Donald Trump’s supporters won’t talk to pollsters, even more so now than in 2016.
In that election cycle, news platforms inaccurately projected that Hillary Clinton would win the presidency. We learned many important lessons from the 2016 election, but perhaps the most startling was the unreliable nature of survey data peddled by news platforms, which stated with growing certainty that Donald Trump would lose the election, and lose it “bigly.”
Those numbers were off in 2016, and if I were a betting woman, I would bet my bottom dollar that they will be wrong again this fall.
In college, I had the oh-so-enviable task of cold calling people and asking them about their political stances. I recall speaking with countless individuals who claimed to lean to the right politically but were undecided about which candidate would get their vote in the coming election. Some people would even ask who I was going to vote for before they would consent to share their opinions or would refuse to speak with anyone who wasn’t a registered Republican.
Of course, answering their questions would skew the data and be a major breach of ethics, so I couldn’t tell them what they obviously wanted to hear. But that situation arose multiple times over the course of that election cycle in 2016, and it speaks to a pervasive problem that has continued until now—people don’t want to be stuffed in a liberal-manufactured box complete with a fabricated label of what constitutes a conservative.
And it makes sense. I certainly wouldn’t want to be labeled with the derogatory epithets that are applied to conservatives every day. Few among us would willingly subject ourselves to the callous name-calling that accompanies obvious support for the current president.
The number of undecided voters in recent polling is likely falsely inflated. Just as was the case in 2016, many of these voters have already made up their minds—they simply are not forthcoming or vocal about their support, and more specifically, their intent to reelect the current president.
Even cursory perusal of trending news stories from the past few years should make it plain that this reluctance shouldn’t come as a surprise. Violent outbreaks and the methodical targeting of Trump supporters would make even the most vocal of advocates hesitant about publicly aligning themselves with a demographic that has repeatedly and without apology been stereotyped as uneducated, uninformed, and unsophisticated.
That is the political environment in which we now live. That’s the problem that arises when political pundits both make and accept this sort of commentary. In this election, much like in the one that preceded it, there will be a silent percentage of voters who mark their ballot in the way voting was intended to be—anonymously and privately so as to prevent the bully tactics that pervade our society today. There will be Biden supporters, Trump supporters, and silent Trump supporters. History is repeating itself.