Why Trump’s conservative supporters are the way they are, a list:
1. Fox News
Fox News is a journalistic aberration. According to the bipartisan, objective group, Politifact, around 60% of claims made by the “news” network are “Mostly False” or worse. Not to mention the fact that multiple polls have shown that Fox viewers are actually less informed about current events than viewers of every other news network. The network has successfully convinced its voters—through a combination of panic-mongering, othering, false populism, Christian pandering, diversion, misinterpretation of history, and attacking education—that the world is coming to an end and that liberals are to blame.
Panic mongering is when Fox News convinces its viewers that society is crumbling, violent criminals are running amuck, gun confiscation is imminent, and terrorism is the gravest threat to American lives. Obviously, none of this is true. In fact, your daily life is pretty much unchanged, crime rates are lower than they were in the 1970s, gun confiscation is unconstitutional and logistically unworkable, and you’re more likely to be killed by your own furniture than by a terrorist.
Othering is when Fox News targets specific groups of people and blames them for any and all issues that the country is currently facing, and sets them apart from the “in-group” that viewers are a part of. Crime? Black people and immigrants. Rising divorce rates? Feminists. Tanking economy? Democrats. Fakes news? Every other news agency. White, conservative Christian viewers have never done anything except propel this country towards greatness.
Not to mention that Fox News is the sole, shining beacon of journalistic truth in a world dominated by liberal elites crafting elaborate conspiracy theories designed to mislead the people. This technique is classic political psychological manipulation, and history shows that people are always eager to blame anyone besides themselves for their own problems, or the problems of an entire nation. (see, Nazi Germany.)
False populism is when multimillionaire news anchors like Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly convince middle and lower-middle-class viewers that they’re “just like them” and want to “drain the swamp” or “fight the man.” Of course, it totally makes sense that people who wear ten-thousand-dollar suits and go home to their exorbitant mansions every night are exactly the type of people who are clamoring for change.
Christian pandering is an interesting phenomenon in this country where, simply by being a Republican and saying that you are a Christian, Fox News viewers believe you automatically represent the values of Jesus Christ. However, all Democrats who claim to be Christian are lying liars. Despite the fact that Obama was raised by a Christian mother, went to church weekly long before becoming President, and spent significant time volunteering and helping others, he is not considered a Christian.
Trump, however, is bringing Christ back to America via a nice combination of multiple divorces, admitted sexual assaults, hoarding his fortune, defrauding contractors, and very publicly attending church only while campaigning for president. All of this conveniently ignores the fact that Jesus’ whole thing was loving and helping those who are least deserving, or that touting your religiosity in public is something you actually shouldn’t do. (see the Bible.) But hey, Fox News says it, so it must be scripture handed down from God himself.
Diversion is when there is important national news, but it involves Republicans and something negative surrounding them, so Fox News covers literally anything else. For example, when various Trump campaign staffers were indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller, it was the biggest news story of the month. Two people who were intimately associated with the President and his election campaign had just surrendered themselves to American legal authorities.
Fox News knew they could not avoid talking about such a significant story, but they did their best. On top of twisting the news to fit a far-right narrative, they spent a large portion of airtime talking about subjects that are not even remotely related to the Manafort and Gates indictments. This manipulates viewers into believing a distorted version of the truth, while also shifting their focus away from potentially damning information to a completely different and irrelevant topic.
Misrepresentation of history is when Fox News claims that Reagan was the greatest jobs president of all time and Obama ruined the economy, for example. This popular claim is hilariously false, for two reasons. If we look at history, numbers clearly show that the economy improves when a Democrat is president. This isn’t to say that Democrats are better for the economy or Republicans are worse, in fact, experts say that presidential policy has little do with the nation’s overall economic health. Therefore, claiming a single president had any sort of impactful effect on the American economy is also incorrect.
Attacking education is the nail in the coffin when it comes to manipulating the conservative masses. Almost half of Fox viewers are low to middle class Americans who only have a high school degree or less. The network has successfully fostered amongst this group of people a distinct aversion to educated professionals, or “the elite.” People do not graduate college because they are driven to succeed or be educated in their fields; According to the Fox narrative, university-educated people simply think they are better than everyone else, are not happy with the status quo, and want to join the liberal cabal that is plotting to destroy our country.
This rejection of expertise as “liberal elitism” allows Fox viewers to easily dismiss the opinions of various groups of people, such as climate scientists, economists, and researchers as “fake news,” and maintains the illusion that they are correct about issues where empirical evidence contradicts them. Labelling contradicting information as inherently wrong permits conservatives to remain steadfastly ignorant on critical societal issues.
2. Just World Fallacy
The “just world fallacy” is a belief, conscious or subconscious, held by many conservatives that there is a divinely-ordained status quo and that inequality is the natural order of society. On top of this, they believe that people’s place in the hierarchy can be directly attributed to how “deserving” they are. If you are wealthy, it is because God himself said it would be so. If you are poor, it is because you did something that demanded God’s punishment. Once again, this is often a subconsciously held assumption, which helps justify conservative hatred of groups seen as “below them,” i.e. the middle class and their disdain for poor people, poor white people and their disdain for black people.
3. Diffusion of Responsibility
When people ascribe to the just world fallacy, they are usually also beholden to the “diffusion of responsibility effect,” where people are less likely to help others, especially those who are outside their social group. By seeing themselves as part of a larger, conservative Christian sector of society, people are able to easily dismiss or ignore the struggles of minority groups as “not their problem.”
4. Denial of Evidence of Situational Determinants of Success
Despite believing that “people get what they deserve in life,” many conservatives simultaneously hold the belief that disadvantaged groups exist simply because they are lazy or want handouts. In reality, studies show that a majority of the time, someone’s success in life can be directly attributed to various pre-existing situational and social factors, such as race, socioeconomic status, geographical location, health, and sexuality.
In other words, it is very difficult and unlikely for a person to be socially mobile in this country, and success requires just as much luck as it does hard work and drive. By denying this reality, conservatives are able to make sweeping generalizations about various communities, such as “most black people are lazy,” or “women aren’t as intelligent as men.”
5. Zero-Sum Worldview
Conservatives see the world as a giant pie. There is only so much of it to be split up amongst whoever lives there. This view spills over into every other aspect of their lives. If women get more jobs, men get fewer jobs. If gay people get married, it will diminish straight marriage. If they get more, I get less. These fears are founded less in reality than in ideological panic and fear that there is a limited amount of happiness and prosperity; that people must fight to get their share.
This is false. New wealth and jobs are constantly being created, affording people rights does not take away the pre-existing rights of other groups, and the marriage thing honestly makes no logical sense. However, this way of thinking explains why conservatives are constantly belligerent, defensive, and possessive. If other people or groups are your lifelong competition, then there is no room for empathy or compassion.
6. Biological Differences
Recent studies suggest that conservative brains are actually hardwired differently than liberal brains. Whereas liberals are capable of diffusing empathy across various societal groups, conservatives tend to only care about those in their immediate social or familial group. Psychological studies also show that conservatives tend to be more anxious than liberals, and therefore value stability in its various forms.
This can explain why they so adamantly support strong authority figures, loyalty, and a fixed social hierarchy. So although other factors such as Fox News exacerbate the issue, conservatives may already be inherently inclined to have a limited view of what constitutes an acceptable society, and are less inclined to accept change or care about people seen as being outside the “in-group.”
7. Cognitive Dissonance
All of these things listed compound themselves via the concept of cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is when people’s deeply held beliefs about themselves or the world are challenged.
Trump supporters have a very certain view of the world, as explained above, and deeply ingrained beliefs about Donald Trump. They have convinced themselves that he is a good Christian man, who cares deeply about the poor worker and about the country, who is extremely intelligent, self-made, and competent, whose actions are restoring America to its former, post-WWII glory, who will give us great healthcare, who won’t cut Medicaid and Medicare, who will drain the swamp, who will put those pro-vaccine doctors and climate-change scientists in their place, who will fight the liberal scourge debasing our society and military.
Whenever people experience cognitive dissonance, it is usually painful and uncomfortable. So, to alleviate this discomfort, people will use various methods to return to cognitive harmony. Some people will accept new facts and alter their beliefs, for example. Trump supporters, on the other hand, take the opposite route and cling to their beliefs while denying the validity of the new information. People will even go so far as to reject something as inarguable as pictures of inauguration crowd sizes. When Donald Trump labels any negative coverage as “fake news,” his supporters are emboldened and use his label to deny factual reality in defense of their own beliefs.
Another measure of cognitive dissonance and your ability to resolve it is the “opposing argument test.” In one version of this test, Obama and Bush supporters were asked to attempt to write papers arguing in favor of the opposing candidate. While 28% of liberals wrote favorable arguments about Bush, every single conservative refused to write a favorable Obama argument. If people are not able or willing to even try to defend arguments that oppose their own, then they are less likely to change their views when presented with new information.
Although some of the things I listed can definitely be applied to some liberals, (which would be another interesting piece to write), the point I am trying to make is that these phenomena are a hundred times more prevalent amongst conservative Trump voters than they are for any other political demographic. Basically, people who support Donald Trump will support Donald Trump literally no matter what he does, and these are the reasons. I mean hell, he said it himself,