Study Suggests Polls Fail to Capture Full Extent of Trump Support Due to ‘Shy’ Voter Phenomenon

August 29, 2020 Updated: August 31, 2020

A new study shows that nearly 12 percent of Republican voters fall into the “shy voter” category, meaning they would be reluctant to disclose to pollsters their true preferences for who they would vote for in the presidential election and supporting the view that polls may not capture the full extent of support for President Donald Trump.

CloudResearch, an online market research and data collection company, found that 11.7 percent of Republicans and 10.5 percent of independents said they would not report their true opinions about their preferred presidential candidate in polls conducted by telephone. This contrasts with 5.4 percent of Democrats who would do so, making them more than twice as likely as Republicans to disclose their true preferences and giving weight to arguments that polls may undercount support for the incumbent.

“The results could have implications in terms of the true accuracy of phone polls; if Republicans, Independents, and supporters of Donald Trump (regardless of party affiliation) are less likely to participate in polls or accurately disclose the candidate they support, that inherently generates biased poll outcomes,” wrote Leib Litman, Co-CEO and Chief Research Officer of CloudResearch, in a note explaining a key takeaway.

Litman said in the note that what drove the research was the lack of empirical evidence to support arguments in the current debate around whether there are segments of Trump backers who are reluctant to express their true opinions to pollsters. He explained the study was designed so as not “to fall into the same trap as other pollsters who tend to lead with preference declarations” and instead start by probing the level of comfort with sharing voter preferences truthfully in phone polls and incorporate those insights into presidential candidate preference conclusions.

The study also found that “[w]hen we broke the responses down based on current Trump vs Biden supporters, we found the following: 10.1 [percent] of Trump supporters said they were likely to be untruthful on phone surveys—double the number of Biden supporters (5.1 [percent]) reticent to share their true intentions,” Litman noted.

Biden and Trump
(L) Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks to reporters in Wilmington, Del., on Aug. 13, 2020. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images); (R) President Donald Trump before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on June 27, 2018. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

The findings reinforce the view that there may, indeed, be an underrepresentation of Trump supporters in polls and may go some ways to explaining Trump’s victory in 2016 under circumstances where polls conducted at the time widely projected his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton to win.

Trump and members of his campaign have repeatedly touted the phenomenon of “hidden” voters, which the president himself has referred to as the so-called “silent majority,” in arguing for the likelihood that he will surge ahead of Biden to secure his bid for reelection.

In a recent op-ed for The Epoch Times, former newspaper publisher, Conrad Black, discussed his research into recent presidential preference polls, which, for the most part, put Biden ahead of Trump.

“It isn’t surprising that in this political climate of extreme division and hostility between the president’s followers and his opponents, there is some reticence to be forthcoming,” he wrote, arguing that the “shy” voter phenomenon is significant enough to conclude that polls putting Biden ahead of Trump are inaccurate.

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