Will there be a shy Hillary voter effect?

In recent past, highly unpopular far-right candidates have underperformed pre-election opinion polls

DISCLAIMER: I will be working as an election judge (in Illinois, “election judge” is the official term for a poll worker) in Vermilion County, Illinois in the November 8, 2016 general election. This article is my political punditry, not part of election judge duties in any way. Elections in Illinois are secret ballot elections, and my responsibility as an election judge is to ensure that those who are eligible to vote, regardless of the ideology of the voter, is able to exercise their legal right to vote for the candidate(s) of their choice.

For all of the signs at Donald Trump rallies proudly claiming that “the silent majority” is backing Trump, there might be a different kind of silent majority on November 8: a silent majority voting for Hillary Clinton.

Nate Silver alluded to the possibility of a shy Hillary voter effect on Twitter a couple of days ago:

While Anthony Weiner is not ideologically right-wing, the second of three Weiner sexting scandals took place during his failed New York City mayoral bid, so that’s apparently why Silver decided to lump Weiner in with a group of right-wing extremists. Trump’s presidential campaign this year has drawn comparisons to failed Republican U.S. Senate campaigns like those of Todd Akin (Missouri 2012), Sharron Angle (Nevada 2010), Ken Buck (Colorado 2010), and Richard Mourdock (Indiana 2012), as Trump is known for making all sorts of controversial statements and offending a large segment of the American electorate.

There are a number of reasons why Hillary may get a higher than expected national popular vote and/or electoral vote (the latter of which officially determines who is elected president) total than pre-election opinion polling at the national and state levels currently suggest. I’ll explain three of them in this post.

1) Republicans who intend to vote for Hillary may not tell a pollster they support Hillary

One reason why there may be a shy Hillary voter effect is that there may be some soft-partisan Republicans who intend to vote for Hillary that are not willing to tell a pollster that they intend to vote for Hillary for any number of reasons. One plausible reason is that such a voter may not want staunchly Republican family and/or friends to find out that they support a Democratic candidate for public office who supports women’s rights, raising taxes on the wealthy, making public college free for those from poor and middle-class households, and some other progressive causes.

2) Pollsters may be undersampling very liberal voters, and very liberal voters who intend to vote for Hillary may not be willing to tell a pollster that they support Hillary

Particularly regarding pollsters that only reach voters who use landline phones, very liberal voters, who are to the ideological left of Hillary, are often undersampled in pre-election opinion polling for a number of reasons, such as not having a landline phone or not meeting a particular pollster’s “likely voter” criteria. Furthermore, very liberal voters formed the core of support for the failed Bernie Sanders bid for the Democratic nomination, and many of them may intend to vote for Hillary, who is hawkish on foreign policy and is viewed as not strongly supportive of regulating the finance industry, but are unwilling to tell a pollster that.

3) Republican men, are, in some cases, misrepresenting the political views of female relatives

Another reason why there may be a shy Hillary voter effect is a form old-fashioned Republican misogyny. In some cases, Republican men will often claim to a Democratic candidate for public office (or a canvasser for a Democratic campaign) that their wives and/or other female relatives have no intention of voting for a Democratic candidate, when, in reality, the female relative(s) are actually voting for at least one Democratic candidate on the ballot. Claire Celsi, a Democratic Iowa House of Representatives candidate (District 42, which includes southwestern Polk County and the northwestern corner of Warren County), encountered an example of a male Republican voter misrepresenting the political views of his wife while canvassing her district:

Although pre-election opinion pollsters usually make an attempt to model the expected electorate in regards to gender (in recent presidential elections, women have been a narrow majority of voters nationally), in households with a strongly Republican male spouse and a female spouse that is a Democrat or otherwise not strongly Republican, it may be more likely for the male Republican to answer a phone call for a pollster, thus potentially leading to Republicans being oversampled by the pollster.


For a multitude of reasons, it is certainly very possible that Hillary Clinton may outperform pre-election opinion polling that currently shows her on a likely path to victory. Furthermore, downballot Democratic candidates may also outperform expectations due to the same factors.