In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, London Business School organizational behavior scholars Niro Sivanathan and Hemant Kakkar used empirical methods to find the socioeconomic circumstances that predict when voters will elect "dominance-style" strongman leaders like "Donald Trump, Viktor Orban, Rodrigo Duterte, Nicolás Maduro and Recep Erdogan."
The researchers found that "when citizens experience economic uncertainty and its accompanying loss of personal control, they look to dominant leaders — those perceived as more agentic, forceful and decisive — over their prestige counterparts, to restore their feelings of control."
The finding is grounded in the theory that people like to have control over their lives, and when they experience economic uncertainty, they "rely on a system outside the self (secondary control), as a locus of control that can influence and modify their personal outcomes and improve their own sense of control." This is the same theory that predicts a higher incidence of authoritarian religious belief among people who are economically insecure.
The theory is validated by the researchers' data, which drew on 20 years' worth of global data from the World Bank and was replicated among citizens of 69 countries, representing 90% of the world's population.
In addition to the numerous social, psychological, and economic anxieties that economic uncertainty and inequality produces, our research suggests an additional political consequence is the rise in support for dominant authoritarian leaders, who commonly espouse a narrative of standing against the flaws of the current economic paradigm producing the uncertainty. Although they are ushered into power with the promise of assuaging such uncertainty, once they occupy the seats of power, it is unclear why they would be motivated to reduce the threats that got them into office.
When the appeal of a dominant leader is greater than a prestige leader
[Niro Sivanathan and Hemant Kakkar/Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences]
Explaining the Global Rise of "Dominance" Leadership
[Niro Sivanathan and Hemant Kakkar/Scientific American]
(via Naked Capitalism)
(Image: Trump's Hair)