Who are these people? And what could possibly compel your seemingly normal neighbor (boyfriend, co-worker, Cousin Lou, etc.) to support Donald Trump?
We all know his ideal demographics: older, less-educated, poorer white males. But new research suggests that the majority of Trump supporters also share a more powerful common denominator: a lack of empathy. This first-of-its-kind study included 2,700 participants, with significant representation of key demographic groups. The research confirmed that peoples’ inborn personality type affects how they vote.
There are two major ingredients of empathy: imagination — the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and compassion — a genuine desire to alleviate another’s pain or discomfort.
I believe the “X Factor” which helps explains Trump’s popularity is Personality Type. Empathy is the defining characteristic of some personality types, but is glaringly absent in the types of many Trump supporters.
According to the well-respected Jung/Myers Model of Psychological Type, we perceive the world in one of two fundamentally different ways: through our five senses — focusing on the facts and details in front of us (as “Sensors”). Or, though our “6th sense — seeking meaning and “connecting the dots” by interpreting those facts and details (as “Intuitives”).
What’s the most common comment uttered by Trump supporters? “I like that he says what’s on his mind.” Because Sensors tend to take things at face value, his plan to eliminate terrorism by banning all Muslims seems reasonable. But Intuitives go the next step and ask: “But what, exactly is on his mind?!” What are the consequences of banning one billion people whose help we need to fight extremists . . . how will a ban affect our relationships around the world?
Why is this significant? Because the more realistic and naturally less imaginative Sensors represent about 75 percent of the population. (This is NOT to imply that all individuals who are Sensors lack imagination or empathy.)
Empathy also requires compassion. “Feelers” make decisions primarily based on their personal values and sensitivity to others. Whereas their counterparts — “Thinkers” — primarily make decisions impersonally, based on logic. As a result, Thinkers are hard-wired to be more objective and Feelers more compassionate.
The combinations of Sensors or Intuitives with Thinkers or Feelers form the core of one’s Personality Type. Empirical research has shown Intuitive-Feelers to be the most empathetic types, and Sensor-Thinkers, the least. My own original research involving almost 10,000 subjects confirmed the significant role education and gender plays: less educated male Sensor-Thinkers are the most conservative types, and constitute the highest percentage of Trump supporters.
Personality Type predisposes people to be more empathetic and liberal or less empathetic and conservative. But it is not the only influence. Each of us is the product of nature and nurture. Personality Type is the nature part. Our parents, upbringing, socio-economic status, race, religion, where we live, etc. is the nurture part. My research has consistently and repeatedly shown it’s the combination of personality type, education and gender that is most responsible for shaping our political attitudes and behavior.
So, back to the central question: “Who are Trump voters?” Indisputably, the less empathetic Sensor-Thinking males are his largest (and loudest) supporters. This is not surprising, since Trump himself is a Sensor-Thinker (“Birds of a feather…”). And, at 42 percent of the population, he has a lot of company! In contrast, the most empathetic, liberal types are female Intuitive-Feelers (only about 19 percent of the population) — Bernie Sander’s and Elizabeth Warner’s most enthusiastic supporters.
Trump has levied mean-spirited attacks against women, Mexicans, Muslims, a disabled reporter, Gold Star parents, unattractive people, political opponents, the media, his alleged sexual assault victims . . . even the Pope. Ostensibly these attacks were designed to mobilize his base (or burnish his brand) and may have been successful. But in every instance his ad hominem attacks have demonstrated an appalling lack of empathy for the objects of his ridicule. Despite their perhaps justified anger, had the vast majority of his supporters not been similarly hard-wired to be empathically-challenged, Donald Trump would not have a shot at becoming our next president.
Paul D. Tieger is an internationally recognized expert on and the author of five books about Personality Type. He lives in Hartford, CT. Survey results can be found at bornliberalorconservative.com.
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