Donald Trump's Values

How the republican front-runner's values shape his behavior and decision making

Posted Mar 08, 2016

Source: By Michael Vadon - Donald Trump, CC BY-SA 2.0,

In September of 2015, I wrote this post concerning Donald Trump’s personality. The analysis considered both Mr. Trump’s bright side characteristics (how he typically behaves when he’s at his best) and his dark side characteristics (how he behaves when he’s under stress or when he lets his guard down). Because his personality is equated with his reputation, or how he has been observed to behave, we can pretty accurately judge his personality simply by watching his behavior. Since September, Mr. Trump’s popularity has continued to soar. As such, I thought it may be constructive to venture a deeper look inside Mr. Trump – his values.

Values, as opposed to personality, present a more interesting challenge. Values concerns our interests, the way we view the world, and the way we think people ought to behave. Values guide our decision making. As such, values ultimately drive our behavior. Unfortunately, people are often unaware of their own core values (let alone the values of others). Thus, outside of proper assessments, values must be inferred from attitudinal statements and behavior with reference to the context within which it occurs.

In what follows, I will provide a scientific description of Mr. Trump’s values based on the attitudes he has expressed over the past several years. Although the total number of human values is quite large, I will limit the discussion here to 10 core values found in most human cultures. To wrap up the discussion, I will interpret Mr. Trump’s entire values and personality profiles with a special emphasis on how he will behave as a leader.

The 10 core values are defined below and can be organized into four clusters:

Cluster I: Status Values

  • Recognition – Wanting to stand out and be noticed; dreaming of fame and success
  • Power – Wanting to be successful, make an impact, and create a legacy
  • Hedonism – Wanting to have fun and enjoy the fruits of one’s success

Cluster II: Social Values

  • Altruism – Wanting to help the needy and powerless to improve society
  • Affiliation – Wanting to be part of a group and seeking social stimulation
  • Tradition – Believing in family values and endorsing conventionally approved behavior

Cluster III: Financial Values

  • Security – Wanting occupation and financial safety and avoiding risk
  • Commerce – Wanting financial success and seeking business opportunities

Cluster IV: Decision Making Style

  • Aesthetics – Wanting to be stylish and fashionable and being concerned with appearances
  • Science – Wanting to solve problems and make decision based on data

Mr. Trump’s Status Values

It is hardly a secret to anyone that Mr. Trump highly values status. In fact, he scores highly on all three Status dimensions: Recognition, Power, and Hedonism. He has a strong desire to be seen, noticed, and visible. He seeks the spotlight and prestige and wants other people to notice how accomplished he is. All are clear markers of someone high in Recognition. Mr. Trump likewise has a strong desire for Power. He wants to be in charge, to win, to gain powerful positions (e.g., President of the United States). Although Hedonism is more difficult to judge, Mr. Trump is also highly Hedonistic. He lives a lavish lifestyle, wants to have fun, and to enjoys the finer things in life.

Mr. Trump’s Social Values

Mr. Trump’s desire for status is quite obvious. We know he wants to get ahead, but what about his social desires? How does Mr. Trump like to get along with other people? Based on his attitudes and behavior, it seems quite clear that Mr. Trump is low in Altruism (for an argument that this is a general trend in the US, see here). This does not necessarily mean that Mr. Trump dislikes those who are in need, but may reflect a strong belief in self-reliance (i.e., people should learn to take care of themselves). Regardless, of the underlying reason, Mr. Trump’s standing on Altruism is in stark contrast to someone like Bernie Sanders who appears to selflessly extend help to others. Regarding Affiliation, Mr. Trump appears to have a strong desire to build social networks and to collaborate with others (i.e., “I’m a deal-maker”), particularly those who like him. Finally, like most people of conservative political persuasion, Mr. Trump strongly endorses a number of traditional values. He holds structure, rules, and authority in high esteem. He believes strongly in the America of the past (i.e., “Let’s Make America Great Again”).

Mr. Trump’s Financial Values

Like his status values, Mr. Trump’s financial values are usually on full display. His business track record indicates that he is Low on Security and High on Commerce. Mr. Trump is very tolerant of risk and does not mind taking a gamble if the expected payoff is large. His comfort with uncertainty makes him more willing to take risks than most people. Mr. Trump is also very interested in money—especially how to make it—and happy to discuss money matters (including his own financial successes).

Mr. Trump’s Decision Making Style

How does Mr. Trump like to make decisions? Based on what we have seen from Mr. Trump over his years in the public spotlight, we can conclude that he highly values Aesthetics. He is driven by creativity, style, innovation, and especially appearances. Additionally, Mr. Trump also appears to make decisions based on his experience and intuition. While other people may prefer a slow and deliberate decision making process based on scientific and data-based approaches, Mr. Trump’s style is quicker and more emotion-based.

Values Profile Summary

When considering Mr. Trump’s values profile in summary, we see a clear driver for status. He wants to win, be in charge, be famous, and create a legacy for himself. Combined with his penchant for making money, Mr. Trump has all the markings of an Enterprising (or Entrepreneurial) individual. Enterprising people are interested in leading others and making decisions. They are not afraid to take risks and are often quite persuasive (for better or worse). Typical enterprising careers include lawyers, administrators, business executives, and salespeople. Mr. Trump’s Aesthetic and (low) Science values indicate that Mr. Trump prefers art to science. People typified by Artistic and Enterprising interests find careers in radio / television (hosting and/or producing), design, modeling, or even televangelism. In other words, people like Mr. Trump really enjoy performing in public for an audience. And Mr. Trump appears to be no exception here. Finally, when we combine this with Mr. Trump’s low Altruism and high Tradition, the result is an individual who is—quite frankly—interested in dominance. Mr. Trump likes to be in charge of others, wants everyone to know he is charge, has little sympathy for those who are unsuccessful, and prefers to maintain the current social hierarchy. As someone in charge, Mr. Trump places a heavy emphasis on look and feel and will tend to make decisions based on gut reactions, with very little interest in what science and/or data may suggest.

We use our values to guide our decisions about our relationships (i.e., who to be friends with, who to marry) and careers (i.e., who to work for and with). In other words, we like people who share our values and are drawn towards them. As such, it should be no surprise that many of Mr. Trump’s supporters will also share the values listed above. Indeed, the attribute most common to Trump’s supporters is authoritarianism, which is a form of social dominance.

A Complete (but brief) Personality Makeup for Mr. Trump

Taking into account our previous discussion of Mr. Trump’s bright side and dark side characteristics in conjunction with his values discussed here, we can make the following set of predictions of Mr. Trump:

As a leader, Mr. Trump will continue to be a showman (high Recognition; high Colorful). He will focus on his appearances (high Aesthetics) to the American public with an emphasis on demonstrating his strength and power (high Power; high Ambition; high Bold). Such behavior will likely earn him a popular reputation among his supporters in the US. However, it may also offend and irritate both allies and enemies of the US abroad who feel disrespected. Indeed, the U.K. parliament has even debated banning Donald Trump from the country. In general, this combination of characteristics could be potentially damaging to international relations for the US.

Mr. Trump will have little tolerance for insubordination and criticism. As a result, he will surround himself with “yes men” either intentionally or unintentionally by alienating and firing anyone who does not support him or his ideas (high Tradition; low Interpersonal Sensitivity; high Mischievous). When we only hear the opinions of those who agree with us, we are bound to miss opportunities and to make poorer decisions (see Groupthink).

Mr. Trump will also come up with bold and daring ideas quickly (high Inquisitiveness; high Bold; high Mischievous) and act on them immediately (low Science; low Prudence). How theses decisions work out will depend on both his intuitive decision making ability and luck. Ultimately, we can expect a President Trump to be brash, daring, pragmatic, and ruthless, just as he has been as a businessperson.

How Similar Are Your Values to Donald Trump’s?

As a bonus to this blog post, I’m inviting you to find out how similar your own values are to Donald Trump’s. Simply follow the link below to complete a short (5 minutes or less) survey about your political attitudes and your own values. At the end of the survey, you will find out just how similar your values are to Mr. Trump’s.

Trump Values Similarity Test

I am grateful to Dr. Robin Vallacher, Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Dave Winsborough, and Dr. Robert Hogan for their thoughtful comments on a draft of this post.