Trump support a 'robust' predictor of prejudice and 'hostilities': social psychologists

Trump support a 'robust' predictor of prejudice and 'hostilities': social psychologists

Racism, bigotry and xenophobia in the United States didn’t start with Donald Trump’s presidency, but he has been more than happy to promote and encourage those things. And according to 13 studies published by the journal Nature Human Behavior on Monday, February 21, prejudice — both racial prejudice and religious prejudice — increased considerably in the U.S. during Trump’s four years in the White House.

The research for the studies was conducted by two social psychologists: Kent University’s Benjamin C. Ruisch in the U.K. and Yale University’s Melissa J. Ferguson in Connecticut. In their article, Ruisch and Ferguson explain, “These results suggest that Trump's presidency coincided with a substantial change in the topography of prejudice in the United States.”

Stephen Farnsworth, author of the 2018 book “Presidential Communication and Character: White House News Management from Clinton and Cable to Twitter and Trump,” wasn’t part of the Ruisch/Ferguson study but discussed its findings with Courthouse News. Farnsworth agrees that Trump promoted prejudice during his presidency but stressed that the “hostilities” he encouraged existed long before he ran for president in 2016.

Farnsworth told Courthouse News, “Trump was able to be a vehicle to express ones' frustration with political correctness and tolerance. He didn’t create it. These hostilities existed before him, but he was a vehicle to channel that grievance."

The targets of prejudice during the Trump years, according to Ruisch and Ferguson, ranged from African-Americans to Muslims. Ruisch and Ferguson report, “Regardless of what we controlled for, Trump support remained a robust predictor of increases in prejudice.”

But Tim Hagel, who teaches political science at the University of Iowa, believes that prejudice increased on both the left and the right during the Trump years.

Hagel told Courthouse News, “The left didn’t want to just demonize Trump, they wanted to demonize the people who supported Trump. If you keep calling people racist, pretty soon, they are going to say, 'This is what I believe. You can say anything about me that you want.'”

Hagel, however, is hopeful, telling Courthouse News that Republicans may move to a more “libertarian” message in the future, getting away from racial identity politics.

“It makes sense to think of American politics as something like a pendulum," Hagel argues. "One side prevails, the other side fights back. We don’t have permanent political party majorities. We don’t have permanent political party minorities. Republicans, five years from now, may find a libertarian message more appealing than appeals to racial identity.”

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