Do Harry Potter fans think that the Republican Presidential nominee, Donald J Trump, resembles Voldemort? A new study thinks they do. Either way, fans of the books are unlikely to vote for Mr. Trump, whatever their party affiliations.
Harry Potter Vs Donald Trump
Many things can affect how a person votes. Socioeconomic status, education levels, ethnicity, gender, age, religious beliefs … the list is a long one. And we can add a new factor to that list – the books a person reads.
At least that’s according to a study by the Department of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2014 researchers polled 1,142 Americans about their beliefs on controversial topics such as waterboarding, the death penalty and the treatment of minorities like gay people and Muslims. And about how many Harry Potter books they read.
In 2016 they answered these questions again, but this time they were also asked about their attitudes to Donald Trump. All of the questions were rated on a 0-100 scale.
There are over 450 million Harry Potter books worldwide. The popularity of the series meant that many respondents had read at least one of the books. The books span political divides too, with roughly equal numbers of readers identifying as Democrat, Republican and Independent.
Harry Potter readers tend to evaluate gays and Muslims higher. While the Harry Potter effect is small, it is statistically significant. Interestingly, tolerance levels rise with each book read.
Similarly, each book correlates to less acceptance to punitive policies, like waterboarding and the death penalty. The effect here was smaller, however.
Finally, each Harry Potter book tends to lower the reader’s opinion of Donald Trump by 2-3 points out of 100. If someone has read all seven books of the series, this equates to roughly 18%. Considering we’re talking about a beloved children’s book series, 18% is a big drop!
The Trumpdemort Effect?
The study suggests that fans of the books cannot help but notice similarities between Donald Trump and Potter’s arch-nemesis Lord Voldemort.
“It may simply be too difficult for Harry Potter readers to ignore the similarities between Trump and the power-hungry Voldemort,” Diana Mutz, University of Pennsylvania
The politics of Harry Potter have been attacked from both the left and the right. It has been condemned as conservative, sexist, liberal and part of a gay agenda. It seems that just as its fans can cross the political spectrum, so can its critics!
However, the study identifies three core themes in the series:
Tolerance and respect of differences
Opposition to violence in conflict resolution
It seems that Mr. Trump’s campaign to date runs contrary to these themes.
Mr. Trump has not been shy in calling for a moratorium on Muslim immigration or for a wall to be built to keep out Mexican immigrants. He has also been described as misogynistic by his detractors.
Mr. Trump has said that he will bring back waterboarding. He has also promised to bring in “much worse” techniques because “torture works”. He has also stated that the families of terrorists should be killed in the fight against ISIS.
The study also draws a parallel between Voldemort’s authoritarianism and Trump. It cites previous research that compares Mr. Trump’s policies with fascism (Chotiner 2016, Frank 2016, Kagan 2016).
“As does Voldemort, Trump portrays himself as a strongman who can bend others to his will, be they the Chinese government or terrorists,” Mutz
But does Trump truly resemble Voldemort? The author of the books, J.K. Rowling, has already given her view on the comparison:
Interestingly, the study did not find the same effects for fans of the movies. The researchers believe that books allow for more in-depth analysis of the characters and their motivations. Reading immerses you in the internal conflicts and dilemmas of the characters.
So, is Trump like Voldemort? Can reading affect who governs?
I’d love to hear your thoughts, but please, try to keep all comments civil 🙂