremendous support by declaring that he would rid the world of evil and that he believed God had chosen him at that perilous time,” Solomon reasoned. “This, combined with the death fears aroused by the attacks, boosted Americans’ support for him and probably got him re-elected in 2004.” But in this election season “in the aftermath of terrorist attacks in Paris, San Bernardino, and Brussels, Donald Trump has promised to make America great again by building a giant wall to keep immigrants out and bombing the shit out of ISIS.” Essentially, Trump is using the idea of a pre-emptive strike like the one Bush used on Iraq for ISIS and “the wall” is like Bush’s Patriot Act.
“And indeed, in our most recent study, New Yorkers reminded of their mortality were more supportive of Donald Trump and reported being more willing to vote for him,” he analyzed.