I grew up in a conservative social circle, and I talk weekly with friends and family who voted for Mr. Trump. His approval rating has come in consistently around 40 percent, which leads many to conclude that Americans who like him support him staunchly. But I’ve come to believe that some people who publicly support the president don’t fully want him to win. They have to put up a fight for their sense of dignity. But even those who definitely plan to vote for him again privately admit ambivalence or even a wish that he could be magically swept out of the White House without a straightforward ballot-box defeat.
Commentators focus on a category they call “shy Trump voters.” These are voters who supposedly support Mr. Trump but won’t acknowledge it publicly. But I think there’s another category developing under the radar: “Shy Trump doubters.”
These are public Trump fans who, in private, acknowledge that his tweets are humiliating, his crowing about his victories is tasteless, his policy flip-flops are dispiriting and some of his statements are hurtful and damaging. They won’t say they’re tired of him to a pollster. It can be as embarrassing to admit you liked Mr. Trump and now fear him as it was to admit you were attracted to him in the first place. Mr. Trump’s critics portray his supporters as fools, and to say you only now realized he has problems seems to concede the point.