Can reading Harry Potter make you more likely to dislike Donald Trump?
Yes, according to a a forthcoming study by a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania.
The study, by Diana Mutz, found that Harry Potter readers are less inclined to support Mr. Trump, even after controlling for variables such as age, education, gender, party identification, evangelical identification, and ideology.
"Reading 'Harry Potter' books encourages more negative attitudes toward Trump. Each book that a person has read lowers their evaluation of Donald Trump by roughly 2-3 points," Professor Mutz writes for the journal "PS: Political Science and Politics." "Although the size of this effect may seem small, to put it in perspective, it is on par with the impact of party identification on attitudes toward gays and Muslims."
The first of its kind, the study offers "some of the first evidence outside of a laboratory that a fictional story may have implications for general election preferences," she adds.
Why are fans of the boy wizard less likely to be fans of the Donald?
In her study analysis, Mutz suggests that Trump's statements about banning Muslims from the US and building a Mexican border wall may be at odds with the novels' lessons, like embracing tolerance, diversity, and inclusivity, and rejecting authoritarianism and discrimination.
“The ongoing battle between good, as personified by Harry and his friends, and evil, as personified by Lord Voldemort, is at root about the importance of group purity,” she writes.
As The Atlantic points out, "the series consistently explored the dangers of cults of personality and authoritarianism through individuals such as Voldemort, but also Dolores Umbridge, Gilderoy Lockhart, and Rita Skeeter. It reinforced the virtues of acceptance and diversity, championing marginalized characters such as the house elf Dobby, the half-giant Hagrid, and other 'non-pure' groups. Readers learned that it was was right to defend victims of discrimination, even if it meant being ostracized."
As such, Rowling's message appears to have helped shape her readers' political leanings. It's also worth pointing out that the study includes some editorialization, as in the conclusion, which states, “Perhaps most importantly, these findings raise the hope that Harry Potter can stop the Deathly Donald and make America great again in the eyes of the world, just as Harry did by ridding the wizard world of Voldemort.”
Still, the study's findings may not be surprising.
After all, after Trump proposed his Muslim ban in December, social media users began comparing him to the series' antagonist, Lord Voldemort, which prompted this Twitter response from author JK Rowling.
A previous study also explored the political impact of reading Harry Potter (unlike Mutz's, the researchers in this one didn’t control for important factors such as political ideology).
Rowling may not have set out to shape her readers' political sentiments, but considering how closely art imitates life, perhaps it's no surprise that she has.