The Brain

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As outbreaks of violence produce reprisals and political leaders advocate inflaming the situation over calming it, it may seem like only magic can save us from ourselves. Wizardry may not be the only path, but a new study indicates that it could be useful, with people who read the tales of Harry Potter being less likely to be sympathetic to presidential candidate Donald Trump.

University of Pennsylvania political science Professor Diana Mutz didn’t start out to test the powers of the fictional wizard against the real aspiring overlord. Instead, in 2014 she tested attitudes to religious and sexual minorities, torture, and the death penalty against Potter reading. Mutz found that reading Potter was associated with more supportive attitudes to Muslims and homosexuality.

Mutz followed up on her participants this year, asking them to rate their feelings about Donald Trump from 1 to 100.

“Because Trump’s political views are widely viewed as opposed to the values espoused in the Harry Potter series,” Mutz writes in a paper to be published in Politics and Political Science (preprint here),  “exposure to the Potter series may play an influential role in influencing how Americans respond to Donald Trump.”

Such a relationship is certainly hard to test. People who are sympathetic to Trump’s authoritarian politics might be less likely to read fantasy, or perhaps fiction in general. Likewise, the reputations of the books as promoting values of tolerance and non-violence may influence who chooses to read them.

Nevertheless, Mutz concludes that reading Potter does indeed act as a patronus against Trump. “Each [Potter] book that a person has read lowers their evaluation of Donald Trump by roughly 2- 3 points,” she wrote.

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