J.K. Rowling famously tweeted out that "Voldemort was nowhere near as bad" as Donald Trump. It now appears Rowling’s fans are primed to agree. A new study reveals that people who have read the Harry Potter books are more likely to dislike Trump.
The reason, according to study author Diana Mutz, a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, is that the novels’ major themes — the value of tolerance, opposition to violence, and the dangers of authoritarianism — resonate with readers. And Harry Potter fans might recognize some Voldemort qualities in Trump: just like Voldemort wants to eradicate half-bloods and muggles, so Trump wants to deport undocumented immigrants and ban Muslims. Just like Voldemort loves to throw Crucios and Avada Kedavras, Trump approves of waterboarding, so the logic goes.
'Harry Potter' fans might recognize some Voldemort qualities in Trump
"Because Trump’s political views are widely viewed as opposed to the values espoused in the Harry Potter series, exposure to the Potter series may play an influential role in affecting how Americans respond to Donald Trump," Mutz writes in the paper, which will be published in the journal PS: Political Science and Politics.
In the study, Mutz surveyed 1,142 people to measure their exposure to the Harry Potter books and movies, and then measured their feelings about Trump on a scale of zero to 100. The first survey was conducted in 2014, the second in 2016. The results show that Harry Potter readers dislike Trump more than those who hadn’t read the books. And that was the case even after Mutz controlled for variables such as age, education, gender, ideology, party identification, and evangelical self-identification — which are all thought to influence our perception of Republican and Democratic candidates.
Unlike the books, the Harry Potter movies didn’t seem to have an impact on people’s opinions.
"Reading Harry Potter books encourages more negative attitudes toward Trump. Each book that a person has read lowers their evaluation of Donald Trump by roughly 2-3 points," the author writes. "Although the size of this effect may seem small, to put it in perspective, it is on par with the impact of party identification on attitudes toward gays and Muslims."
The author adds: "It may simply be too difficult for Harry Potter readers to ignore the similarities between Trump and the power-hungry Voldemort."
I’m not at all sure about the causal correlation the study shows
I’m not at all sure about the causal correlation the study shows, and Mutz’s openly anti-Trump comments don’t help make the case for the objectivity of her research. (In her conclusion, she writes: "Perhaps most importantly, these findings raise the hope that Harry Potter can stop the Deathly Donald and make America great again in the eyes of the world, just as Harry did by ridding the wizard world of Voldemort.")
But a previous study had demonstrated that reading novels improves empathy, and I want to believe that Harry Potter’s friendship with mistreated elves and his fight for good over evil will have a positive lasting impact on all generations of readers. So sure, this study makes total sense.