UT professor explains Trump’s appeal

Bharath Lavendra

Despite his frequent insults, Republican presidential contender Donald Trump is appealing to some people because he gives them a group to identify with, according to a UT professor.

Marketing professor Julie Irwin aimed to explain Trump’s appeal in her UTNews opinon article, “Donald Trump’s Bullying and the Psychology Behind It,” published Feb. 19.

Irwin said Trump’s main campaigning technique is insults. This strategy, Irwin says, has only succeded because Trump has established an “in” group and an “out” group in the electorate.

“Trump is saying that people who he’s insulted are part of the ‘out’ group, and if he hasn’t insulted you, you can feel good,” Irwin says. “You are part of the ‘in’ group.”

Government junior Allison Peregory said she doesn’t think Trump would be a viable candidate in the general election because she feels he has not succeeded in uniting his party.

“I think a Trump nomination would be devastating to the conservative movement,” Peregory said. “He has divided the Republican party, so he could hardly be successful in uniting the American people.”

Pregory also said she feels Trump’s success in the primary elections is because of fear-mongering.

“Every Republican voter I’ve talked to is disgusted at the thought of Trump being the nominee, so I have no idea where his support is coming from,” Peregory said. “I think he has done a good job at preying on the fears of Americans.” 

Irwin characterized the typical Trump supporter as a middle- or lower-class white man. Irwin said that while Trump is doing well in the primaries, she doesn’t think he will fare well in the general election.

“There is a core group of support [for Trump] that will never leave, and that core support is secretly racist, secretly sexist and isn’t going to vote for a woman or someone from Cuba or anything besides the angry white guy,” Irwin said. “But that’s not the majority of America.”

Maliha Mazhar, government and international business senior, said Americans should be frightened of Trump’s success so far in the GOP primary.

“He perceives himself as a ‘winner’ first and foremost, and I think his supporters also see themselves as ‘winners’ when they gang up against whatever person or group he happens to be insulting on a given day,” Mazhar said. “His lack of any kind of real vision, his flip-flopping on critically important issues, his racism, his sexism and his bigotry are terrifying.”