A new study suggests that Donald Trump became president of the United States due to a growing neuroticism throughout the American populace and that the neurotic voting trend was not picked up by the usually reliable prediction models because those models did not perceive an inclusion of “irrational” voting behavior. The study further concludes that Trump’s election and the passage of Brexit in the United Kingdom could reflect a “sleep effect” among voters internationally and may become a trend among populist political campaigns around the world.
According to Phys.org, the study, which was conducted researchers led by psychologist and Queensland University of Technology (Australia) professor Martin Obschonka, PhD, was based on the analysis of personality traits of online surveys of over 3 million people in the United States and over 415,000 people in the United Kingdom. Researchers also used election data drawn from public sources. It was found that neuroticism, which traditionally has not been associated with voting behaviors, was a previously hidden factor that could potentially influence the outcome of political campaigns globally.
“Our study reveals how neuroticism or psychological hardship is shaping the global political landscape.”
Obschonka added, “One could also call this ‘irrational’ voting behavior because the surprising success of Trump and Brexit weren’t predicted by models that relied on a rational understanding of voters.”
Both the Trump presidential campaign and the Brexit withdrawal (of the U.K. from the European Union) focused on fearmongering and lost national pride, the study found.
Gregg Henriques, writing for Psychology Today, notes that neurotic behavior is exhibited by “automatic or ritualized patterns of overt behavior that people engage in to alleviate anxiety and provide a sense of familiar security.”
In short, Obschonka suggests in the study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science that voters suffering from anxieties and fears about the then current and future conditions and policies of the U.S. and the U.K. at the time of the U.S. presidential and Brexit campaigns responded by voting for what they considered as a possible solution for allaying said fears and anxieties. The study found that regions that were more supportive of Trump (and more supportive of Brexit in the U.K.) held a higher percentage of white people, not to mention lower levels of college education, earnings and liberal attitudes. It should be noted that research was conducted on regions and not individual voters. The research also focused on trending psychological traits, not on any particular mental illness.
Ultimately, Obschonka noted, the fears and anxieties of potential voters with neurotic personality traits should not be dismissed. To combat the rise of such neurotic voting trends, facts should be promoted during political campaigns to allay voters’ fears.