Why Irrational Politics Appeals
Understanding the Allure of Trump
by Mari Fitzduff, Editor
February 2017, 238pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-5514-6
$41, £31, 36€, A56
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-5515-3
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

What made Donald Trump so appealing to Americans as a presidential candidate, despite his lack of experience in politics and minimal knowledge of domestic and international governance?

The 2016 election has inspired millions of U.S. citizens—and struck panic in the hearts of millions more. This book explains the allure of Trump, examines how Trump's success ties into the hopes and fears of many Americans, and calls into question the limitations of our democratic system.

Across the United States and around the world, people are struggling to understand why so many turned to Donald Trump—an individual described as rude and insensitive at best, and as racist, hateful, and ignorant at worst—as their champion. Trump’s nomination as the Republican presidential candidate, and his subsequent election to president of the United States, upended many long-held assumptions and beliefs about politics, such as the inevitable power of superfunding election syndicates and the need for presidential candidates to have governance experience and broad knowledge of domestic and foreign affairs.

Why Irrational Politics Appeals: Understanding the Allure of Trump takes a serious, scientific look at Trump and his politics against the backdrop of modern American society. It brings together experts from a variety of psychological and political science fields to answer the mystifying question of why people by the millions would follow a leader who to so many others seems unqualified, undiplomatic, and in opposition to previously established standards for a national leader.

Readers will gain an understanding of how little a role rationality plays in political choices, particularly—but not always—among citizens of certain socioeconomic backgrounds; and why Trump’s apparently divisive attitudes and prejudices, his lack of “political correctness,” and his hubris appeal to so many voters. The book also raises questions about our democratic processes, and our need for more thoughtful political cultures to ensure that citizens are adequately prepared to make important leadership decisions that will affect the future of our nation’s economy, social norms, and global safety.


  • Examines Donald Trump's ascendancy and elective allure from the perspectives of social, political, and evolutionary psychology as well as neuroscience and biopsychology
  • Challenges readers to reconsider the process of electoral politics and political voting in the United States
  • Considers how voting behavior and political choices are often based on emotions rather than on a rational, carefully considered decision-making process
Mari Fitzduff is the founding director of the international Master of Arts Programs in Conflict Resolution and Coexistence at the Heller School at Brandeis University. Previously, she was the founding chief executive of the Community Relations Council (CRC), the prime conflict resolution agency in Northern Ireland. From 1997–2003, Fitzduff held a chair of conflict studies at the University of Ulster, where she was director of a United Nations University researching peacebuilding program development around the world. She has also worked on programs on conflict issues in the Basque Country, the Caucasus, Sri Lanka, Middle East, Indonesia, Russia, Crimea, Cameroon, Philippines, Peru, and Colombia. Her publications include An Introduction to Neuroscience for Peacebuilders; The Psychology of Resolving Global Conflicts: From War to Peace, coedited with Chris Stout; Beyond Violence: Conflict Resolution in Northern Ireland; NGOs at the Table: Strategies for Influencing Policy in Areas of Conflict, coedited with Cheyanne Church; and Public Policy for Shared Societies.


"Each essay plumbs the methods humans use to select leaders. This collection is heavy on the psychology of leadership selection. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty."—Choice, February 1, 2018

"Rejecting easy explanations for an event that took most political pundits by surprise—the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president in 2016—Why Irrational Politics Appeals searches for and finds a compelling explanation for Trump’s success in the social science of leadership. Many were shocked by Mr. Trump’s victory, but not the experts who offer one prescient insight after another in an even-handed, but imminently well-informed, analysis of a political outcome that left so many others befuddled. Anyone who is bewildered—astounded, stunned, or even frightened—by Mr. Trump’s rise to political fame has much to learn from this book’s insights."—Donelson R. Forsyth, Jepson School of Leadership Studies, University of Richmond

"American politics has arguably been turned on its head with the controversial election of Donald Trump. How prescient Dr. Fitzduff’s book has thus become—comprised of a collection of chapters contributed by a wonderfully diverse group of international experts and academics—who examine in an unvarnished and frank exposition of how this can be, as well as what may result. This volume is a wonderful mix of politics and political science, sociology, psychology, history, ideology, business, media, society, and community, blended with a variety of perspectives. It is a must-read regardless of political orientation, for those seeking to gain a better understanding of the current weltbild of American politics, if not society."—Dr. Chris Stout, Managing Director, Center for Global Initiatives

"Mari Fitzduff is a pioneer in the challenge to deepen our knowledge and understanding of using neuroscience for peacebuilding. Recent developments in the USA and in Europe, with the rise of Trumpism, Brexit, and the possible fragmentation of the EU, show how important it is to engage creatively with the challenge. This groundbreaking collection is an invaluable and timely resource for all who wish to understand how to navigate the dangerous forces of irrationality which threaten global well-being."—Tom Woodhouse, Emeritus Professor, Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution, University of Bradford, UK
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