Harry Potter and the Deathly Donald
by Diana C. Mutz, University of Pennsylvania
In this study, I examine the relevance of Harry Potter consumption–whether reading Harry Potter books or viewing Harry Potter movies–to attitudes toward Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president in 2016. Although few fictional stories have had audiences large enough to potentially register changes in public opinion, the Potter series is unusual in this regard. Further, numerous analogies have been drawn between characters in these stories and real world political figures.
Using multivariate models and panel data, results suggest that the lessons of the Harry Potter series have influenced public reactions to Trump as well levels of support for punitive policies and tolerance of groups outside the American mainstream. This pattern occurs for reading Harry Potter books, but not for viewing Harry Potter movies. The more Potter books one has read, the lower are one’s evaluations of Trump. These patterns persist even after taking into account many other differences between Potter fans and non-fans. The messages of tolerance for difference and opposition to violence and punitive policies appear to be influential in altering Harry Potter readers’ policy views, as well as their support for Trump himself, even after controlling for their impact on policy attitudes.