Psychologists on the Donald Trump Phenomenon

In authoring textbooks (and this blog) I seek to steer clear of overtly partisan politics. That’s out of respect for my readers’ diverse views, and also because my calling is to report on psychological science and its application to everyday life.

But sometimes psychology speaks to politics. Recently, more than 750 psychotherapists have signed “A Public Manifesto: Citizen Therapists Against Trumpism.” Its author, University of Minnesota professor William Doherty, emphasizes that the manifesto does not seek to diagnose Trump, the person. Rather it assesses Trumpist ideology, which it sees as “an emerging form of American facism” marked by fear, scapegoating, and exaggerated masculinity.

An alternative statement, drafted by public intellectual David Blankenhorn of the bipartisan “Better Angels” initiative (and signed by 22 of us), offers “A Letter to Trump Supporters”—some arguments for rethinking support of Donald Trump. Social psychologists will recognize this as an effort at “central route” persuasion (offering reasons for rethinking one’s position). But in this presidential season, are rational arguments or emotional appeals more likely to sway voters—or some combination of both?  What do you think?