Shy Trump Voter Depressing His Poll Numbers? Research Finds Little Evidence

Analysis by Mark Schulman, SSRS Senior Research Consultant  |  August 7, 2020

June’s CNN/SSRS national poll was one of the first to report that the summer political grounds were shifting, with Democratic presumptive candidate Joe Biden opening a 14-point lead over President Donald Trump among registered voters. Other polling organizations were soon to follow, also reporting double-digit or near double-digit margins.

Of course, events play a role, and polls are snapshots in time. These recent polls followed protests that erupted after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. Covid 19 cases were also spiking up again, with the economy continuing to suffer. In addition to the President’s slipping horse race numbers, the CNN/SSRS poll also found that the President’s approval rating, at 38%, had fallen to its lowest point since January 2019.

Political pendulums can swing back forth quickly and so can polls. But one issue that has surfaced in the news media after some state polling failures in 2016 is the claim of the “shy Trump voter.” This is the assertion by some pundits and politicians that polls undercount Trump’s support because “shy” Trump voters mislead pollsters about their vote intent or feel intimidated to admit that they are supporting Trump.

For example, after the spate of earlier polls found that the President’s support was fading, veteran GOP pollster Neil Newhouse opined, “I’m still convinced there is a shy Trump supporter, a hidden Trump vote. I’m convinced that number is at least 2 to 3 points.” Other pundits pointed to anecdotal evidence that a few people said they lied to reporters. Therefore, if true, Trump’s support is broader than the polls report.