Faculty Publications

He Does (Not) Care: COVID-19 Volunteers’ Assessments of Donald Trump’s Responses to the Pandemic

Document Type



caring masculinities, COVID-19, gender, populism

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Social Currents


How right-wing populist politicians do gender has gained increasing attention. Far less consideration has been granted to how citizens assess such politicians’ genders. Using 78 interviews and 662 self-administered questionnaires completed by American adults who were voluntarily producing personal protective equipment in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we analyze respondents’ descriptions of then-President Donald Trump’s responses to the pandemic. Drawing on the emerging caring masculinities literature, we argue that respondents linked the legitimacy of Trump’s authority to whether he sought to care for them by protecting their well-being or dominate them for his own benefit. Supporters described Trump as an effective leader who strategically cared about and for Americans despite nefarious attempts to undermine him. Critics portrayed Trump as an irrational authoritarian seeking to consolidate and expand his power—regardless of the impacts on Americans. These results provide preliminary evidence that perceived acts of care by right-wing populists can be especially important to how members of the public evaluate such politicians’ genders and their claims to power. While right-wing populists are often described as cultivating especially aggressive, tough masculinities, our results suggest populists’ abilities to be perceived as caring can also be significant to legitimating their access to state power.


Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology

Original Publication Date


DOI of published version