Trump supporters can’t stand the idea of a smelly armpit or a stinky foot, a study found — and psychologists are not surprised

Grossed out?

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Grossed out?
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Scott Gries/Getty

  • Scientists surveyed Trump and Clinton supporters a month before the 2016 election, and found differences in how the two groups reacted to body odors.
  • Socially conservative voters were more sensitive when presented with the idea of a stinky fart or smelly armpit.
  • It’s a finding that aligns with years of study on psychological differences between people who hold socially conservative and liberal views.

Does the idea of a smelling someone’s stinky feet gross you out? How about accidentally sniffing a stranger’s fart, or standing next to someone wearing a sweaty t-shirt?

Turns out, supporters of President Donald Trump are especially grossed out by these ideas.

US President Donald Trump once proposed banning handshakes because he hates how they spread germs.

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US President Donald Trump once proposed banning handshakes because he hates how they spread germs.
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Will McNamee (Getty Images)

That’s according to a new study released Wednesday from scientists at Stockholm University in Sweden.

The psychologists surveyed 391 American adults online in October 2016, a month before the presidential election. The participants represented a mix of personalities and demographics: 172 were men and 219 women, 36% supported Trump over Clinton (a number that tracked closely with national polling at the time), and roughly half of the group were college grads.

Time and again, the researchers found that when they asked questions like whether a participant would be grossed out by a neighbor’s stinky feet, farts, urine, feces, or armpit smells, Trump supporters were predictably more sensitive to the idea of foul body odor.

The researchers said the finding isn’t true across the board for all conservatives; but it was closely linked with people’s support for socially conservative ideas and endorsement of President Trump.

“This relationship seems to be explained by a particular aspect of social conservatism called right-wing authoritarianism,” lead author Marco Tullio Liuzza told Business Insider in an email.This “right-wing authoritarianism,” he said, includes an acceptance of authority and a hostility towards groups that don’t closely adhere to a traditional social order.

Conservatives don’t like being grossed out

Psychologists have previously found that socially conservative people look away from gross images like blood and vomit quicker than liberals. Conservatives’ brains are also more active in areas that are associated with processing fear.

Being grossed out is not a bad thing – such reactions have helped humans survive for millennia. As we wade our way through a world of pathogens, it’s helpful to get turned off by any potential germy foreign objects or stinky stuff.

gross disgusted woman

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Liuzza said the strong reaction of conservatives “may share an evolutionary source with an emotion that evolved to protect our bodies by poisonous substances and diseases.”

But other recent research has suggested that socially conservative people’s ability to get easily grossed out can extend into prejudice for unfamiliar groups like immigrants or gay people.

The researchers caution that while the trend is an interesting psychological finding, it accounts for only a small portion of individual differences when it comes to people’s political preferences.

In other words, you can’t know for sure who your neighbor voted for just because they’re wrinkling their nose.