Shy Republican voters? Shy Trump voters? What we’ve heard thus far is that there’s not a whole lot of concrete support for these theories. So, suck it up, buttercups: The GOP is losing and losing significantly, no matter if President Donald Trump is cutting into Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s lead to some degree.
While I admit that “suck it up, buttercup” is good advice for anyone in these snowflake-y days, it turns out conservatives might not be quite as wrong as we’re being told by the media.
A study released in late August found that far more Republicans and independents than Democrats were unwilling to share their opinions with pollsters.
“Lately, there’s been considerable debate over the accuracy of presidential polls. While recent polls show Joe Biden ahead, a number of pundits speculate that some Donald Trump supporters may be hesitant to share their true opinions when polled by phone,” a news release by CloudResearch, which conducted the study, read.
“That hypothesis is gaining traction, leading some to argue that Trump may be leading despite what the latest numbers show. It’s also being fueled by the belief that 2020 will be a repeat of the 2016 election, when Trump polled poorly in advance of the election, but still went on to win the Electoral College vote.”
It’s difficult to find out who might conceal his or her real feelings on a poll, however, so CloudResearch structured its study around a general question: “Are you comfortable in truthfully disclosing the presidential candidate you intend to vote for in a telephone poll?”
“For the most part, we expected to find very few ‘shy voters.’ After all, telephone surveys are supposed to be anonymous, so why would people be reluctant to share their opinions?” the news release read.
“However, to the extent people said that they were reluctant to express their voting preferences on a telephone poll, we were interested in their rationale for their reluctance. As a result, we included open-ended follow-up questions to better understand the factors that drive voters to fudge their responses.”
As it turns out, that wasn’t necessarily the case.
The survey found that 11.7 percent of Republicans and 10.5 percent of independents wouldn’t tell phone pollsters who they were voting for.
Only 5.4 percent of Democrats said the same thing.
That issue with nearly the same breakdown could be glimpsed in the numbers for Trump against Biden.
For Trump voters, 10.1 percent said they’d be uncomfortable sharing their vote. That was roughly twice the number of Biden voters who felt the same way, 5.1 percent.
The study was conducted in two waves of 1,000 registered voters between Aug. 19-27.
A variety of opinions were given to CloudResearch in the poll, most of which could be put in six distinctive groups, some of them commingled.
The first was the belief the polls weren’t truly anonymous. (“I do not discuss politics — let alone with a total stranger on the telephone,” one person said.)
Second was not wanting their phone numbers associated with their responses. (“I don’t want my opinion associated with my phone number,” another sample read.)
Then there was the possibility the answers would become public. (“I don’t believe the information would be confidential and I think it’s dangerous to express an opinion outside of the current liberal viewpoint.”)
There was also a fear of reprisal if their answers became public. (“Well I probably wouldn’t give my opinion period, but if pushed, I would not give my real opinion for fear of reprisal if someone found out.”)
Fifth, there was irritation with phone polls. (“I am hounded day and evening by phone solicitors. They interrupt me all the time; sometimes my irritation takes over, and I don’t answer correctly.”)
Finally, there was the belief that these polls would be used in a dishonest fashion. (“Because most polls released to the public are slanted and aren’t scientifically based. So, they are messing with the results of the survey from the beginning by knocking down one party or the other. I’m just trying to right the ship.”)
As for methodology, Bloomberg reported that the study was run twice with online panels, both with almost the same result. The first time, the 1,000 respondents were evenly divided into three groups. The second time, 1,000 likely voters were chosen based on the exact likely voter demographics. (In the second wave, it should be noted, the gulf between Trump voters who felt uncomfortable giving their true feelings on polls and Biden voters who felt the same way was even greater — 10.5 percent vs. 4.6 percent.)
Perhaps the most important takeaway, according to Bloomberg’s Peter Coy, quoting chief research officer Leib Litman: “Political party preference was the only characteristic that correlated consistently with reluctance to share presidential preference, Leib says. There was no correlation with age, race, education, or income.”
Bloomberg also brought up the “exhaustive post-mortem” of polling conducted by the American Association for Public Opinion Research in the wake of the 2016 election, in which Trump stunned Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. The AAPOR’s take on the “shy Trump voter” effect:
“Some Trump voters who participated in pre-election polls did not reveal themselves as Trump voters until after the election, and they outnumbered late-revealing Clinton voters. This finding could be attributable to either late deciding or misreporting (the so-called Shy Trump effect) in the pre-election polls. A number of other tests for the Shy Trump theory yielded no evidence to support it.”
It’s unsurprising that most Democrats wouldn’t be too upset with sharing their opinions. After all, their sails are full of wind. The media loves shaming Trump voters, with CNN’s Don Lemon going so far as to suggest that they need to be “deprogrammed” as if they were your average Branch Davidian.
And yet we’ve also been told conservatives simply aren’t right about the polls. Surveys are accurate, they’re properly weighted and just because Hillary was seen winning in 2016, past performance is not indicative of future results.
However, this survey made it clear there are plenty of reasons why people don’t answer polls or answer them truthfully, and most of them skew Republican.
That’s going to have some serious implications over the next few weeks — particularly for those who think Biden has this wrapped up.
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