The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

One psychologist’s theory about why so many women voted for Trump

A Donald Trump rally in Leesburg, Va., two days before the Nov. 8 election. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
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In the past week, we’ve been hearing a lot about how white women voted for Donald Trump in higher numbers than pundits and polls predicted. According to The Post’s exit polling, 62 percent of white women without college degrees voted for Trump, as did 45 percent of white women with college degrees.

Susan Kolod, a psychologist in New York who specializes in relationships and sexuality, has a theory about why so many women voted for Trump. It all goes back to what they look for — and how they act — in romantic relationships. “In my experience, there are a lot of women [my friends and patients] who are very successful, assertive, competent. And around their spouses, they become obsequious and dependent,” Kolod said in a phone interview this week. “It’s not just married people; singles, too. There’s still a wish to be taken care of.”

To Kolod’s point about singles: Clinton captured less of the unmarried vote, which is generally a liberal bloc, than Obama did in 2012. Maybe the country is not quite ready to envision a female president because … of its daddy issues? It’s an idea my colleague Dan Zak explored, highlighting Trump supporters saying the man reminded them of their own fathers. Kolod sees this connection as well. “It may go back to stereotypical gender roles,” she said. “Even though things have changed a lot, most people have a mother and father — and their father is seen as the more powerful person. … He’s the one who’s going to make the decisions.”

“In some ways, we’ve come so far,” Kolod added, “But maybe there is an unconscious yearning for this stability of what’s familiar.”

Trump is a “familiar” image of a president because he’s a man — and even more so because of the type of man he is. “Trump comes across as a very phallic male,” Kolod says. When he brags about being able to do whatever he wants to with women, Kolod says, it creates a powerful image that resonates with some women. “There’s this sense of: He can do anything; he can get away with it. That’s the kind of guy who can protect us.”

And the ultimate sign of a good father and protector? That he raises classy children like Ivanka. In a BuzzFeed article about women who were supporting Trump but not necessarily planting Trump signs in their front yards, Anne Helen Petersen dubbed these suburban moms as the Ivanka voter. These women may not agree with everything Trump says, but they will freely praise him by way of his offspring. They sound similar to Hillary Clinton in those final cordial moments of the last presidential debate: “If Trump produced someone that classy, that’s a testament to something,” one woman told Petersen. Ivanka, then, becomes a “Trump launderer,” Petersen writes, “a sanitized, assuring, classy Trump who makes it less troublesome to vote for her father.”

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