As Joe Biden’s lead in the polls continues to expand both nationally and in battleground states, a new explanation for his surge is taking hold, especially among President Trump’s staunchest supporters. The theory holds that there is a large reserve army of secret Trump voters who are afraid, in this time of cancel culture, to state their preference, and that’s why the polls are so lopsided.
The theory is partly a hangover from 2016. It’s true that pollsters undercounted Trump voters in that election. But it’s a huge jump to think it was because SMAGA (Secret Make America Great Again) voters were refusing to state their preference. A postmortem by the polling industry went looking for significant numbers of SMAGAs and came up empty.
If people were afraid to tell the truth to pollsters, there should have been a gap between results from polls conducted by humans and machines. There wasn’t.
“Interviewer-administered polls did not underestimate Trump’s support more than self-administered [automated] and online surveys,” according to the Pew Research Center. Pew even tested the theory by dividing interviews between live interviewers and automated ones, finding “no significant difference by mode of interview on any of four questions asking directly about Trump.”