Is Trump correct in saying that there is a vast silent majority of voters in support of his re-election?
- On November 3rd, 1969, President Nixon used the phrase “silent majority” in a nationally televised address to garner support for his policies regarding the Vietnam War.
- President Trump first used the phrase on the campaign trail in 2015 and has since referenced it on social media with such recent tweets as, “THE VAST SILENT MAJORITY IS ALIVE AND WELL!!! We will win this Election big.”
- According to FiveThirtyEight.com, as of October 27th, Biden leads in “both national and state polls...and is favored to win the election.”
- The Hill describes America’s silent majority as “...people who have tremendous support for the policies enacted by the president and believe that he is fulfilling his pledge to make the country greater. That said, they do harbor some concerns about his controversial style.”
President Trump is justified in his belief that there is a vast silent majority in support of his re-election.
This belief is based on three logical assumptions, the first of which is that his 2016 supporters will vote for him again. This premise makes sense when we look at a recent Scott Rasmussen survey, which reports that 84% of Republicans approve or somewhat approve of the way President Trump is performing his job.
The second assumption is that most Americans want law and order, which can be easily supported by reviewing data from a recent YouGov survey that shows that roughly 55% of Americans oppose cutting police funding. Furthermore, there is no consensus among Democrats regarding this issue, as more Democrats oppose cutting police funding than support the idea.
The third and last hypothesis that reinforces President Trump's assertion about a silent majority supporting him for re-election is that in the current polarized political climate, Americans are scared to voice their support for the President. As evidence, the Cato Institute recently reported that 77% of conservative and strongly conservative Americans say they agree with the statement, 'The political climate these days prevents me from saying things I believe because others might find them offensive.' The report also revealed that 32% of Americans worry that their political views could jeopardize their employment. Case in point, Goya foods CEO and successful son of Spanish immigrants, Robert Unanue voiced support for the President and has faced tremendous backlash and boycotts.
For these reasons, it's clear that President Trump is correct in thinking that many Americans will share their support for him in the voting booth in November.
Trump may be right that some people are willing to vote for him in secret while disavowing him in public. This supposed 'shy Trump voter' effect may have helped explain the polls' inaccuracy in 2016, as respondents tend to underreport opinions that reflect poorly on them. However, this phenomenon did not produce anything close to a majority popular-vote win in 2016.
Four years ago, Trump won with only 46% of the popular vote compared to Clinton's 48%, giving her a plurality of all votes. The number of voters who reported voting for him was 45%, compared to 48% for Clinton, which is hardly a massive disparity. Since only 58% of eligible voters voted in 2016, Trump was elected by only about a quarter of the American electorate.
Furthermore, Trump's favorability is lower than at any point during his presidency--especially in the wake of the tens of thousands of Americans condemned to die preventable deaths by COVID-19 due to his delayed actions. It's no surprise that the polling gap between him and Biden is consistently wider than at almost any point during the 2016 general election. Another seeming come-from-behind victory is extremely unlikely, as suburban voters, whose support for Trump in 2016 helped tip the election, now support Biden by a clear margin.
The phrase 'silent majority' is a blatant attempt to recapture Nixon's success in turning Americans against protests for racial equality in 1968 and building the modern Republican coalition of white reactionaries. But amid a global pandemic, an urgent climate crisis, and a historic movement for racial justice, Americans appear increasingly disgusted by our incompetent leadership.