Research finds that rules of civility apply, even to Trump

New research by a UWinnipeg psychology professor suggests that incivility harms politicians’ reputations — even during adversarial debate in partisan political environments, and even with the politicians’ most diehard supporters.

In a joint study by Dr. Jeremy Frimer, associate professor in psychology at The University of Winnipeg, and Dr. Linda J. Skitka of the University of Illinois at Chicago, the researchers found that uncivil remarks made by a politician diminished the speaker’s own reputation — yet did little to affect the reputation of the speaker’s targets.

The co-authored paper was based on research that tested the “Montagu principle,” which states that civility boosts (or at least does not reduce) a speaker’s social approval, regardless of context. Frimer and Skitka conducted longitudinal studies and experiments involving real exchanges between U.S. President  Donald Trump and his adversaries, which found that even Trump’s most loyal supporters evaluated the president more favorably when he responded with civility to a personal attack.

“While some might presume that President Trump’s most diehard supporters would stand by him no matter how he behaves, our research indicates that his political base does not approve of his incivility,” said Frimer. “This suggests that the ‘normal’ rules surrounding manners and basic human decency still apply in 2018, and Trump’s base loves him not because but in spite of his uncivil style.”

The research paper, titled “The Montagu Principle: Incivility decreases politicians’ public approval, even with their political base” was recently published online in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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MEDIA CONTACT:
Kevin Rosen, Executive Director, Marketing & Communications
The University of Winnipeg       
T: 204.786.9381 E: k.rosen@uwinnipeg.ca

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