No, Donald Trump’s hair is not one of Voldemort’s horcruxes. But according to a soon-to-be-published study in a special election edition of PS: Political Science and Politics, there is a relationship between fans of J.K. Rowling’s bestselling series and the tiny-fingered presidential candidate.
Namely, they don’t like him. “In fact,” reads the writeup of the study from the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, “the more books the participants read, the greater the effect.”
The study, titled “Harry Potter and the Deathly Donald,” was written by University of Pennsylvania political science and communication professor Diana Mutz, and examines what Mutz calls the “Harry Potter effect.” The effect is powerful too — even when controlling for factors known to predict a person’s attitudes toward Trump (party identification, gender, age, level of education, evangelical self-identification, and something called “social dominance orientation”), it remained.
Which is sort of a huge deal. The last time a book influenced public opinion of an issue, the issue was slavery, and the book was Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
So why is Harry Potter all of a sudden changing peoples’ minds?
“Because Trump’s political views are widely viewed as opposed to the values espoused in the Harry Potter series,” Mutz writes in the study, “exposure to the Potter series may play an influential role in influencing how Americans respond to Donald Trump.”
Read: Trump’s values are similar to Voldemort’s. In the study, Mutz looked at three key themes found in Harry Potter: the value of tolerance and respecting others’ differences, opposition to violence, and opposition to authoritarianism. If you think back on some of Trump’s recent campaign speeches, you’ll start to realize that he and Harry seem diametrically opposed.
Take, for example, that authoritarian point. “As does Voldemort,” Mutz writes, “Trump portrays himself as a strongman who can bend others to his will, be they the Chinese government or terrorists.”
Mutz calls out other examples from the series, too: characters’ constant avoidance of spells that cause torture or death, versus Voldemort’s reign of terror (think of Trump’s shrugging off acts of violence at his rallies and his threats against the families of terrorists as a means of deterrence); characters’ advocation for oppressed house-elves and tolerance for non-pure wizard ancestry versus Voldemort’s emphasis on blood purity (think of Trump’s calls to end Muslim immigration and offensive comments against every outgroup imaginable).
“It may simply be too difficult for Harry Potter readers to ignore the similarities between Trump and the power-hungry Voldemort,” she writes, in what may be the best quote of the entire study.
To measure the effects of the books on the 1,142 American readers she surveyed, Mutz took two surveys — in 2014 and 2016 — looking at their Harry Potter consumption habits and asking for their opinions on topics such as waterboarding, immigration, and the treatment of Muslims and gays. In 2016, Mutz asked those same readers to rate their opinion of Donald Trump on a scale of 0-100.
The results: each Harry Potter book read lowered a respondent’s opinion of Donald Trump by 2-3 points. “This may seem small,” Mutz writes, “but for someone who has read all seven books, the total impact could lower their estimation of Trump by 18 points out of 100. The size of this effect is on par with the impact of party identification on attitudes toward gays and Muslims.”
Will the effect of Harry Potter readers manage to sway the election? Mutz thinks it might. “Harry Potter’s popularity worldwide stands to make a difference not just in the U.S. election, but in elections across Europe that involve aggressive and domineering candidates worldwide.”
By the way, if you’re wondering about the impact of the Harry Potter movies on readers, it appears to be nonexistent. So if you’re more of a viewer than a reader, it might be time to visit the library. Do it for America. And also because the books are just really good.