A word of caution to those Democrats, particularly those supporting Hillary Clinton, openly rooting for Donald Trump to win the Republican presidential nomination. Yes, his campaign has been six months of ugly, gasp-worthy rhetoric that should make the Republican Party a no-go zone for a majority of the American electorate on Election Day 2016. But folks like it. And that is reason to worry.
What if radio talk show host Michael Smerconish was right? What if Trump’s numbers are really higher than the polls show because folks are lying to pollsters? What if a Trump vs. Clinton race isn’t a slam dunk for the latter as everyone thinks? Thanks to a study conducted by Kyle Dropp, co-founder and executive director of polling and data science at Morning Consult, we have the frightening answer. Smerconish was right!
Dropp interviewed 2,397 registered Republicans and GOP-leaning independents. All the participants started taking part in the survey online. Then things got interesting. While a third of them did the entire survey online, one third answered questions asked by a live person on the phone and the remaining third finished the poll with an automated voice. The result?
“The study finds that Trump performs about 6 percentage points better online (38 percent) than via live telephone interviewing (32 percent),” writes Dropp , “and that his advantage online is driven by adults with higher levels of education.” That means Trump’s increased support is coming from better educated and wealthier people who appear to be embarrassed to have another living soul know they support Trump. Dropp explains that this is due “in part to ‘social desirability bias,’ in which respondents answer questions in a manner they believe will be viewed favorably by others.”
In other words, people are more inclined not to tell the truth to a pollster if they believe it will make them look bad. This has become known as the Bradley Effect. Tom Bradley was the African-American mayor of Los Angeles who ran for governor of California in 1982. He was leading in the polls right up to Election Day, but lost narrowly once actual ballots were counted. Then, folks didn’t want to be viewed as racist. Now, folks appear to not want to be viewed as supporting a racist.
The caution here is that Trump’s support is deeper than we want to admit. And if we’re really being honest, we know his support doesn’t just reside within the Republican Party. Thus, Trump’s “I really don’t give a damn” mien could prove dangerous to a Clinton campaign that prizes control.
No, I do not think Trump will move into the Oval Office. This nation elects presidents of the United States whose campaigns are big tents that reach out to as many voters, different people, as possible. Trump’s campaign is a wall. But there are more people on his side of it than we’d like to admit.
The Washington Post
Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.