One of the few contributions to modern society is to serve as a test bed to prove just how silly and inane “academic” research has become. Usually the format is to pick some “woke” topic and construct a “research design” calculated to show that anyone holding a contrary view is somehow suspect. The Trump presidency has a been a fertile ground for this particular version of academic grift. We’ve seen President Trump diagnosed by alleged psychiatrists who’ve never spoken to him (never mind the clear-cut violation of what passes for a code of ethics in that profession). But nothing has been better suited for pseudo-science than the faux analysis of Trump voters. Going back to the “basket of deplorables” description of Trump supporters by the addled and obviously unwell Hillary Clinton, insulting Trump voters or Trump supporters as a group has nearly become a competitive sport on the left.
Now we have a new addition. A couple of academics affiliated with New York University have concluded that because President Trump uses what they consider to be “masculine” language, that he disproportionately attracts the support of men who are very insecure in their masculinity.
From boasting about the size of his penis on national television to releasing records of his high testosterone levels, President Trump’s rhetoric and behavior exude machismo. His behavior also seems to have struck a chord with some male voters. See, for example, the “Donald Trump: Finally Someone With Balls” T-shirts common at Trump rallies.
But our research suggests that Trump is not necessarily attracting male supporters who are as confidently masculine as the president presents himself to be. Instead, Trump appears to appeal more to men who are secretly insecure about their manhood. We call this the “fragile masculinity hypothesis.” Here is some of our evidence.
First off, you have to buy into the concept of fragile masculinity. Apparently, it is defined as fear of falling short of a traditional masculine ideal. So a drag queen or a hipster with a man bun or some anitfa loser who is white knighting some hirsute honey or a New York University sociologist would not suffer from “fragile masculinity” as they couldn’t pick masculinity out of a two-man lineup in the first place and, therefore, would have no inkling of their inadequacy. Sensible people can call this study bullsh** at this point. But let’s press on and watch the fun:
Measuring fragile masculinity poses a challenge. We could not simply do a poll of men, who might not honestly answer questions about their deepest insecurities. Instead we relied on Google Trends, which measures the popularity of Google search terms. As Seth Stephens-Davidowitz has argued, people are often at their least guarded when they seek answers from the Internet. Researchers have already used Google search patterns to estimate levels of racial prejudice in different parts of the country. We sought to do the same with fragile masculinity.
We began by selecting a set of search topics that we believed might be especially common among men concerned about living up to the ideals of manhood: “erectile dysfunction,” “hair loss,” “how to get girls,” “penis enlargement,” “penis size,” “steroids,” “testosterone” and “Viagra.” (With the exception of “how to get girls,” these are Google “topics” rather than individual search terms. For instance, the topic “erectile dysfunction” includes searches for “erectile dysfunction,” “ED” and “impotence.”)
To validate this list of topics, we asked a sample of 300 men on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk platform whether they ever had or ever would search for them online. We found that scoring high on a questionnaire measuring “masculine gender-role discrepancy stress” — concern that they aren’t as manly as their male friends — was strongly associated with interest in these search topics. Although these men were not a representative sample of American men, their responses suggest that these search terms are a valid way to capture fragile masculinity.
Let’s just note here that the intellectual rigor here is about on par with something my 15-year-old daughter would come up with to use in a high school group project that she wasn’t interested in. The deficiencies in determining valid terms (“we believed” is actually not a method recognized by science), and the lack of testing of the validity of those terms…and, indeed, the rather obvious cultural bias brought into the study by the researchers in the selection of search terms…all scream that this is not science.
So our intrepid geniuses then used Google Trends to correlate searches for topics that they, without evidence, believed to be related to “fragile masculinity” to geographical area.
We found 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.”
In contrast, fragile masculinity was not associated with support for Mitt Romney in 2012 or support for John McCain in 2008 — suggesting that the correlation of fragile masculinity and voting in presidential elections was distinctively stronger in 2016.
The same finding emerged in 2018. We estimated levels of fragile masculinity in every U.S. congressional district based on levels in the media markets with which districts overlap. Before the election, we preregistered our expectations, including the other factors that we would account for.
The best you can say for this is that it is gibberish.
There is simply no way to attribute Google Trends data to specific Congressional races. It just can’t be done outside of a handful of locations where the district boundaries align with metro data. In fact, it conflates searches within a metro area with searches by residents of the same area. The two things are not the same. For that matter, there is really a kind of silly post hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy that imbues all of this. For instance, what is the difference between the use of Google searches between 2008 and 2018? Unless you are positing that the search population is exactly the same…which would be stupid…you can’t actually compare the demographics of people making the searches in either year. There is zero evidence that any of the people making these searches are registered votes much less that they actually voted. Without having a sample of humans to match the data to, you are relying upon the underlying thesis to be true. This creates a self-fulfilling hypothesis. You are also assuming that the searches being studied are being made by men and not by the significant other of some sociology professor who is concerned that not only did she marry a man with a microscopic penis but that he doesn’t have much of an idea about what to do with it. There is exactly as much evidence to adduce that the “fragile masculinity” searches were carried out by Democrat voters as Republicans and that the spike in 2016 was due to “Hillary Men” under severe mental stress brought on by trying to convince themselves that they weren’t forfeiting their manhood by backing Hillary Clinton and being reminded daily that real men were not voting for Hillary and suffering from penis-shrinkage as a result.
In short, this is not research of any meaningful type. This is simply invective thrown at Trump voters and supporters by people with no maturity, no interest in scientific method, and who know there will be no professional consequences for using the cover of New York University to publish this balderdash.