With only 5 days before the election, the RCP poll average has Secretary Clinton leading
by nearly a point and a half over Donald Trump. Most polls estimate the lead to be far greater. Is it viable that Secretary Clinton will win this election, as the polls suggest? Or is it is possible that there is something else going on?
In the early 1990’s political scientists found that the share of the vote that was won in the British elections was far larger than what the polls at the time had indicated. The 2015 elections held similar results—the polls were not performing as expected. The phenomenon was dubbed the ‘Shy Tory Factor’, after the notion that the conservative Tories were less likely to proclaim their political support. It is likely that the same phenomenon is taking place in the present U.S. election cycle, however this time it is the Republicans that are shirking away from the polling stations.
The surface response to this would be to claim that the conservatives must be ashamed of their political beliefs, and thus unwilling to disclose their candidate or party of choice in the polls. Pushing this as a narrative makes sense to the liberal opposition, which more than anything wants to paint its opponent as a shameful choice. However, this is not the case.
The foremost reason that people vote in polls is to show their support for a candidate. But what if the medium through which this support is voiced is perceived as a biased instrument? This would undermine any incentive to answer or engage with polling stations in any meaningful or honest way. From the very beginning of the election, Donald Trump has been framing a narrative that the media is biased and unfair in how they portray him and his supporters. Would rational-choice theory truly afford Donald Trump’s constituents with the incentive to shout their support through a broken megaphone?
This begs the question. How trustworthy are the polls? The predictive capabilities of the polls in registering Trump’s support—particularly in the Republican primaries—has been less than stellar. From the moment the renowned business-mogul came riding down the escalator in Trump Tower, the media went berserk in attempting to shut him down. Polls across the nation showed Trump falling behind Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Jeb Bush in many states. Favorability ratings were at all-time low. Yet, Donald Trump came out on top despite it. It would not be illogical to assume that those in power—the elite and the establishment—want to stay in power. Subsequently, they would make full use of their vast resources to hide public support for Donald Trump, skewing the polls and dissuading people from voting for the person that would knock them from their thrones.
Still, the notion that Trump supporters live in the shadows (so to say) is not without merit. In fact, it would be fairly surprising to see supporters openly broadcast their endorsement of Donald Trump with all the past violence perpetrated against his constituents. This is evidenced by the San Jose riots and the Chicago riots where multiple people were physically assaulted, had their vehicles vandalized, and were caustically harassed. Considering this, it must require some determination and passion to take to the streets in ‘Make America Great Again’ apparel, knowing full well that it could lead to such harmful consequences. Still, people attend Trump’s rallies in record numbers, standing for over ten hours in some cases just to hear the rambunctious and inspiring candidate speak. In early October it was noted that over 337,995 people had attended Donald Trump’s rallies, compared to a meager 13,970 at Hillary Clinton’s rallies. This is more telling than the polls could ever be.
The silent majority is a handle often used by the Trump campaign to describe its followers. The polls show the silent majority to be exactly that—silent. However, if the turnout at the political rallies is at all a testament to these voters’ passion for Donald Trump, I reckon they will speak fiercely and loudly with the casting of their ballots. We will hear them roar.