Today's column by Max Ehrenfreund in the Washington Post provided psychological explanations of why Trump still tops the polls despite all his in-artfulness as a campaigner and frequent pundit predictions of his demise. What psychologists had to say about Trump's approach to immigration is interesting and says more about the American public than about Trump himself.
Essentially, when Ehrenfreund interviewed several psychologists in an effort to understand the Trump phenomenon, they said the following:
1) We like people who talk big.
2) We like people who tell us that our problems are simple and easy to solve, even when they aren't.
3) And we don't like people who don't look like us.
These three points explain Trump's appeal on immigration. Trump has said he would deport all undocumented persons and their families--never-mind the cost, due process issues, and that it's politically not viable. But, hey, he's going big.
Trump has also laid out a 6 page immigration plan which involves building a wall between us and Mexico, mass deportation, and repealing the 14th Amendment. Even if all of these are actually accomplished, it still would not stop undocumented immigration because these are simple solutions to a very complex problem. But hey, he's putting forth, simple, bite -sized solutions, however non-viable.
Finally, it's pretty clear he's demonizing and racializing immigrants as criminals and Latino. While immigration specialists (and many businesses including the Chamber of Commerce that represents them) see the long term effects of legalizing immigrants as positive, Trump is portraying immigration as a zero-sum proposition and throwing race on top of it. As Ehrenfreund wrote:
His [the psychologist's] explanation is that whites see competition between groups as zero sum. Whites assume that they must be worse off, since the legal and economic situation for blacks has improved. Research also suggests that white voters with stronger prejudices against African Americans are more likely to support the conservative GOP faction known as the tea party.
That logic and psychological effect is carried over for Latinos. If undocumented people (which Trump paints as Latino) are getting "free stuff", that means less stuff for white people.
All of this analysis makes sense. It just doesn't inspirel much faith in our fellow citizens.