Why Is Trump So Popular?

Research suggests that the president is more intuitive than analytical.

Posted Jun 24, 2019

As Democrats gear up to take on Donald Trump in the 2020 election, the party should be thinking about the qualities that make him so popular with many Americans. While liberal pundits remain baffled by the president's following, studies from the field of psychology continue to shed light on the phenomenon.

study published in the journal Translational Issues in Psychological Science suggests that Donald Trump stands out amongst other politicians, including fellow Republicans and past presidents, as being exceptionally low in "analytic thinking." By using intelligent text analysis software to interpret language data from speeches, debates, and written documents, the researchers estimated the point where Trump falls on an analytic-narrative continuum. This finding raises the interesting question of whether a low-analytic thinking style could be contributing to the president's popularity. 

The analytic-narrative continuum provides a way to objectively measure someone’s thinking style and whether it's analytic, which is characterized by careful deliberation based on logic and reason, or narrative, which is characterized by more gut reactions grounded in intuition and personal experience. While an analytic thinking style is evidence-driven and statistical, rather than anecdotal and emotion-based like narrative thinking—there is no doubt that the latter resonates with many people.

While the analytically-minded may see Donald Trump’s opinions and answers as superficial and uninformed, many people view them as straightforward and relatable. A certain degree of perceived ignorance can be beneficial for a presidential candidate, especially if he can pass it off as being "folksy."

The computerized text analyses measured thinking styles by examining grammar. While analytic thinkers tend to use more nouns, articles, and prepositions, narrative thinkers tend to use more pronouns, auxiliary verbs, and adverbs. The results showed that not only was Trump’s analytic score far less than his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton (23.8 vs. 42.8), it was also much lower than his Republican candidate opponents Ben Carson (39.1), Marco Rubio (48.7), John Kasich (48.9), and Ted Cruz (62.1).

Moreover, Trump’s average analytic score was more than three standard deviations below that of the average Democrat or Republican from the last five election cycles, making him a clear outlier. While most presidential candidates tend to be analytic thinkers, or show a balance between analytic and intuitive thinking, Trump falls squarely on the intuitive side of the continuum.

Although Trump is clearly a low analytical thinker relative to most past presidents, he does fit an overall general trend of presidents becoming progressively less analytical, at least in terms of how they speak, since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. (Although outliers obviously exist.) Interestingly, most presidents in the 18th and 19th centuries consistently scored high on analytic thinking.

Whether this trend is a good or a bad thing remains to be seen. Perhaps presidents are just becoming better at simplifying complex information into direct, simple language. But the case of President Trump seems to tell a different story. It appears to indicate a thriving movement composed of individuals who may lean toward an anti-intellectual and anti-science perspective, and they want a president who does the same.

This article was originally published by Raw Story.