Trump Supporters' and Trump Opponents' Attitudes toward an Opposing Group Member: Effects of Perspective-Taking

Anne Marcia Alpers, Fordham University


In the context of Donald Trump’s 2016 election as President of the United States and a global rise in populism, what role can psychologists play in addressing intergroup conflict? This study tested the effects of a perspective-taking intervention on Trump supporters’ and Trump opponents’ attitudes toward “John,” a fictional, sympathetic member of the opposite group. Participants were 249 adults who reported they strongly approved or strongly disapproved of Trump’s performance as president. Participants who received perspective-taking instructions before listening to an interview with John were predicted to subsequently report more positive attitudes toward him, relative to participants instructed to listen objectively. A multivariate analysis of variance evaluated the effects of Trump endorsement and listening instructions on the following outcome measures: situational and dispositional attributions for John’s problems, empathic concern for John, and cognitive attitudes toward John. The intervention largely did not result in differences between the perspective-taking and objective conditions, even after the seemingly controversial cognitive attitudes scale was removed, and in fact none of the study’s seven hypotheses were fully supported. It was concluded that likely due to a particularly extreme political conflict, the stimuli and measures may have been experienced as more inflammatory than in previous studies, while the online nature of the study apparently reduced participants’ responsiveness to listening instructions. Four noteworthy findings were explored, including the unexpected finding that responses to the study varied by Trump endorsement. Directions for continued research were discussed, emphasizing pathways forward for creating noninflammatory interventions for politically based intergroup conflict interventions.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Counseling Psychology|Political science

Recommended Citation

Alpers, Anne Marcia, "Trump Supporters' and Trump Opponents' Attitudes toward an Opposing Group Member: Effects of Perspective-Taking" (2019). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI13428601.