Trump's gradual approval rating decline is because he consistently shows he lacks empathy: science writer
President Donald J. Trump listens to Vice President Mike Pence addresses his remarks Wednesday, April 22, 2020, in the James S. Brady White House Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Writing in Scientific American this Wednesday, Hemant Kakkar takes a look at what's behind the gradual decline of President Trump's approval rating, which soared in the early stages of his response to the coronavirus.


"This comports with a phenomenon documented by political scientist John Mueller in a 1970 paper and colloquially described as the rally round the flag effect: during times of crises, leaders enjoy greater popularity and support even among constituencies that were ambivalent or unsupportive in the past," Kakkar writes. "The theory helps explain the increased popularity of leaders around the world during this pandemic."

But since then, Trump's approval rating has been declining. Kakkar contends that a social psychological theory of status may hold an answer as to why.

"According to this theory, a leader’s status can be based either on dominance or prestige," he writes. "Leaders associated with dominance are assertive, controlling in getting their point across, and willing to be coercive and aggressive if necessary. Those identified with prestige are helpful and humble. They get their point across by sharing knowledge and letting others see the wisdom in their methods and expertise. The theory says a leader can win followers by dealing in the currency of either control or mutual respect."

Trump clearly falls into the dominance category, but that characteristic doesn't always serve world leaders well.

"...it is important for any dominant leader to demonstrate empathy, humility and, most importantly, that his or her actions have been governed by the need of the hour—to help others rather than to promote his or her own cause," Kakkar writes, adding that "people are willing to pardon the negative actions of even a dominant leader if she or he comes across as caring and empathetic—demonstrated attributes of a prestige-based leader."

"If Trump can look past his narcissistic tendencies, he might be able to win back some lost ground. But based on the evidence of his actions over the past four years, that reaction seems quite improbable."

Read the full article over at Scientific American.