Friday, March 04, 2016

The Left are amusing: The "authoritarianism" explanation for Trump support

On Feb 25 I put up some comments on the accusation that Trump supporters are "authoritarian".  The article I critiqued was based on some research by a PR man named Matthew MacWilliams.

The claim is that "authoritarians" are fear-motivated and that Trump panders to those fears.  That authoritarians are fear motivated is a claim that goes back a long way.  Erich Fromm asserted it in the '50s and various subsequent authors have made feeble attempts to prove it, e.g. Sales, S. (1973). Careful researchers would use a measure of fear motivation and a measure of authoritarianism and try to show that the two were correlated.  But MacWilliams and his gurus skipped that awkward step as far as I can see.  They just defined authoritarianism in their own way and noted that it showed correlations with some fears.  That their measure of authoritarianism was in fact a measure of anything authority-related was not shown.  As far as I can see it at most measures old-fashioned thinking. But even the academic work that MacWilliams relies on -- work by Feldman & Stenner (1997) -- concedes that there is no direct relationship between authoritarianism and threat/fear.

And the research made elementary mistakes -- indicating a profound ignorance of the precautions that psychometricians normally take when doing survey research.  Recently, however, a new and much expanded article based on the MacWilliams research has emerged -- under the title "The rise of American authoritarianism", written by Amanda Taub.

I think my previous comments were sufficient to show that the work is a lot of hokum but maybe I can add a few more comments.

I might initially expand my comments about the naive nature of the questions they used to assess authoritarianism. They were "forced-choice" questions.  A typical question was

"Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: to be considerate or to be well-behaved?".

The option you chose was supposed to indicate whether you are authoritarian or not.  But what if you thought that BOTH attributes are important?  What if you wanted a kid who was BOTH considerate AND well-behaved?  The form of the question prevents you from saying that.  So the answers given might not well represent what the person actually thinks.

So is that naive form of question construction actually misleading?  It is. If the people don't like the choices they are offered, what is likely to happen is that a "Donkey vote" effect will result: If the choices in a forced-choice scale are labelled "a" and "b", the Donkey voter will, at the extreme, simply tick all the "a"s.  And I showed in my own survey research years ago that forced choice questions can push the results in a direction more or less opposite to what occurs with more straightforward questions

I think that alone invalidates their conclusions but "Wait! There's more"! -- as the steak-knife salesman said.

The "authoritarianism" researchers say that Trump appeals to "authoritarians" as defined by them and that Trump is the ideal candidate for authoritarians. So virtually all authoritarians should support him, it would seem.   So I was amused to read this about their research findings:

"Trump has ...  a full 52 percent support among very high authoritarians."

What a laugh!  Even high authoritarians split roughly 50/50 in support for Trump.  Nearly half of these sad people DON'T support Trump.  Where does that leave Trump as the ideal candidate for authoritarians?  As is common in Leftist researchers, they can't even read their own data.  They conclude what they want to conclude, regardless of their actual findings.  Keeping reality out is an essential skill for Leftists.

So they have a lovely theory but it happens to be wrong.  So they might have to accept that there really is something rotten in the state of American politics, and Donald Trump is bringing that to the fore.  The fault may lie with the political establishment, not with the personal inadequacies of Trump supporters.


Sales, S. (1973) "Threat as a factor in authoritarianism".  J.  Personality & Social Psychology, 28, 44-57.


Forget Trump... what's the U.S. done to deserve Hillary?

By outspoken British columnist Richard Littlejohn

After Super Tuesday, the nightmare scenario has moved a step closer to reality. America is on the brink of electing a polarising president with a long history of dishonesty, scandals and shady finances.

No, not Donald Trump. While the Republican front-runner was once again dominating the media coverage of the primaries, Hillary Clinton effectively sewed up the Democratic nomination.

Her sole challenger, self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders, is still in the race, but Hillary is now unstoppable. She was nailed on for the nomination before a single vote was cast.

Nobody of substance was prepared to stand against her. They were all terrified of the wrath of the Clinton attack machine, which has left a trail of bodies in its wake over three decades.

Nevertheless, her preordained progression towards the White House masks a distinct lack of enthusiasm on the part of the electorate.

Turn-out in the Democratic primaries has been well down, compared with the wave of excitement generated by the Barack Obama bandwagon eight years ago.

His optimistic ‘Yes We Can’ has been replaced by Hillary’s implied ‘It’s My Turn’. In a direct inversion of John F. Kennedy’s dictum, Mrs Clinton asks not what she can do for her country, but what it can do for her.

Hillary’s sense of entitlement dwarfs even that of our own Cherie Blair, who still bristles privately that she had to play a supporting role to her husband.

But while the Wicked Witch has settled for a pot of gold and a vast property empire, Hillary has unfinished political business.

Not that the Clintons are short of a shilling. When Bill left office in 2001, Hillary complained that they were flat broke. Yet 15 years later, they are reported to be worth in the region of $110 million (about £80 million).

Hillary is said to account for more than a third of that money. Which is why it was absurd to hear her condemning the wealthy and powerful at her victory rally on Tuesday night.

Wealth and power are what the Clintons live and breathe. Through their charitable foundation, which allows them to lord it like potentates, they have taken tens of millions of dollars from dubious foreign donors. Meanwhile, only 10 per cent of the foundation’s income has actually gone to charity.

Equally insulting this week was Mrs Clinton claiming to champion those who are struggling to ‘put a little away for their retirement’.

There’s little chance of Hillary having to choose between heating and eating in her old age.

You won’t find the former First Lady spooning cat food out of the tin, in front of one bar of an electric fire, at her home in upstate New York, while Bill wraps himself in a moth-eaten blanket and watches a scratchy video of Debbie Does Dallas.

This is a woman who, while railing against the bankers, has made a fortune from financial institutions. She was paid $675,000 by Goldman Sachs for three speeches.

When asked why she accepted so much money, she replied: ‘That’s what they offered.’

In other words, it would be rude not to. Her answer recalled that of the notorious American bank robber Slick Willie Sutton. When asked why he robbed banks, he replied: ‘That’s where the money is.’

Coincidentally, Hillary’s husband is also known as Slick Willie, not because he robs banks, but because he has made a career out of extricating himself from sticky situations.

Bill has been involved in a series of ‘bimbo eruptions’, most notably the Monica Lewinsky affair, which led to impeachment proceedings being brought against him. He came dangerously close to being kicked out of office for lying.

Throughout, Hillary stood by her man. One of Bill’s many conquests, Gennifer Flowers — who was his mistress for 12 years — recently came out of the woodwork to condemn Hillary for condoning his behaviour and hinted that there was more dirt to come.

Women who cross the Clintons have to endure a torrent of ordure poured from a great height. Lewinsky’s life was blighted for ever.

I recently met a ferociously bright, thirtysomething professor of U.S. politics at Cambridge.

She told me that while young American women would love to see a female president, they couldn’t abide Hillary — whom they accuse of being complicit in her husband’s crimes against the sisterhood.

Twice-divorced Trump is also frequently accused of mistreating women. If he wins the Republican nomination, reports suggest that we will witness the exquisite irony of Bill Clinton leading the attack on Trump’s suitability to be President.

It will be interesting to see how Trump responds to being called a misogynist by Slick Willie, who these days resembles a redneck roué in a Reno casino.

The Clintons have been mired in scandal, as far back as the Whitewater Controversy, which revolved around dodgy land deals in Arkansas, when Bill was governor.

After he became President, Hillary was accused of lying to an official inquiry into the sacking of several White House staff who were replaced by Clinton cronies.

Now Mrs Clinton is being investigated by the FBI for illegally using her own private email server to send and receive classified correspondence in connection with her position as Secretary of State, the American equivalent of Foreign Secretary, and deleting 30,000 messages she described as ‘personal’.

U.S. government officials have been sacked and prosecuted for less.

Mrs Clinton makes great play of her ‘experience’, but her record in office is dismal.

She was Secretary of State for four years until 2013. On her watch, the world became a more dangerous place.

Having once said she’d nuke Iran to protect Israel, she then supported the deal to bring the mad mullahs back into the fold, by lifting sanctions and allowing them to develop a ‘peaceful’ nuclear programme.

She lied about coming under sniper fire while on a visit to Bosnia.

Worst of all, she refused a request to send military reinforcements to protect the American embassy in Benghazi, Libya.

The result was an attack by jihadists on September 11, 2012, in which the U.S. ambassador was murdered.

Clinton has never accepted responsibility.

No wonder between 50 and 65 per cent of voters regularly say she is ‘dishonest and untrustworthy’.

While her husband has a roguish charm and a fierce intellect, Hillary is just plain weird.

She looks like a Botoxed beaver and has a voice like a blowtorch. She’s a grown-up version of Labour’s Yvette Cooper.

She claims to speak for the common people, but has been part of the self-serving elite for the past quarter of a century, a fully paid-off member of the insidious alliance between Washington and big business.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


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