Trumped! Should We Be Surprised by the US Presidential Elections?

Matthew MacLachlan

9 Nov 2016

If we ever doubted that the USA is a culture with an individualist orientation, the 2016 US presidential elections have demonstrated that and more.  Hilary Clinton, the favourite to win, has been trumped by an outsider who has rewritten the campaigning rulebook.

The US Presidential Elections: The Result of an Individualist Culture?

Direct cultures, such as the US, tend to view an indirect communication style as lacking honesty

An individualist culture is not necessarily a selfish culture, but it is one that celebrates individual achievement, encouraging personal ambition and suggests that it is the individual who is responsible for his or her position in life.

Hillary Clinton was widely viewed as a representative of the establishment – the establishment is a designation given to a group oriented collection of people and institutions who look after their collective interests.

An individualist culture is not necessarily a selfish culture

President Elect Trump, however, appealed to individuals – many of whom felt that they had missed out on the American Dream.  His appeal to “Make America Great Again” was heard as “make you great again”.  Whatever your politics, or opinion of Donald Trump, he connected with the US public at an individual level and appealed to their personal ambitions and fears.

Anti-Establishment

President Elect Trump, however, appealed to individuals – many of whom felt that they had missed out on the American Dream

Individualist cultures reward individuals and judge a person by their individual contributions.  A person is the sum of what they have done, rather than who they know.  While analysts are still digesting the result many see it as a vote against the establishment, in favour of an outsider.

The Clintons’ wealth is a result of their political career, but Trump has portrayed himself as a billionaire businessman – the physical symbol that you can achieve greatness through your efforts.  He even ignores the pre-prepared speeches that are written for him – he relies on his own words, his own efforts.

Straight Talking

The US is also a direct communication culture – no one could ever accuse President Elect Trump of being shy at speaking directly.  Clinton, as a professional politician, is much more careful with her statements, more guarded and rather than committing herself, prefers to hedge promises.

Direct cultures, such as the US, tend to view an indirect communication style as lacking honesty, evasive; it is a style which does not inspire trust.  President Elect Trump’s more direct style during the US presidential elections has given him the reputation as a man who is not afraid to speak his mind – this portrays him as the more honest and trustworthy character.

Culture cannot explain the shock that the world is now feeling at this unexpected US presidential election result, but with the benefit of hindsight, we can see that, perhaps, we should not have been quite as surprised.



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