Professor says Trump voters seek belonging

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Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

Donald Trump’s use of insults in his campaign for president may actually serve as incentive for his supporters because of a psychological desire to belong, according to Julie Irwin, Red McCombs School of Business professor.

“Research shows that one of the primary reasons to denigrate people is to signal membership in a group: They are out, so you are in,” Irwin said in a recent article for Star-Telegram. “People are always looking to belong, and Trump may represent, for some people, a particularly attractive membership opportunity. He is clear about what “his kind” of people are: the winners, the big men on campus.”

Despite his recent controversial comments, the Iowa caucus revealed Trump received the second largest support out of the Republican candidates. Trump also won the New Hampshire primary Tuesday.

Irwin said that the number of Americans in support of Trump may have deeper implications for the state of American society as a whole.

“I think this reflects the shifting towards a more diverse society, which I think is a good thing, but whenever you have that … you always have some kind of lashing out,” Irwin said. “Anytime there’s change like that, there’s going to be this kind of violent fury, but in the end, the change wins. I’m hoping it can win quickly because I’m getting tired of hearing people call people losers and say racist things, as if that’s okay.”

Psychology junior Kelsie Grimes said she can see how Trump’s hateful words could act as a unifying force for supporters.

“I don’t like Trump’s use of insults,” Grimes said. “It’s one of the reasons I don’t support him, but it’s obviously working. It’s one of those polarizing things where it’s easier to get people together to hate something than it is to get them together to support something.”

Despite the potential psychological effects of Trump’s divisive campaign, not all conservative Americans support his methods. Robert Guerra, finance junior and College Republicans communications officer, said that he wants more substantial platforms from the Republican candidates than what Trump is basing his campaign on.

“While I do not personally support Trump, I can see the appeal of an ‘us versus them’ mentality for the Trump supporters,” Guerra said. “Still, I believe there are many conservative voters that would prefer to see a less divisive, more issues-focused race for the Republican nomination.”