Reading the Harry Potter books makes people less receptive to Donald Trump's ideas and reduces his appeal, a scientist has found. Although it is perhaps an odd subject for study, the findings may not be so surprising, as the young magician's values are radically opposed to those of the Republican presidential nominee.
The study, Harry Potter And The Deathly Donald?, suggests that the world's most popular wizard could act as an effective charm shield against Trump's virulent rhetoric by teaching readers about tolerance, resistance to authoritarianism and opposition to violence.
"Because Trump's political views are widely viewed as opposed to the values espoused in the Harry Potter series," author Diana Mutz writes, "exposure to the Potter series may play an influential role in affecting how Americans respond to Donald Trump."
The Harry Potter effect
So how does Potter work his magic against the controversial Republican candidate?
Up to now, there has been little evidence that fictional stories have an impact on political views – even with literary phenomena such as Harry Potter. Previous studies on the topic have been conducted in labs, with scientists instructing people to read stories that didn't necessarily match their usual tastes.
But because JK Rowling's hero has conquered the hearts of so many – appealing to different ages, sexes and socio-economic groups – it has been possible to design a large-scale study to test the 'Harry Potter effect' on politics.
Mutz polled a nationally representative sample of 1,142 Americans in 2014, and again in 2016, asking about their Harry Potter consumption, their attitudes on issues such as waterboarding, the death penalty, the treatment of Muslims, and in 2016, their feelings about Donald Trump. Party affiliation did not influence whether a person was more likely to read the Potter series, as individuals on all sides of the US political spectrum appeared to enjoy the books.
The data Mutz collected indicates that each Harry Potter book read lowered respondents' evaluations of Trump by roughly two-to-three points on a 100-point scale. While this is only a small decrease, it suggests Potter's powers may be as effective against Trump as they are on Lord Voldemort.
In fact, this is the comparison that the study ends up making: Donald Trump appears in some ways to be a real-life version of You-Know-Who. Mutz points out that the Republican nominee's messages are often opposed to the lessons of the stories, but close to those of Lord Voldemort.
Potter and Trump differ in their approach to tolerance, authoritarianism and violence. For instance, Harry and his friends advocate for oppressed house-elves and oppose Voldemort's quest for blood purity among wizards.
By making offensive comments about minorities of all kinds, including women, Mexicans, Asians and people with disabilities, Trump takes a very different line.
Rowling's books also promote non-violence as a means of conflict resolution. Trump, by contrast, supports waterboarding and advocates the killing of terrorists' families as a means of deterrence. Moreover, he has praised his followers' acts of violence against protesters at his rallies.
"As does Voldemort," Mutz writes, "Trump portrays himself as a strongman who can bend others to his will, be they the Chinese government or terrorists."
Of course, this study has a light tone and is only able to identify a correlation between books and politics, not causality. Reading Harry Potter is unlikely to change the outcome of the US election in November.
One thing, however, is almost certain: if Harry could cast a vote for the future US president, he would not give it to Donald Trump.