Fragile masculinity plays an important role in President Donald Trump and Republican candidates’ appeal to men, according to an analysis by two New York University researchers recently published in The Washington Post.
NYU Psychology professor Eric Knowles and doctoral student Sarah DiMuccio queried 300 men on Amazon's crowdsourcing platform Mechanical Turk to discover whether they had or would search for terms such as "erectile dysfunction," "how to get girls," "penis enlargement," "testosterone," and "Viagra," among others.
They discovered a high level of concern about masculinity "was strongly associated with interest in these search topics."
They then correlated the geographic dispersion of these search topics in 2016 with how such areas voted in that year's election, finding "that support for Trump in the 2016 election was higher in areas that had more searches for topics such as 'erectile dysfunction.' Moreover, this relationship persisted after accounting for demographic attributes in media markets, such as education levels and racial composition, as well as searches for topics unrelated to fragile masculinity, such as 'breast augmentation' and 'menopause.'"
Comparing the relationship between fragile masculinity and voting in 2008 and 2012 with 2016, the researchers found "that the correlation of fragile masculinity and voting in presidential elections was distinctively stronger in 2016".
Similarly, in the over 390 House races which featured a Republican versus a Democrat, Republicans gained more support in areas with elevated search levels of terms related to fragile masculinity. "However, there was no significant relationship between fragile masculinity and voting in the 2014 or 2016 congressional elections. This suggests that fragile masculinity has now become a stronger predictor of voting behavior."
The researchers wrote that "the research reported here is correlational. We can’t be entirely sure that fragile masculinity is causing people to vote in a certain way. However, given that experimental work has identified a causal connection between masculinity concerns and political beliefs, we think the correlations we’ve identified are important."