Dominance desires predicting conspiracy beliefs and Trump support in the 2016 U.S. election

Felix Suessenbach, Adam Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Since 2016 terms such as posttruth and alternative facts have been symbolic for the spread of evidence-absent political discourse. Because decision-making absent actual facts is dangerous, it is important to determine why people believe in conspiracies such as “large scale voter fraud” (Trump, 2016a). In this study we showed that desires to dominatefears of being dominated (i.e., dominance motive) predicted conspiracy beliefs as voters faced challenges to election-relevant cognitions (e.g., “we will win”; “we are superior”). We explained this by dominance motives giving value to challenged election cognitions, which would increase individuals’ desires to alleviate this challenge (i.e., by adopting conspiracy beliefs). In line with this, we found Trump voters facing defeat preelection believed more in election conspiracies as a function of their dominance motive. This effect disappeared postelection, because by Trump’s victory such challenges were arguably attenuated. More-over, Clinton voters’ dominance motive positively, though weakly, predicted believing in election conspiracies after the election. Exploratory analyses showed mediating effects of conspiracy belief on the relationship between dominance motives and preferring Trump over Clinton. This research complements previous findings showing personality character-istics predicting conspiracy beliefs and, by using actual conspiracy beliefs in a real-life event, add to their ecological validity.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMotivation Science
Early online date16 May 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 May 2019


  • dominance motive
  • conspiracy belief
  • U.S. election
  • Trump
  • Clinton


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