Way back in February, a piece by David Brooks referenced the work of Matthew MacWilliams, who[se editor] claimed that he had discovered “The One Weird Trait That Predicts Whether You’re a Trump Supporter”:
If I asked you what most defines Donald Trump supporters, what would you say? They’re white? They’re poor? They’re uneducated?
You’d be wrong.
In fact, I’ve found a single statistically significant variable predicts whether a voter supports Trump—and it’s not race, income or education levels: It’s authoritarianism.
If you’re anything like me, you are looking askance at this point. After all, if there’s one thing Americans love, it’s FREEDOM–we will brook no tyranny, be it by king or kaiser! But it turns out that Mr. MacWilliams didn’t rely on bumper stickers in rally parking lots to draw his conclusions. Instead, he used
a set of four simple survey questions that political scientists have employed since 1992 to measure inclination toward authoritarianism. These questions pertain to child-rearing: whether it is more important for the voter to have a child who is respectful or independent; obedient or self-reliant; well-behaved or considerate; and well-mannered or curious. Respondents who pick the first option in each of these questions are strongly authoritarian.
I know, I know, you’re thinking “Whatevs!” right about now. How could child-rearing, for Pete’s sake, have anything to do with authoritarian inclinations? The linguist George Lakoff explains how our upbringing might be related to our policy preferences:
What do social issues and politics have to do with the family? We are first governed in our families, and so we grow up understanding governing institutions in terms of the governing systems of families.
In the strict father family, father knows best. He knows right from wrong and has the ultimate authority to make sure his children and his spouse do what he says, which is taken to be what is right. Many conservative spouses accept this worldview, uphold the father’s authority, and are strict in those realms of family life that they are in charge of. When his children disobey, it is his moral duty to punish them painfully enough so that, to avoid punishment, they will obey him (do what is right) and not just do what feels good. Through physical discipline they are supposed to become disciplined, internally strong, and able to prosper in the external world.
It looks like the prophet was on to something.
If Lakoff’s reasoning seems a tad too liberal-artsy, MacWilliams did some more math and published this response:
One simple way to test this question and answer skeptics is to assess whether Trump voters express authoritarian attitudes on questions that theoretically should engage their authoritarianism. In other words, if Trump voters really are authoritarians, more often than not they should behave like authoritarians.…On most of these questions, Trump voters exhibit statistically significant and substantive authoritarian attitudes.
Regardless of where you stand on Trump and those who report voting for him, it’s fascinating that attitudes about child-raising have such predictive power when it comes to our picks for president.
And of course I’m curious–how authoritarian are the readers of BCC? I know we have a reputation as a liberal hotbed, but we’re also Mormons and Mormons are big into obedience, strong leaders and families presided over by fathers. So there’s gotta be some “spare the rod, spoil the child” types rattling around the Bloggernacle to leaven the lump.
So let’s give it a try. For each pair, mark the characteristic that you believe is more important for a child to have: