Vot­ers fa­vor tough talk in tough times

The Washington Post Sunday - - TAKING STOCK - ON LEAD­ER­SHIP BY JENA MC­GRE­GOR jena.mc­gre­gor@wash­post.com

Since the elec­tion, anal­y­sis af­ter anal­y­sis has ex­am­ined how an in­ex­pe­ri­enced politi­cian whose di­vi­sive rhetoric and au­to­cratic ten­den­cies that flouted demo­cratic norms could be­come pres­i­dent of the United States. Was it racism? The rise of pop­ulism? A pref­er­ence for an au­thor­i­tar­ian lead­er­ship style? Eco­nomic un­ease?

A study in the Pro­ceed­ings of the Na­tional Academy of Sciences sug­gests a link be­tween the last two, find­ing that when vot­ers are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing eco­nomic hard­ship, they tend to choose lead­ers who po­si­tions them­selves as de­ci­sive and self-as­sured. And they pre­fer those with a dom­i­nant style to one who has gained sta­tus through “pres­tige” and ex­pe­ri­ence but who may be seen as less force­ful — in other words, a vir­tual mir­ror of the 2016 elec­tion be­tween Don­ald Trump and Hil­lary Clin­ton.

“As re­searchers, we were given a live elec­tion with two can­di­dates that in many ways were al­most car­i­ca­tures of th­ese two aca­demic con­cepts of how you gain in­flu­ence,” said Niro Si­vanathan, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at Lon­don Busi­ness School.

Si­vanathan said in an in­ter­view that his re­search was one of the first to de­scribe lead­ers as try­ing to gain power through dis­plays of dom­i­nance or through “pres­tige” — gain­ing the ad­mi­ra­tion of fol­low­ers through ex­pe­ri­ence and suc­cess in the associated field.

Also, Si­vanathan said, his re­search linked eco­nomic data at the Zip code level to a sense of eco­nomic anx­i­ety and a pref­er­ence for strong lead­ers.

“The main take­away is that when­ever in­di­vid­u­als feel a lack of con­trol in their en­vi­ron­ment or their lives,” he said, they be­lieve that “hav­ing a dom­i­nant leader is likely to help them re­gain con­trol.”

The pa­per in­cludes sev­eral stud­ies, the first of which looked at vot­ers’ pref­er­ence for Clin­ton or Trump and sev­eral ques­tions about who they saw as a more dom­i­nant or pres­ti­gious leader just be­fore the third de­bate. It com­pared that with the eco­nomic con­di­tions in their Zip codes, con­trol­ling for po­lit­i­cal ori­en­ta­tion, gen­der, age and in­come.

“If peo­ple were liv­ing in a Zip code where the poverty rate, un­em­ploy­ment rate and hous­ing va­cancy rate were high, they showed a greater pref­er­ence for vot­ing for Trump,” Si­vanathan said.

Trump dis­played a dom­i­nant — even au­thor­i­tar­ian — con­cept of lead­er­ship on the cam­paign trail. He said he would re­turn the use of wa­ter­board­ing and ad­vo­cated for the use of tor­ture. He com­manded rally at­ten­dees to “get them out” when a protester was mobbed by a crowd.

The re­search, Si­vanathan said, is a re­minder that yes, can­di­dates mat­ter — but so does con­text.

“Re­gard­less of the party, if peo­ple are feel­ing they don’t have con­trol,” he said, “th­ese are the types of lead­ers [vot­ers] are go­ing to pre­fer.”


Pres­i­dent Trump dis­played a dom­i­nant con­cept of lead­er­ship, which en­deared him to vot­ers feel­ing eco­nomic anx­i­ety, a study con­cluded.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.