The "anti-establishment" ideology is a major contributor to the belief systems that catapulted former President Donald Trump to power and the formation of the QAnon movement, according to findings published by the American Journal of Political Science and The Forum.
Speaking to PsyPost, Adam M. Enders — an assistant political science professor at the University of Louisville and co-author of the study — discussed how they compiled the information.
"While we discuss primarily historical and theoretical literature arguing that anti-establishment viewpoints are hardly new, no one has been empirically tracking them over time," Enders explained. "Our study is a first cut at taking this ignored dimension of public opinion more seriously. We need to track anti-establishment orientations over time to better understand how they ebb and flow. We also need to track them across social and political contexts to see what role these ideas play in other countries with different political systems, economic systems, etc."
"I was interested in this project because it increasingly seemed to me that polarization and political identities were increasingly bearing the brunt of the blame –– perhaps erroneously –– for socially undesirable beliefs and actions that were probably the product of other orientations, like conspiracy thinking and a tendency to view politics as a struggle between good and evil," said Enders.
Enders noted how Trump's influence has contributed to the widening gap between red and blue political supporters. "Especially with the ascendance of Donald Trump, we witnessed a blending of left-right political concerns (e.g., partisanship, liberal-conservative ideology) with antagonistic orientations toward the political establishment," Enders said. "I wanted to try and disentangle these dimensions of opinion in order to better understand both how they are related to each other and how they differentially promote the beliefs and behaviors that have so concerned social scientists in recent years."
University of Miami's Joseph E. Uscinski, who also served as a co-author, explained how the evolution of politics and societal issues have contributed to extremism and polarization in American.
"American politics seems to be different than in previous decades and we wanted to know why," Uscinski added. "Many people blame current political problems — conspiracy theories, fake news, political violence — on polarization. But, we were not convinced that our current problems are the fault of people becoming too ideological or too partisan."
Uscinski went on to note how dangerous cancel culture has become as polarization becomes more prominent among party lines. 'We believe that efforts to 'squish' all opinions, people, and groups onto a uni-dimensional space is unwise," Uscinski explained.
He added, "Many people's opinions aren't solely 'left' or 'right,' but rather a mix. Further, many people have antagonisms toward the political system writ large and this has been vastly understudied. It may not be the case that populism is new in the United States; it may instead be the case that in recent years, more politicians are willing to use populist anti-system rhetoric to build coalitions by activating a set of opinions that are already there waiting to be activated."