A recent study conducted by Hogan Assessments Chief Science Officer, Dr. Ryne Sherman, shows that personal values were an even stronger predictor of support for President Donald Trump than political affiliation or ideology in the 2016 US presidential primary.
The study examined data gathered from 1,825 individuals who completed the web-based Trump Values Similarity Test, a research version of Hogan’s Motives, Values, Preferences Inventory, measuring the following 10 scales: Recognition, Power, Hedonism, Altruism, Affiliation, Tradition, Security, Commerce, Aesthetics and Science.
“Values are the key drivers of human behavior,” says Sherman.“They motivate us and represent our philosophy of life. Although it’s unlikely that any single study could definitively identify all of the reasons Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election, the data in this study suggest that personal values may have played an important role.”
What the study determined is that people who supported Trump were more likely to have a values profile characterized by low Altruism combined with high Power, Commerce and Tradition. This means they have little interest in supporting social welfare programs, a strong desire to be in control, a strong desire to make money, a preference for financial risk taking and a preference for strictly adhering to social conventions.
The first page of the Trump Values Similarity Test asked respondents to indicate their age, gender, ethnicity and zip code, along with three questions regarding political attitudes (Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, and for or against Trump). The second page included the assessment. The results were then compared to an assessment simulation completed by Sherman. This was done prior to the launch of the Trump Values Similarity Test, so there was no way for the criterion profile to be influenced by previous results or post-election dissonance.
Using a bivariate correlation where 0 indicates “no relationship” and 1 means “perfect linear relationship”, the Trump Values Similarity Test scores correlated to 0.64 with Trump support, while political ideology correlated to 0.61 and party affiliation correlated to 0.60. Although this does not show a wide margin among the three areas measured, it does suggest that values were a better predictor of who would support Trump than party affiliation and political ideology.
In addition, an analysis done by Nate Cohn of The New York Times provided compelling evidence that the biggest difference maker in the 2016 presidential election was white, working class voters in key swing states, particularly Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, who voted for Barack Obama in 2012, but switched to Trump in 2016.
This is a group with similar values to Trump, and his campaign messaging was tailored to influence and mobilize these voters. He talked often about how hard work pays off (low Altruism), winning (high Power), making America great again (high Power and high Tradition), law and order (high Tradition) and renegotiating trade deals to make Americans rich (high Commerce). It is reasonable to hypothesize that emphasizing these values that white, working class Americans hold in high regard, Trump was able to win over their support in key states and secure his victory.
“When you couple this data with data reported elsewhere, it is not unreasonable to speculate that Donald Trump’s campaign messages tapped into the core values of white, working class voters in battleground states, ultimately swaying their votes and tilting the election in his favor,” says Sherman.