We’ll be arguing about whether “shy” Trump voters exist this year right up until the first returns on election night. Here’s another data point for the pile until then.
Morning Consult conducted a fascinating little experiment to try to test whether some voters secretly support him but feel embarrassed about confessing that to a human being over the phone. They divided their sample into two groups randomly; half the people involved were interviewed by a person and the other half took the survey on a computer. The thinking, obviously, is that you’re more likely to confess your true opinion to a machine than you are to a live pollster, for fear that he or she might judge you.
But they didn’t stop there. Instead of just polling Trump vs. Biden, they polled about other “sensitive” subjects — like racial discrimination — which they thought people might have a “shy” approach to as well. Would they see the same numbers during live interviews on, say, a question about whether black Americans face prejudice as they’d see when that question was asked by a computer? It’d be interesting to know if there was or wasn’t a “shy” Trump effect on the presidential question, but it’d be really interesting to know if there were or weren’t similar effects on other topics. If there were no difference on any question between the live-interview and online surveys, we might conclude that the “shy” effect in polling — a.k.a. social desirability bias — is overstated altogether.