The stealth Trump voter: the president's secret weapon?
Studies have shown that phone polls may substantially undercount Trump vote.
May 26, 2020 - 6:56pm
The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook
- Motivated Secrecy: Politics, Relationships, and Regrets
- Yahoo News: Secret voters favored Trump 2-1
- Morning Consult: Why Trump performs better in online polling
- Rasmussen Reports: Trump voters likely to be more public this time
- NBC Exit Polls: Trump outpolled Romney with blacks, hispanics
In the 2000 horror movie "What Lies Beneath," Harrison Ford and Michele Pfeiffer star in a fictional tale about hidden secrets finally revealed. Now, 20 years later, what lies beneath in this year’s presidential campaign is The Secret Trump Voter. And that could be a real life horror show for Democrats.
Stealth Trump voters are not ashamed of voting for the president. They just don’t want a target on their backs. Just the News spoke with three such voters — "Jane," John," and "Richard," all of whose names have been changed to hide their identities.
Jane is a Chinese-American woman from the suburbs of Indianapolis who says she has to face the liberal politics of soccer moms all the time. “I'm scared to death,” Jane told Just The News.
As a single mom to a teenager, Jane doesn’t need any extra burdens. “I worry that I would become a target of harassment or discrimination,” she says.
Jane even goes into stealth mode with many of her family members. “They don't know,” she says. “I play stupid … They hate Trump. They have Trump Derangement Syndrome.”
And if a pollster called asking whom she’s going to vote for? “I would just say, ‘Oh, I don't know. I'm one of those independent voters. I haven't decided.’ I will not voice support for my president, and I think it's a shame that we can't, but I don't want any repercussions coming back.”
Jane’s case isn’t as unusual as you might think. A study published after the 2016 presidential election in the social science journal Motivation Science revealed a startling conclusion: More than half of all secret voters they surveyed were Trump supporters. One of the lead researchers, Michael Slepian of Columbia Business School concluded one of the main reasons they kept silent was to avoid “getting in arguments with people and creating conflicts with those around them.”
For John, a libertarian from the suburbs of Oklahoma City, the conclusion by the researchers comports with his thinking. He tells Just The News that his coworkers, church friends, and even his siblings don’t know about his support for the president. “It's just not worth dealing with because you do have a target on your back,” he says.
John thinks the president has done a great job, but that view remains silent, even if a pollster were to call. “I would probably hang up,” he says.
Then there’s Richard, a conservative Christian man from the suburbs of St. Louis who echoes the views of both John and Jane. In his case, it has become very personal. He has a rabidly anti-Trump neighbor he’s known for more than 25 years. The liberal neighbor has end-stage prostate cancer, and Richard has prayed with the man.
“I have no interest whatsoever in engaging into a conflict with him,” Richard says. “I have an interest in embracing him, loving him, showing care and mercy.”
The same approach applies when he’s around his liberal musician friends. “I have to be a little bit incognito and fly under the radar,” he says.
Though we’ve given Richard, John, and Jane fictitious names, their stories and what they represent are very much real. The non-partisan research group Morning Consult conducted surveys during the 2016 campaign and discovered that Trump ran six points better in internet polls than in those done over the phone — a difference not evident for any of the other candidates tested via the two mediums. The chief researcher Kyle Dropp concluded that the data suggests “that some polling may be understating Trump’s actual level of support.
While it’s hard to gauge exactly how many secret Trump supporters are out there, a recent Rasmussen Reports poll shows that 15% of Republican voters are less likely to let others know how they’ll vote in the upcoming election.Rasmussen Reports: Trump voters likely to be more public this time
Something that bears watching in 2020 is how many of those secret Trump voters will emerge from the African-American community. Despite charges of racism from his critics, the president garnered 8% of the black vote in 2016, and what followed was an historically low black unemployment rate (before the coronavirus outbreak), record financial support for historically black colleges and universities, tax incentives for businesses in minority-based communities, and criminal justice reform.
Corey Lewandowski, a senior advisor to Trump’s 2020 campaign, thinks many of those clandestine voters reside among the African-American community. “That hidden voter … still absolutely exists,” Lewandowski told Just The News in a podcast interview for The Pod’s Honest Truth. “It's really going to come from some of those minority communities that for too long the Democrats have taken advantage of.”
Devinn Smart, an African-American in his early 20s, is the type of voter Lewandowski has in mind. "The Democratic Party has been manipulating the black community for over 50 years, and I was simply tired of it," Smart tells me during an interview outside the White House.
During the 2016 election, Smart liked what he was hearing from Trump, but kept it to himself. Soon after Trump became president, he publicly revealed his support for the president on Twitter. The hate ensued, but something else happened too: "I had over 100 messages on my Twitter of people saying, 'Devinn, I support the president, but I'm not as strong as you to come out and say it in public.’”
Ever since then, Smart has been convinced there are more African-Americans like him out there. “I know a lot of people who support President Donald Trump, but they won't say it,” he says. “It's secret. They're going to vote for him in 2020. I'm telling you they are."
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