Jun 11, Whitaker rated it really liked it Recommended to Whitaker by: Manny Update 26 January The Atlantic had a very troubling report on Trump that started: During his sole press conference as president-elect, on January 11, Donald Trump seemed to promise more favorable treatment for states that had voted for him in the election. We focused very hard in those states and they really reciprocated, he said. And those states are gonna have a lot of jobs and theyre gonna have a lot of security. Theyre going to have a lot of good news for their veterans. The article goes Update 26 January The Atlantic had a very troubling report on Trump that started: During his sole press conference as president-elect, on January 11, Donald Trump seemed to promise more favorable treatment for states that had voted for him in the election.

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About This website places at your disposal a free ebook entitled The Authoritarians. I wrote this book in when a great deal seemed to be going wrong in America, and I thought the research on authoritarian personalities could explain a lot of it. The book is set in that era, but you will have no trouble finding present-day examples of what the experiments found back then. Many people, including I, have labeled Donald Trump an authoritarian leader. But they are honestly baffled by the loyalty of his followers.

The decades of research on authoritarian followers provide some answers. Donald Trump received But since then Trump has regained about half of the ground he lost. Considering all the things he has done in the past six months, that is astounding. His base has been very loyal. And whatever he loses, he will soon get back.

Has any president since Lyndon Johnson kept his campaign promises as energetically as Donald Trump has in his first 18 month in office? And when he failed to achieve what he promised, he always blamed others for not supporting him, including the Democrats. And while economists warn it is too early to tell, Trump has received credit for the vibrant economy.

Why Authoritarian Followers Believe What They Believe Compared to most people, studies have shown that authoritarian followers get their beliefs and opinions from the authorities in their lives, and hardly at all by making up their own minds.

They memorize rather than reason. Religion provides a good example of this: authoritarians tend to believe strongly in whatever religion they were raised, the result of having had their religion strongly emphasized to them while they were growing up. But at some point in their youth—typically in early to mid-adolescence—they usually have doubts about what they have been taught. When this happens they typically go to their parents for guidance, or clerics, or scriptures, or friends who profess strong belief.

They are mainly seeking reassurance, and not surprisingly, they keep their beliefs. But they are much more likely to do a two-sided search for the answers, such as reading Genesis and learning about the theory of evolution, talking to believers and nonbelievers, and so on.

By the way, the failure to do a two-sided search for the truth of their beliefs leaves scar tissue on the psyches of authoritarian followers. And most of these doubters said that no one whatsoever knew they had these doubts. They were a deep secret. So how do you maintain your beliefs should events and discoveries contradict them? Researchers discovered decades ago that people validate their social opinions socially to a certain extent by selecting news outlets, friends, and so on that will tell them they are right.

And they are much more likely to expose themselves only to sources of information that tell them what they want to believe. The earliest such example most of them can recall involved the family religion as opposed to say their gender, or race, or nationality.

Their parents divided the world for them into people of their own faith, and an out-group consisting of everybody else. Ethnocentrism comes naturally when we identify with a group, but authoritarian followers are profoundly ethnocentric.

Relatively UNauthoritarian people, on the other hand, are downright suspicious of someone who might have ulterior motives for reinforcing their beliefs. When they discover their followers will believe anything they say, even things that contradict something they said earlier, they get sloppy with their lies. Maybe Donald Trump always was careless with the truth. But it seems that over the past two years he has become downright reckless. His base will swallow anything, he has learned, so he just says the first thing that comes to mind.

The trouble is, for him and the future of his presidency, Truth happens. It may be seen differently by various folks, but things did happen as they happened, not something else. You can only ignore the truth so long, and then reality will inevitably catch up with you. It will destroy you if you have been massively denying it. You can keep on believing as much as before if you want. You can even pat yourself on the back for believing when it seems clear you are wrong.

Some people do this, and you know who taught them to. When the evidence and arguments against their beliefs becomes irrefutable, they simply shut down. If patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, as Samuel Johnson said, dogmatism is the last resort of overwhelmed followers. And wannabe dictators have known that for a long time. There may be a genetic basis for being extra scared, since thresholds for emotional responses might be set, in part, by some snippets of DNA.

Followers report that they were taught the world is a dangerous place much more strenuously than most people are taught—a fact confirmed by the parents. Some of this is quite predictable, such as fear of attacks by racial minorities. Accordingly Donald Trump was well-placed to gain the support of authoritarian followers as he was a large and seemingly fearless, powerful man.

All he had to do was say he saw the dangers the followers felt and he would fight to protect them. So he did. He would build a wall over miles long to keep Mexican rapists out. He would stop immigration from certain countries to keep terrorists from getting in and killing everyone.

He promised to protect people who feared their jobs were going overseas to countries that he said were stealing America blind. He would fight for them with all of his great might.

And that was just what threatened people who felt powerless wanted. Donald Trump grew some of his positions as he went along.

He discovered he was once again anti- abortion, although he had to be told he was against punishing women who had one. He assured the Libertarians he would defend the Constitution as the Founding Fathers wrote it, even though it became clear he had very little idea what was in it. And so on. But the core connection between himself and his followers was their great fear of the future. Everything was changing. All the old standards were being trashed. The things that gave them whatever precarious advantage they had in life, being white and for most of them being male counted for less and less.

Instead the United States was filling up with bad people who would blow up your church, steal your jobs and get your kids hooked on drugs. Political parties hold rallies primarily to energize the faithful, and Trump supporters leave the arenas highly motivated to work for him.

Being in a crowd of True Believers and finding themselves reacting the same way as everybody else to whatever is happening tells them individually that they are right.

And they do the same thing for the other people in the room with their contribution to the echo chamber. They feel they owe Trump big-time. He gave up his very glamorous, satisfying life, they believe, to fight for them.

The second bond, with one another, sustains their beliefs and enthusiasm afterwards. When they hear bad news about Trump, they tell each other the explanation that the president gave, and that is good enough. The important thing is they are hearing it from a fellow believer and it is their job to believe it and say it too. Research shows that authoritarian followers value group cohesiveness much more than other people do, and strongly condemn persons who stop believing what the group believes.

Beyond these bonds, while Trump supporters feel exposed and vulnerable on their own, they feel safe, strong, even powerful when they are members of a large, determined movement.

They gain strength from the crowd, as surely as Trump himself does. So What? It seems clear that Donald Trump believes his best chance at remaining in power is to keep his base fired up.

But if they all vote, and enough of the majority does not, he will win. Unfortunately for him, his devotion to his base, coupled with some abysmal choices of advisors and his own overwhelming hubris, have alienated a lot of Americans.

Polls find that Democratic supporters are more enthusiastic about voting in the midterm election than Republican voters—the opposite of what he wants. Various by-elections show that while he has great influence over Republican primaries, he brings a sizeable anti-Trump reaction to the general election.

They supported the war in Vietnam as it tore the country apart long after it was clearly lost. They supported Richard Nixon to the very end of Watergate and beyond. They will support Donald Trump long after it becomes indisputable that he is a felon and should be removed from office. The good news is the Republic has survived the past crises, thanks largely to the honest reporting of the press that would not be intimidated, the division of powers enshrined in the Constitution, especially the independence of the judiciary, and the good judgment of most of the American people.

And it can survive this latest threat for the same reasons. But the bad news is the authoritarian followers will remain, unwitting carriers of a cancer upon the nation that the next authoritarian leader will arouse and set marching. I am not suggesting that people should exclude in any sense the most authoritarian elements in American society. With few exceptions, they are law-abiding citizens exercising their rights, and that should be respected and protected.

But I do think their influence needs to be contained by outvoting them. The long run prospects encourage one. Trump has solid support among my generation of Americans, for example, especially men, but we are not going to last forever. Some suppose that people become more authoritarian as they age, and so one batch of old white men will just be replaced by another. But studies show that political opinions tend to be set in early adulthood and endure. But this is like climate change.

Now we are facing the consequences. Whether American democracy endures could well depend on what happens at the polls in and Authoritarian leaders and authoritarian followers have no great love of freedom and equality.


Bob Altemeyer

The F-scale was worded so that agreement always indicated an authoritarian response, thus leaving it susceptible to the acquiescence response bias. The RWA scale is balanced to have an equal number of pro and anti authoritarian statements. The RWA scale also has excellent internal reliability, with coefficient alpha typically measuring between 0. The current version is 22 items long. For example, in the social psychology of religion the version of the scale is still commonly used. Some of those are published, [9] [10] but many researchers simply select a subset of items to use in their research, a practice that Altemeyer strongly criticizes.


Bob Altemeyer’s “The Authoritarians”

After screening participants using a personality survey disguised as an opinion poll, he selected 68 highly authoritarian college students to play a political governance and resource management simulation called the Global Change Game. In this game, each player represents million people in one of nine different regions of the world. Play consists of making decisions about how to deal with various social, economic, and environmental matters. Lose access to one factor, and you earn a black armband. Earn three black armbands and all the people you represent die. Success in war means increased territory and assets. But that day in , Bob Altemeyer used it for a different purpose: to see what would happen in a world populated exclusively by right-wing authoritarians.


Right-wing authoritarianism



The Authoritarians


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