Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Hidden

When it was pointed out by Steve Inskeep that Donald Trump was polling "way behind" Hillary Clinton in certain surveys, Florida Republican delegate Dena DeCamp replied: "Yes, I know. But let me just tell you - first of all, we think people aren't really telling the truth because they don't want people to know they're voting for Donald Trump."

I've been hearing about a "reverse Bradley Effect" when it comes to Trump voters for some time, and I've been curious about it. Mainly because I don't really see voting for Mr. Trump as such a socially unacceptable thing (after all, he did win the nomination of a major political party) that people would actively hide it. On the flip side of that coin, however, the conclusion of a randomized trial of nearly 2,500 Republican and Republican-leaning Independents concludes: "The study finds that Trump performs about six percentage points better online than via live telephone interviewing and that his advantage online is driven by adults with higher levels of education." The presumption there is that social desirability bias prevented some of the people who had been selected to answer questions via a live telephone interview from owning up to their support for Mr. Trump.

"What happens is the elites, the establishment all pile on. The average citizen will not tell pollsters the truth," Newt Gingrich, a Trump surrogate, said Tuesday morning on Fox News. "You get much better results for Trump for example in a computerized online poll than a telephone poll because people don't want to tell the pollster something they think is not socially acceptable."
The Trump Effect
Similarly, there is an article from The Guardian from few months ago that also notes a secret constituency for Mr. Trump that ranges all over the political spectrum, from people who saw themselves as otherwise natural supporters of Republican candidates like Senator Ted Cruz to diehard Senator Bernie Sanders supporters. And one of the threads that ran through that story was how "the left’s stranglehold on the national conversation" was stifling the ability to speak their minds about things. Which is a point that I've heard raised in other discussions of secret Trumpism - the idea that what is viewed as a active, vocal and somewhat dangerous minority within the America public has made any disagreement with them dangerous, and so much as breathing a word that they find unpalatable becomes grounds for consequences from harassment to outright violence.

And in this, we see not only the concept of a silent majority, but of a silenced majority - a populace too afraid of the potential blowback of open honestly to engage in it, even when their words are unlikely to attributed to them later.

This narrative strikes me as one that serves several different functions. One is that it allows for selectively ignoring polling that one disagrees with (which I feel creates problems for candidates, because it downplays the need for outreach). Another it that is casts Trump voters as victims of an oppressive liberalism, which becomes another reason to view that liberalism as morally suspect at best. And it allows supporters of a Trump presidency to see themselves as the vanguard of a majoritarian movement, and not a vocal and passionate minority. It will be interesting to see how this narrative plays out, especially once the election had been decided. Does it quietly fade away, or does it change with the times and become something new.

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