An interesting column appeared in the Washington Examiner yesterday, written by their Chief Political Correspondent, Byron York. If his conclusions are correct, and they certainly appear to be, Trump will win tomorrow because of the ‘shy’ Trump voters in the swing states. The column:
>>>BUTLER, Pennsylvania — A man who came to President Trump’s giant rally at a local airport Saturday night said he knew someone who planned to vote for Trump but felt too intimidated to say so publicly. I asked who it was. It was his mother, he answered, but she would kill him if she found out that he told anyone.
“There are a lot of people who are too afraid to put up a sign [for Trump],” he said, explaining that his neighborhood, more than an hour away, was mixed between Trump and Biden voters, and black and white voters. During the protests that followed the death of George Floyd, he said, “I pulled the Trump magnet off my Jeep. Everybody took their signs down. People don’t want to be a target.”
At some pro-Trump events around Pennsylvania in the last week — the president’s event, a big road rally that stretched over three states, a small event for Trump volunteers and activists featuring Ivanka Trump, and in other conversations — a large number of people who openly support Trump said they knew someone personally who would vote for the president but would not publicly acknowledge doing so.
They pointed to the most difficult question of the campaign — how to measure the true number of people who will vote for the president? The phenomenon of so-called shy Trump voters is without any doubt real, but how big is it?
At the Trump events, it’s big, if mostly unspoken. At the Butler rally, Kori, from Freeport, said her sister and her father did not vote for Trump in 2016 but plan to vote for him this time. Dana, from Lower Burrell, said she knew people involved in the oil and gas industry who did not vote at all in 2016 but who plan to vote for Trump now. “Biden will shut us all down,” she said. “We’ll be out of work.” Van, from Canonsburg, was one of them. Also in the oil and gas business, he said he did not vote for 25 years. Now, after a few years of oil and gas prosperity, he said he will definitely vote for the president.
At the Ivanka Trump event — held in the middle of rolling farmland on a chilly afternoon — Barb, from Baden, Pennsylvania, said that back in 2016, “I didn’t even know my neighbors were Trump supporters until election night.” Shannon, who identified herself only as a Pennsylvania voter, said, “You don’t tell everyone you know that you support Trump. Seventy-five percent of the people I work with are against Trump. And it’s worse now [than in 2016]. A lot of people are afraid to speak up.” Added Laura, of Daisytown, “There are people who are fearful of losing their jobs if they support Trump.”
At the road rally, nearly everyone said they knew someone who is too fearful, or intimidated, or just too private, to say they will vote for Trump. “I know people in their 50s who haven’t voted in their entire lives, and they’re going to vote for Trump,” said Patrick, from Beaver County. Bradley, from Monroeville, said he not only knew such people, but he was close to them. “I’ve got family who have never voted,” he said.
Sam DeMarco is chairman of the Republican Committee of Allegheny County and also an elected Allegheny County councilman at large. Allegheny County, which includes Democratic Pittsburgh, went for Hillary Clinton with 56.5% of the vote in 2016 to Trump’s 40%. In an interview Sunday, DeMarco said shy Trump voters “most definitely exist” in his county. Some are in the upper-middle class suburbs where Trump supporters just don’t want to deal with the social aspects of neighbors asking, “How can you vote for this guy?” But others are in traditional Democratic strongholds.
“I’m an elected official,” DeMarco said. “I have had at least a dozen Democratic elected officials tell me that they are voting for Trump. They say they don’t like where their party has gone, so far to the left, but as Democratic elected officials they can’t come out and say it.”
“Look at the unions,” DeMarco continued. “When they endorse, they apply a lot of pressure on their guys to fall in line and support the candidate. That’s not happening now.” He mentioned a recent large oil and gas industry conference that included some local union leaders. “They said they’ve given up on trying to get their guys to vote Biden,” DeMarco recalled. “I can’t guess at the number, but if it’s in law enforcement, the building and trade unions, and oil and gas, these folks are voting Trump.”
Westmoreland County, bordering Allegheny on the east, is far more Republican; Trump won there in 2016 by 64% to Clinton’s 33%. It’s much more common for people to openly display their intention to vote for Trump. Still, Bill Bretz, chairman of the Westmoreland County Republican Committee, said in a text exchange, “There is definitely a ‘shy’ voter presence in the county. Although outward expressions of support such as yard signs, MAGA hats, and attendance at rallies are abundant, there is distrust toward the media in general and pollsters in particular, in confiding the intended use of their secret ballot to an anonymous caller.”
Many Democrats and some in the polling business do not believe in the idea of ‘shy’ Trump voters. The FiveThirtyEight podcast recently headlined an episode, “There Just Isn’t Good Evidence That ‘Shy’ Trump Voters Exist.” Some pollsters are open to the possibility that such voters do exist but don’t think they make much difference in the overall race.
But some Republican pollsters at an independent pro-Trump group have been trying to dig a little deeper. “We learned a year and a half ago in focus groups that the shy Trump voters are real,” one pollster told me. “But trying to quantify it was difficult.”
In recent Pennsylvania polling, they tried this: They asked voters whether they would “likely” or “definitely” vote for Trump or Biden. Later in the survey, they asked voters if they knew anyone who is likely to vote for Trump but too embarrassed to admit it. Then, for the ones who answered yes, they asked, “And would that be you?” If the answer was yes, they checked back to see what that person had said about their intention to vote; if they said they would “definitely” vote for Trump, they were not counted on the grounds that a voter who says he will “definitely” vote for Trump is clearly not a shy Trump voter. So the ones who remained, about 2.5% to 3% of voters in Pennsylvania, qualified as possible shy Trump voters. (People who said they knew other people who were ‘shy’ voters were not counted on the grounds that it was hard to evaluate their claim.)
The 2.5-to 3.0-percentage point range, the pollster said, was roughly similar in other swing states.
The bottom line is that finding voters who plan to vote for Trump but won’t say so is a difficult, imprecise business. Still, a lot of Republicans on the ground in Pennsylvania believe very strongly that it is happening, and that it could be more prevalent than the polls suggest. In some circles back in 2016, there was social ostracism directed toward those who voted for Trump, and some Trump voters decided they just didn’t want the hassle that would result from announcing their intention. Some worried about their jobs. And many associated polls with the media, which they believe — not without reason — is overwhelmingly anti-Trump. So why be open about supporting Trump?
Now, things are arguably worse. There have been four years of anti-Trump media coverage. The anger that some voters feel when the name Trump is mentioned has only grown. And this year, there have been protests, and in some cases, actual violence in a number of cities, including some in Pennsylvania, directed at Trump. There is all the more reason for a person who has never voted before now, or who doesn’t talk politics with friends, to stay quiet about his or her intention to cast a vote for the president.
So it is not a surprise to hear so many Pennsylvanians say they know someone who plans to vote for Trump but doesn’t want to talk about it. It is not a surprise to hear that some centrist Democratic officials, dismayed at their party’s turn left, plan to vote for Trump, too. In this nation of the secret ballot, there are plenty of reasons some people don’t announce their vote. That applies perhaps more than ever in 2020.<<<