Will America See The “Shy Trump Effect”?

For people living in the United Kingdom, where an election season can start and finish in as little as one month, it must be bewildering to witness the excruciatingly eternal US presidential election process. Indeed, it’s been a jaw-dropping 19 months since Texas Senator Ted Cruz became the first major party candidate to formally declare his ambition to win the White House.  But as of today, we are now, finally, blessedly, a mere two weeks from ending the long national nightmare that has embarrassed us before the world with sordid tales of Republican nominee Donald Trump’s bigotry, philandering, hypocrisy, compulsive lying, and more recently, multiple accusations of sexual assault.

For America’s millions of LGBT citizens, the prospect of a Trump presidency has been nothing less than horrifying. While right wing gay groups such as the Log Cabin Republicans laughably claim that Trump is the “most pro-LGBT candidate in American history,” their hero happily headlines the conventions of anti-LGBT hate groups and appears on the shows of raving fringe lunatics who claim that homosexuals are literally possessed by Satan. Trump has vowed to stack the US Supreme Court with “severely conservative” justices that would surely repeal 2015’s ruling for same-sex marriage. He has promised to vigorously support the so-called First Amendment Defense Act, which would legalize business discrimination against LGBT citizens on the basis of religion. And one of Trump’s favorite promises is to undo President Obama’s executive orders, several of which provide protections to LGBT Americans in areas such as workplace discrimination. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, it should go without saying, has long given full-throated support to virtually every LGBT rights issue.

The most recent polls, fortunately, show that Trump’s chances have been eroding in recent weeks, mostly due to those sexual assault accusations and his unprecedented declaration that he’ll only accept the result of the election “if I win.” America’s extremist faction, which has burbled up through the sewers of social media, continues to point to Britain’s Brexit vote, sneeringly pointing out that some major UK pollsters showed the Remain side as winning right up until the last few days. But perhaps more worrying is what election watchers call the “Bradley Effect” – a phenomenon named for former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, who lost the California gubernatorial race in 1982 despite having a comfortable lead in the polls on election day. Some voters, goes the Bradley Effect theory, only told pollsters that they were supporting him because they felt it was “politically correct” to pretend to support a black candidate. Britain, for its part, has twice seen similar results that pollsters there have dubbed the “Shy Tory Factor,” most recently in the 2015 election which resulted in a Conservative majority.

So will America experience a “Shy Trump Effect”? Are there enough voters ashamed of Trump’s relentless lying and his misogynistic braggadocio to swing the election in states where they have deceived the pollsters? Some right wing pundits and the readers of extremist websites like Breitbart appear to be counting on it. As of today, highly reputed forecaster Nate Silver places Trump’s odds at winning at around 15%. But America uses a curious system called the Electoral College in which presidents are elected not by popular vote nationwide, but by winning representative electoral votes on the state level. With polls in some “battleground” states swinging between Trump and Clinton on a weekly basis and with the national polling margin being as little as 5%, the Shy Trump Effect might be worth worrying about.

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