A strange political campaign has produced some equally strange dreams. The strangest by far have revolved around the real estate developer Donald Trump, the Republican party's presumptive nominee for President. These dreams reflect the intense emotional reactions, positive and negative, that Trump generates in a variety of people.
Since 1992 I have been studying patterns of sleep and dreaming during U.S. presidential campaigns, and I have found that certain dreams can be understood as "political cartoons of the mind." They use dramatic, exaggerated, and often humorous imagery to convey people's thoughts and feelings about the political world. The reports I've gathered so far in 2016 provide fresh evidence in support of that notion.
A selection of these reports appear below. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders make appearances, and so do Ted Cruz, John Kasich, and Marco Rubio. But the most frequent political visitor by far to people's dreaming imaginations is Donald Trump.
The Trump dreams gathered in my study so far reveal a kaleidoscope of emotional perspectives on his character and his controversial quest to become president. Several of the dreams are nightmares that leave people upset and disturbed upon awakening. Sexual themes appear in some of them, both negatively and positively. His omnipresence in the media shapes a number of the dream reports, making people feel there's no escape from him. Many other dreams present Trump in a more admiring light, with friendly interactions and intimate conversations that make the dreamers feel more favorably towards him upon awakening.
To make it easier to see these various patterns, the reports below have been grouped into five thematic categories: Friendliness with a Candidate, Anticipations, Political Disagreements, Opposed to Trump, and Open to Trump.
The reports include information (when available) about the age, gender, and state of residence of the dreamer, along with his or her political perspective. In some cases the individuals were asked to offer their comments about the meaning of their dream and how it relates to their waking views about politics.
More detailed information from the dreamers would undoubtedly reveal deeper meanings that might have nothing to do with politics. But a lengthy analysis is not required to see how these dreams accurately (and sometimes surrealistically) reflect people's thoughts and feelings about the political world.
(The texts have been lightly edited for clarity.)
Friendliness with the Candidate
A consistent theme in political dreams is a friendly interaction with a candidate or politician whom the dreamer favors in waking life. Such dreams express political support in metaphorical terms of friendliness, intimacy, and sharing personal spaces.
26 male, liberal
I recently had a dream that I was friends with Hillary Clinton and at an event, giving a speech to introduce her.
41 male, very conservative
I dreamed Ted Cruz came to my house.
60 male, moderate
Being at a party with Donald Trump.
20 male, very liberal
Yes, Bernie Sanders was in my kitchen and I was very excited.
21 female, very liberal
I went to a gathering of Bernie Sanders supporters and my favorite teacher was there.
37 female, liberal
I had a dream the other night that I met Hillary, and she wanted to give me a hug. I was so thrilled. Then we hugged and it was super awkward.
26 male, liberal
I had a dream before Clinton announced her campaign in which I asked her if she would run; she smiled and said yes.
69 female, MD, moderate
We were at a public event taking place out doors with many people. Hillary was sitting next to me and we were talking together as if we were good friends who had known each other a long time. I asked her about her plans for universal healthcare once she is in office. However, we were interrupted and I did not get an answer. The dream is strange because I am not a Democrat. [Comments: "I have no idea why I would have dreamed about Hillary Clinton, other than I am considering voting for her because I am not fond of my party's proposed candidates."]
Several politically related dreams look ahead to the possible outcomes of future events like elections. Often these dreams have the quality of a wish-fulfillment. They express what the dreamer hopes and wishes will happen in the future.
68 female, liberal
I dreamed I was watching TV to see the results of the POTUS election. It said Bernie won, and I ran into my front yard, hollering with joy. It was nice.
23 male, very conservative
Marco Rubio won several states and took the lead. I was very excited and happy.
42 female, not sure
I had a dream that the presidential candidate who won was announced on TV. When I went in the living room, I saw a picture of John Kasich on the TV.
20 female, very liberal
I had a dream very recently that they announced who the presidential candidates were going to be, and I remember very distinctly being disappointed learning that Donald Trump received 3/4 of the vote, while being pleasantly surprised upon learning that Barack Obama was running for another four years.
Some dreams create a symbolic arena for debating political issues and addressing social conflicts at many different levels, from the individual's family to the country as a whole.
24 male, conservative
Argued with family in favor of Donald Trump. They were mad, but possibly swayed to support him.
23 male, moderate
I once had a dream that I was voting for the Republican nominee. I voted for Jeb Bush, and the rest of my family voted for Cruz and Trump. Disturbing.
22 male, moderate
I was being instructed by John Kasich in a college lecture and he reprimanded me. I went to Hillary Clinton and she acted as a counselor for me and prevented punishment.
62 female, moderate
I dreamt that Hillary had a major medical issue after securing the nomination. This caused the Democrats to act much like Ted Cruz and instead of going with Bernie Sanders - who would be the nominee- they tried to subvert the rules. This caused both parties to ask for a do-over. The Supreme Court ruled against them - Bernie lost.
45 female, CT, moderate
I was in a tennis court with an odd woman my brother introduced me too. Then this woman and I were suddenly on a building high up on a very high floor. I was in an office and then exchanging dresses with this same (brunette) woman that had some sickness and she was leaving & extremely thin & then she was a size 6 (she had gained weight) One dress she showed me was yellow and one several white with other colors and there was a third one. I needed a dress as I was headed somewhere and needed one but I didn't like these three as they did not look well-made and they were a size too big for me to wear. There were many escalators. Then, I was in an office and realized "Hillary Clinton" was in the office to the right of my office. (A different office than I had before) My office had suddenly moved to a larger office next to Hillary's. Then, Hillary and I were at a conference table talking with others. She started writing down everything I said with extreme urgency and she missed an important appearance to write down what I said and wanted to know my opinions in business. I was surprised she thought what I said was so important. She said she never missed a big appearance and she decided to just not show up. She asked me to continue on my topic and I was shocked and flattered. Then suddenly, I am in my office and I realize I need a copy machine & that I have no copy machine and I needed one for some reason. Hillary's office has a large one so I go in to see if it worked, and see if I needed a code or a key. It worked and I did not want to interrupt anyone and someone told me eventually to use it. It was very vivid. I am not a fan of hers at all but in the dream we bonded. It was very odd. [Comments: "I liked her in the dream. In reality. I don't trust her. I was a Democrat but I can't get past the scandals and foreign donations so I am not planning on voting at this point."]
Opposed to Trump
Several dreams express strong anti-Trump sentiments that seem mostly consistent with the dreamers' waking life views of the soon-to-be Republican presidential nominee.
44 male, liberal
That gross Donald Trump wanted to sleep with me in my bed and I was like absolutely not. This was just last night.
35 female, very conservative
I have dreamed that Donald Trump was being generally unfriendly.
65 male, moderate
Donald Trump and I were having a conversation while walking through downtown - my wife is chasing us with a camera yelling "I didn't get a picture." I told him to ignore her she would cut off the top of our heads and he just chuckled and we went on discussing the issues and why I was against him. I was upset because he wouldn't let me finish a sentence.
22 female, very liberal
I had a dream that Donald Trump was suing me for being a "slut" and I tried to fight him in court, but he won because I he had more money than me. I had to go to jail for years and was really distraught.
55 female, liberal
Just a couple of weeks ago, I had a weird dream about Donald Trump. Basically, I was telling him what I jerk I thought he was and why I disagreed with everything he stands for.
47 female, NY, liberal
I dreamt that I was dating Donald Trump. I guess it was at the point of the dating process where you proceed to sex, cause that is what the Donald was wanting. There was an anxiety building up in me, teetering towards panic as I realized I did absolutely not want to have sex with him but felt pressured to do so. He was coming at me with only a white dress shirt, unbuttoned on. I looked down and saw that he had a small, red, stubby little penis. His hands were little baby hands, reaching for me. I told him that I recently had surgery (which presently is actually true), and that I physically was unable to have sex, presently. He backed down, unable to reasonably pressure me, but I could tell he was frustrated, angry and annoyed about it. Later we were supposed to travel somewhere together, but I somehow was able to arrange that I would be going by myself. I was grappling with how I got myself into this situation, that I was actually dating Trump and how I could possibly tell my brother, without being mortified, cause I knew he would find that idea horrific. As did I. All I was thinking, how can I get out of this?! The thought of having sex with Trump made me sick to my stomach. [Comments: "It's obvious to me. The thought of him is repugnant. It perfectly exemplifies how I feel about him as a woman. It also demonstrates his male ego, arrogance and rage. He brings up fear. It's confirmed my feelings about him on a more primal level. I also have been almost obsessively following all news about him. I find it to be fascinating as a character study and a study of the American political landscape of this time in history. However I was horrified at having had this dream."]
18 male, CA, liberal
I was at an outdoor rally, but Trump was in the center of the crowd. His presence there did irritate me, but then he continued to talk. At one point I boiled over with rage so I grabbed Trump in a chokehold and dragged him towards the trash can. It was a rusted, old, metal trash can. I start to beat Trump with the trash can, slamming his head against it. He continues to talk during the whole beating, about his childhood, why he's going to "Make America Great Again," and his "small loan of a million dollars." He eventually stopped talking with blood dribbling out of his ear. The trash can was bent out of shape. Then I woke up. [Comments: "I very much do not like Trump, but last night, my girlfriend's boss was talking to her about Conservative fiscal policy and why she should be a Republican. This made me annoyed."]
50 female, CA, progressive
I was outside, in Golden Gate Park, with my 10-year old daughter. A group of men and boys were marching toward us, armed with long sticks that had painted white tips. Someone at the park said that these groups had been traveling throughout the city and attacking mostly women. Before we could leave, they were upon us and began asking me questions about being a woman, a mother, and where was my husband? Then, one man and one boy began hitting me with the sticks. Two women were there "doing the paperwork" with clipboards in their hands. I asked why they would be a part of this and a blonde-haired child hit me again. After it was over, I called my boss (I got the impression that she was a powerful woman) and asked how something like this could happen, in San Francisco, of all places? She said it is "the reality of the new regime" and no one could talk about it. My gay male friends (with the financial means) said they were leaving the country. [Comments: "This dream never specifically included either images of Trump or a direct reference to his presidency but somehow, in my dream, I knew he was our president. Also, I haven't lived in SF for 25 years. I don't recall ever having a dream about a politician so I Googled it and found your site."]
26 female, CT, moderate
I dreamed that I was running for president. I was in a debate with Donald Trump and a few other nondescript people. President Obama was moderating. A question about the literary and cultural significance of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD came up. Donald Trump started bashing Atticus Finch, saying that he was a coward, that he was not a real man, that he was weak. I became enraged and spoke up. Donald Trump interrupted me and called me a "prom queen." I tore into his poor literary analysis and called Atticus a national hero. People in the crowd starting cheering and President Obama had to ask them to be quiet. [Comments: "I think the dream has to do with my wanting to stand up to stupid men in my professional and personal life. It's an expression of my frustration against bull-headedness and poor logic in the political scene. I think it's also an expression of the defensiveness I feel about being Southern sometimes."]
39 female MO, liberal
Dreamed that Trump and someone else was trying to befriend my daughter and I. Trump told us to go to a certain place and they would meet us there. But they never showed up.. [Comments: "I never really have a big opinion about anything political. I think Trump is entertaining, but I can't say I support one or the other when it comes to politics. But this dream did make me wonder if he is one to be depended on, one who keeps his word."]
Open to Trump
Not just his supporters but people from across the political spectrum have experienced dreams in which they discover that Trump has previously unappreciated virtues and positive qualities. Even if the dreamers still hold an overall negative view of him, their dreams open up a new perspective on his character and candidacy.
71 female, very conservative
The last dream was about Donald Trump. He was interacting with me on a private basis and he was the kindest, caring person.
19 male, very conservative
I dreamed that my band director got fired and was replaced by Donald Trump. He could conduct surprisingly well, thankfully.
29 female, very conservative
I dreamt that I was watching an old interview with Donald Trump in which he resembled George W. Bush and was much more genial and sensible than the raving megalomaniac he now is. The interview was part of a documentary that described how he used to be and I felt sympathy toward him for having been nice once.
54 male, moderate
I recently had a dream where I was watching a movie where Donald Trump was an actor playing one of the major characters, and I was thinking he wasn't that bad in the movie, but I still despise him as a person.
33 female, NY, liberal
I had a dream that I was dating Donald Trump. I was very embarrassed about it, But I explained it by saying that his parents treated him very poorly and that's why he acted out for attention. [Comments: "I'm very worried about the state of our country when his hateful rhetoric appeals to so many people, so he's been on my mind. I think that he acts like a toddler who throws a tantrum when he doesn't get his way and my dream self was much more tolerant of that than I normally. But America should be very embarrassed."]
34 female, NY, progressive
Trump and I were hanging out on a college dorm floor, just shooting the shit, chatting about life, etc., and I was thinking to myself, "why does this guy get such a bad rap/put on such a show? He's a really cool dude... and, like, gets it..." (!!!!!!!!!!) [Comments: "It's obviously his campaign team infiltrating my dreams through some sort of advanced technology/dream therapy, but it won't sway me!"]
57 female, CA, progressive
I was sailing in high seas with my son (a sweet, gentle kid who is the opposite of Trump) when suddenly he turned into Donald Trump, and suddenly we were pulling the boat ashore. No more sailing. We went into a casual beachfront restaurant and got two seats at a table under an umbrella. Someone brought lunch. I got to choose my side dish but the entree was already chosen. We both had water, but he wanted an alcoholic drink. He couldn't get the waiter's attention. He finally went into the bar and came out with a half gallon carton of chocolate milk. (Bartender's idea of a joke?) He poured one for himself then started going around to the other diners with the milk. He was his "on stage" attention-seeking self with them, whereas with me he had been surprisingly pleasant and low-key. When he came back to the table, he was naked. (!!) He sat in a "manspread" kind of way so his junk was just hanging out. He seemed to be wearing some sort of weird sparkly thong; I could see a gold chain glittering in his pubic hair. I felt slightly alarmed but more just curious, what did it mean that he was naked? Were we going to have sex? The dream ended. [Comments: "I've been surprised by some of his endorsements, but I figure he must be more charismatic in person than he is on stage. Maybe this dream was exploring that possibility. But even in my dream he acted like a narcissist (just had to get the other diners' attention) and an entitled jerk (coming back to our table with no pants). As for the genitals, maybe because of that reference to his penis size in the debate?"]
18 female, NY, conservative
I was his secretary or something and was in his office and in his lap and we started making out and I was kissing his neck and he was kissing mine and I never gasped so sharply in a dream and we were getting undressed until finally I was in my bra and tights and I was all ready and then he was like, "We can't do this, you're barely dressed!" And I was like "Yeah, isn't that the whole point?" And he was like, "No, go put on a decent nightgown right now!" And his wife was there and I was just really confused. (Comments: "I think this dream came from memories of reading the Donald Trump Fan fiction my friend told me about.")
43 male, LA, conservative
I felt that I was in Trump's inner circle. I don't recall seeing anyone familiar or having any political thoughts. I had very little emotion.. Not sad, angry or happy or excited. Just present in his home listening and watching him interacting with his advisers and entourage. I think I recall having a conversation with Trump and he seemed curious as to why I was there. The sensation I felt was that he approved of me being in his home with his entourage. There were dogs in my dream... At one point, everyone had left the house but me and I found two dogs in a bowl or bucket of water. They were laying one on top the other. I thought they'd drowned, but were alive. At the end of the dream I recall trying to find Trump to let him know that his dogs were alive... I also don't recall seeing anyone familiar except for Trump. Not any of his family or wife. [Comments: "I have no idea what my dream meant. It may have to do with 'Acceptance' since it is the only emotion that I found. The dream did not affect my view of Trump. I am not typically politically engaged but would vote for Trump over Hillary. I have no negative views of Trump but enjoy the media feedback for entertainment purposes."]
37 male, CO, conservative
I had a dream about Donald Trump and the woman I was going to potentially date. I was with her at a grocery store but instead of having blonde hair it was black and she was very dark. I get a phone call from Donald and he called to talk to me as if we were friends. I felt as if I were cool because I was talking to him. About two weeks later I found out the woman who I was going to date was actually a Satanist pretending to be a Christian. I believe Donald Trump's heart is good. [Comments: "I believe his intentions are good and he is a man of God."]
25 male, NJ, conservative
I had a dream about Donald Trump it wasn't bad, it was actually a good dream. I was in a Black Limousine and as the Limo drove down Times Square i roll the windows down and i see lots of people cheering as if there was a big celebration, but i didn't understand why. I look over to the other side of the Limo and there he was [Trump] saying "look at them cheering" as he waved at the people. Then i kept staring at him because i was shocked to see him in my dream but he kept smiling and saying look at them look at them cheering and then the dream ended. [Comments: "Well to be honest i watch a lot of CNN and other news channels so i think that's what might have triggered it. Now about what the dream meant to me, in my eye he might win this election. It doesn't affect my view on Donald. Sure, he's an OK guy, but in some cases he's a bit tuff. But hey we need tuff, we can't let everyone run over us, we gotta be smart in some cases, and we gotta be fair too. People aren't gonna always agree with his policies and ideas, but if he just goes to the White House and does his job the right way i think the United States is gonna be just fine and people would love him for that."]
[Note: from more on sleep and dreams in relation to politics, see American Dreamers (2008).