Understanding the Psychology of Fear That Drives a Trump Supporter

The media has been ablaze with opinions around the racist and bigoted remarks made by Donald Trump on his campaign trail.

Several comparisons have been made between Trump and Hitler and fears of a second Holocaust if Trump came into power.

His calls to ban all Muslims from the country, require that they wear ID cards and promises to kill the families of suspected terrorists were confirmed and elaborated upon during the final GOP debate.

A correlation can be made between the increased intensity in Anti- Islamic rhetoric in his speeches and his consistently rising support in the polls.

Tide is Rising

Many of us concerned with human rights, freedom of speech and the very values of our Constitution have voiced a deep concern against both Trump and his supporters.

It seems unfathomable that a group of people could in this day and age, appear to be so ignorant, so hateful and completely lacking in empathy. Yet without any factual evidence, the tide Islamaphobia continues to rise.

What then, we may ask, drives this hateful ideology? The answer to this question may not be as unfathomable as we think. It simply lies in the way the subconscious mind functions.

Our mind, in terms of what we hold to be factually true about the world, forms at an early age. Between birth to 9 years of age, we absorb everything we observe in our environment as factual, including values and beliefs.

The most significant learning takes place from modeling parents and then peers. These beliefs are integrated without analysis because a child has not developed critical decision-making capacity.

Everything is learned as an adaption for survival.

Threat of the `Others’

That which we are taught to love and accept ensures our survival and that which we are taught to reject as the other, threatens our survival. The other is anything that is identified as different, unknown and psychologically dangerous. These learnings of ‘otherness’, become a conditioned belief system and the system dictates the way we appear to consciously respond to the world.

When beliefs are threatened, its results in the triggering of the amygdala in the brain.

The amygdala, the most ancient part of the brain, known as the reptilian brain, is integrally involved in the emotionally validating the experience of the other.

The amygdala, controls autonomic response associated with fear, arousal, and emotional stimulation and has been linked to neuro psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety disorder and social phobias.

In ancient times, this part of the brain protected us from a physical attack by triggering the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism. This mechanism would trigger the hypothalamus, the command center in the brain, which activates the stress response in the sympathetic system, which sends a jolt of adrenaline as well as other stress hormones into the body to give us the energy to protect ourselves.

However in modern society we no longer face these dangers yet this part of the brain continues to be triggered by any threat of the ‘other.’

How then, you may ask, does this explanation of the mind relate to a Donald Trump supporter? Well, it explains how the psychology of fear creates psychological mechanisms like scapegoating, xenophobia and racism.

Scapegoating on the societal level results in the singling out and blaming of one group of people for the problems of another group.

Understanding the Psychology of Fear That Drives a Trump Supporter


APA Reference
Moodley, D. (2019). Understanding the Psychology of Fear That Drives a Trump Supporter. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2020, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 21 Sep 2019
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Sep 2019
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