Who Supports Donald Trump?

Results from the Trump values similarity test provide the answer

Posted Jul 22, 2016

//creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Source: Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

On September 17th of 2015, just two months after he announced his candidacy for President of the United States, I wrote this post describing Donald Trump’s personality. In that post I noted that “people tend to vote for leaders in their own image” and “thus, the personality of Mr. Trump also highlights the characteristics of those who will likely support and vote for him.” In March of 2016, as Trump’s march toward nomination continued, I followed up with this post describing his values. In this follow up I stated “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.”

Fast forward to July 18th 2016, US Today’s feature article headlined “#TrumpNation: Supporters see themselves in Republican nominee” and further noted “In Trump, some see themselves” and “Others see themselves as they wish they were.”

Thus, according to both USA Today and myself, Trump’s supporters should share common characteristics and values. Are we right? Do Trump supporters share values that are similar to Mr. Trump?

As it happens, in my post about Mr. Trump’s values I provided an opportunity for people to determine just how similar their values are to his. I also spread the test around the web via social media. In the time since, the Trump Values Similarity Test has been completed by close to 2,000 people. In this blog post, I detail what those data can tell us by answering three questions: (1) What attitudes are most associated with support for Donald Trump? (2) Do people who share Mr. Trump’s values actually support Mr. Trump? And (3) Can I predict your attitude toward Mr. Trump from your own values?

What attitudes do Trump supporters endorse?

The Trump Values Similarity Test first asked respondents three questions about their political attitudes. The key question of interest here is “Regarding Donald Trump’s Presidential race, I am…” and respondents could choose from one of five choices: (1 – Strongly Against Mr. Trump, 2 – Somewhat Against Mr. Trump, 3 – Neither For nor Against Mr. Trump, 4 – Somewhat For Mr. Trump, 5 – Strongly For Mr. Trump). After this, respondents were then shown 30 attitudinal statements (e.g., Art shows are boring; I try to stay out of the spotlight) and asked to indicate the degree to which they thought the statement was accurate by choosing one of four response options: (“Very Inaccurate,” “Somewhat Inaccurate,” “Somewhat Accurate,” “Very Accurate”). These response options were scored from 1 to 4 respectively.

The Table below presents the bi-variate correlations between those attitudes most and least endorsed by Trump supporters (or conversely, those least and most endorsed by Trump opposers).

Ryne Sherman
Source: Ryne Sherman

The attitudes most strongly linked to support for Trump include “Welfare programs just encourage people to be lazy,” “People who are poor just need to work harder,” and “In life, winning is the only thing that matters.” Trump supporters were far less likely to endorse the attitudes “Raising the minimum wage is a good idea,” “Building relationships is more important than building profit,” and “Happiness is more important than money.”

Overall, this pattern of correlations paints a portrait of the prototypical Trump supporter as someone with (a) little sympathy for the poor, (b) a strong desire for power, (c) strict adherence to social conventions (e.g., dress codes, following the chain of command).

Do people who match Trump’s values actually support Trump?

The 30 attitudinal statements included in the Trump Values Similarity Test can be directly mapped onto 10 core human values (discussed in the blog post). Thus, for each person who completed the test, I can map his or her values onto Mr. Trump’s. Using some (rather uninteresting) mathematics, I calculated a similarity score for each person, ranging from 0% (totally the opposite of Mr. Trump) to 100% (identical to Mr. Trump) with 50% indicating neither dissimilar nor similar to Mr. Trump. Next, I correlated these scores with the same support for Mr. Trump’s Presidential race question described above. The resulting correlation was r = .63. In real-person terms, this means that if you support Mr. Trump, there is an 81.5% chance that you share his values! This clearly supports the statements made by myself and USA Today. People like people who share their values and people who support Mr. Trump share his values.

Can I predict your attitude toward Mr. Trump from your own values?

Recall that I asked respondents to indicate their support for Mr. Trump’s presidential race by selecting from one of 5 response options. Can I guess which option you picked by simply knowing your reactions to the 30 attitudinal statements? The short answer is yes. Here is how. By using a statistical technique called “machine learning” I created a prediction model based on a sub-sample of the data. I then used this model to predict scores on the rest of the data (i.e., data not used to build the model). The result? I could predict which of the five options the respondent chose with 72.5% accuracy (keeping in mind that if I just guessed, I’d be right only 20% of the time).

Summary

In conclusion, the data are consistent with the assertions made by me and USA Today. People who share Donald Trump’s values are in fact more likely to support Mr. Trump. However, neither USA Today nor I can take credit for this idea. In 1956, Newcomb’s article on predicting interpersonal attraction noted that perceived similarity is an essential component of attraction. In 1972, an experimental study by Hogan and colleagues confirmed that people like those who share their interests. Finally, a paper published in 1997, showed that our attraction to those who share our values is not for nothing; teams who were congruent in their values showed decreased amounts of conflict. To sum up then, although neither USA Today nor I can get much credit for origination of this idea, we can both say that the data continue to support the notion that people like and support those who share their values.