When writing my book Conservatives Without Conscience Penguin, about the authoritarianism that was gaining influence in the Republican Party in the early s, I read most everything that social scientists had to say about folks with such dispositions. No one has done more ground-breaking work in testing the nature of these people than this professor, who was then at the University of Manitoba in Canada. A native of St. Louis who had done his graduate work at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Bob is also a keen student of American politics. Indeed, his son is in the business in Canada, and a member of the Manitoba Legislature. He did, and placed it online for anyone to read for free.
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When writing my book Conservatives Without Conscience Penguin, about the authoritarianism that was gaining influence in the Republican Party in the early s, I read most everything that social scientists had to say about folks with such dispositions.
No one has done more ground-breaking work in testing the nature of these people than this professor, who was then at the University of Manitoba in Canada. A native of St. Louis who had done his graduate work at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Bob is also a keen student of American politics.
Indeed, his son is in the business in Canada, and a member of the Manitoba Legislature. He did, and placed it online for anyone to read for free. See The Authoritarians. Last time I checked, over , people had visited the book, and hopefully read it! Bob Altemeyer saw Donald Trump coming. More accurately, he saw the kinds of men and women who would vote for a Donald Trump-type candidate for high office. These are people he described in earlier works as Right Wing Authoritarians , and Enemies of Freedom.
Without going too deep into the weeds, let me note a few of these people score high on testing that shows they not only can be devoted followers of authoritarian leaders, the so-called social dominators like Trump who want to be in charge, but they also test high as social dominators themselves.
These seemingly incongruous testing results—testing high as both followers and leaders—have been explained as the social dominators envisioning the type of follower they want as leaders, or their willingness to be good followers until they get their chance to become leaders.
When I started writing about these authoritarian personalities in , I was looking for an explanation of the people who had taken charge of the Republican Party. In fact, he was awarded the prestigious prize for behavioral science research in , when the American Association for the Advancement of Science recognized his work.
Working in , I asked him what percentage of the American population might he estimate or intelligently guess were authoritarian followers, and he thought maybe 30 percent. Working on my book it seemed inconceivable that so few could ever elect a president. Authoritarians do remain a minority, but with non-voters and anti-Hillary Clinton voters, Trump pulled off a historic upset. So, I asked Bob Altemeyer, what if anything would get through to the Trump supporters, given the fact Trump has shown himself, so far, totally incompetent as President of the United States.
Set forth below in italics is material from Bob, who is now enjoying his retirement. It took many months for Americans to stop supporting President Nixon during Watergate, and even at the end he could count on a hard knot of supporters who would believe him, as he said to [his chief of staff] H.
Haldeman, because they wanted to. These are the people Trump was talking about when he famously bragged that he could shoot somebody in broad daylight on Fifth Avenue and it would make no difference to his backers.
We know enough about authoritarian supporters from research, and history, to know it will be very hard to change their minds about the leader they adore. Put all this together and you get an idea how hard it will be to change their minds about Donald Trump.
Nixon had little means of communicating directly with his supporters. Second, the major news outlets in the s were the three TV networks. There was no Fox News. How do people get this way? Answer: There is evidence that authoritarian followers are more afraid than most people. And also, that they were trained in self-righteousness, and ethnocentric thinking in early age. Will Trump supporters never change?
Answer: Some will, if their personal experience shows them Trump has misled them or caused them grief, such as a loss of medical coverage. And if you anticipate a close election in , these people are worth pursuing. But Trump will blame others, and his supporters will give him the benefit of the doubt more than most people will. With that information in mind, from someone who may understand Trump supporters better than Trump does, it is clear that to prevail in and , Democrats must focus on getting sympathetic non-voters to the polls, and bring back into the fold the anti-Hillary folks, who suffered from Clinton exhaustion—voters who are clearly not right-wing authoritarians.
Posted in: Politics. Tags: authoritarianism , Bob Altemeyer , Politics. Share Tweet Share Share. They are extremely ethnocentric, dividing the world sharply into people in their in-group, and automatically disliking all others. They feel politicians who promote minority rights and immigration discriminate against them. Donald Trump tells them they are right.
He is their champion. They are highly dogmatic. They get their ideas from others in the in-group, especially from their leader, not from evidence and logic. They say there is no evidence that will make them change their minds.
Being in a cohesive crowd at rallies thrills them because they silently tell one another, just by being there, that they are powerful and right. They create an echo chamber that reinforces the belief that all the good people think like they do.
They severely limit their sources of information. They get the news that they want to get. They have highly compartmentalized minds. When an unpleasant truth forces its way into their awareness, they do not try to integrate the other things they believe with it. Instead they put it in a box and isolate it from the rest of their thinking, which proceeds as if the truth never existed.
Questions [people ask : How do people get this way? More Commentary by John Dean. Dean and Barry M. Goldwater Buy. Warren G. Dean Buy. Conservatives Without Conscience by John W. Bush by John W. Justia Verdict. The opinions expressed in Verdict are those of the individual columnists and do not represent the opinions of Justia.
The bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, the emergence of militias and skinheads, the rise of the religious right, the attacks on Planned Parenthood clinics, the backlash against equal rights movements, the increase in poverty But aren't authoritarians Nazi types, kooks, the Klan? These are just the extreme examples, he argues. The Authoritarian Specter shows that many ordinary people today are psychologically disposed to embrace antidemocratic, fascist policies. The book presents the latest results from a prize-winning research program on the authoritarian personality--a victory for the scientific method in the struggle to understand the worst aspects of ourselves.
Introduction: Following World War II there was a significant amount of interest in what was termed the "authoritarian personality". Psychologists wanted to understand the psychologies of fascist regimes and their followers. This line of research produced the California F-scale F for fascist in The Right-wing Authoritarianism Scale was developed by Bob Altemeyer in as a revision of the F-scale that improved its statistical properties. Procedure: The test consists of twenty two opinions and for each you must indicate how much you agree with it. The test should take 3 - 5 minutes to complete.
The Authoritarian Specter
This website places at your disposal a free ebook entitled The Authoritarians. I wrote this book in when a great deal seemed to be going wrong in America, and I thought the research on authoritarian personalities could explain a lot of it. The book is set in that era, but you will have no trouble finding present-day examples of what the experiments found back then. Many people, including I, have labeled Donald Trump an authoritarian leader. But they are honestly baffled by the loyalty of his followers. The decades of research on authoritarian followers provide some answers.
He did research on authoritarianism , identifying the psychological makeup of authoritarian followers and authoritarian leaders. His studies concentrated on who the followers are, how they got that way, how they think and why they are by turns so submissive and aggressive. His research is documented in the book, The Authoritarians. He also collected data on authoritarianism among North American politicians. Altemeyer's work is referenced in John W. Dean 's book, Conservatives Without Conscience. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.