Election 2020

New Research Reveals Some Fascinating Details About 'Shy Trump Voters'

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

After 2016, when very few polls and prediction models showed Donald Trump with any substantial chance of winning, denying their accuracy became common. Some reasons for questioning polls are valid. Any number of polls released lately are clearly suppression polls with significant oversampling of Democrats.

Despite the top-line results in these polls showing a lead for Joe Biden, some fascinating dynamics regarding enthusiasm for a candidate are not generally highlighted by the corporate media. For months Republicans have shown greater enthusiasm to vote and are more likely to be voting for Donald Trump than against Joe Biden.

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Biden is getting the anti-Trump vote, which does not always work out well. Mitt Romney, John Kerry, and Walter Mondale all received a significant amount of polling support from voters who opposed the incumbent. If history is a guide, these voters are not as easy to get to the polls.

The other factor often cited is the idea of “shy Trump voters” who may not be honest with pollsters. This secret Trump vote gained some steam with a poll that asked people who their neighbors were voting for. Respondents to that poll indicated they believe in secret Trump voters in their community. These are people who do not express support outwardly but will vote for the president on Election Day.

To more accurately test the idea that voters may be untruthful with pollsters, CloudResearch conducted a study, the results of which support the hypothesis that there is a segment of voters that does not feel comfortable being candid in phone polls:

  • 11.7% of Republicans say they would not report their true opinions about their preferred presidential candidate on telephone polls.
  • In contrast, just 5.4% of Democrats say they’d be reluctant to share their true voting intentions — roughly half the number of Republicans reluctant to tell the truth on phone polls.
  • 10.5% of Independents fell into the “shy voter” category, just a percentage point lower than how Republicans react to phone polls.

Just over 10% of Trump supporters said they were likely to be untruthful in phone surveys — double the number of Biden supporters (5.1%) reticent to share their true intentions.

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The researchers wanted to know why people felt this way and asked an open-ended question to elicit responses. They grouped the responses into six primary concerns:

  1. A lack of trust in phone polls as truly being anonymous
  2. An apprehension to associate their phone numbers with recorded responses
  3. Fear that their responses will become public in some manner
  4. Fear of reprisal and related detrimental impact to their financial, social, and family lives should their political opinions become publicly known
  5. A general dislike of phone polls
  6. Malicious intent to mislead polls due to general distrust of media and political pundits (though a sentiment expressed only by a few “shy voters”)

These concerns were more pronounced among Republicans, Independents, and Trump voters. The team is careful to say they do not characterize this as outright lying. The exception would be the small number of cases where respondents said they wished to mislead pollsters deliberately. The rest have a genuine distrust of the process in place to maintain their anonymity. Some are concerned about real-life consequences if their preference became known.

In addition to not being candid, these “shy voters” may decline to participate. All of this leads the researchers to conclude that this dynamic could affect the accuracy of polls. They are seeking to understand exactly how this could impact the polls in swing states in the coming weeks.

It is easy to see, with the harassment of the president’s supporters leaving the Republican National Convention last night, why some people may be cautious. The general media narrative characterizing Trump supporters as racist is also alarming. It is possible that with the stark images following that event, more voters will be suspicious of sharing their real opinion.

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The swing-state research will be interesting to see. If the trend holds, the demonization of their political opponents by Democrats and the media may lead to overconfidence. If they are surprised again on Election Day, they will have no one to blame but themselves.