Geoffrey Skelley:

If “shy” Trump voters were a thing, for example, you might expect a difference in how respondents reply to surveys conducted via telephone versus those anonymously submitted online — the idea being that social desirability bias is less likely to kick in when a respondent is dealing with a faceless computer instead of a real person. However, as Morning Consult’s new 2,400-respondent study shows, Trump performed about the same against Joe Biden, regardless of whether the pollster interviewed respondents by phone or online.

Note that this point holds only if people believe that “surveys … anonymously submitted online” actually remain anonymous. And I know a number of people who don’t believe that — yes, people who plan to vote for Trump but who will only say so to those whom they wholly trust, because they certainly do not trust the anonymity of online surveys and are terrified at the social consequences if their support for Orange Man becomes known. I couldn’t tell you how many of them there are around the country; maybe not a statistically significant number. But I know some. 

I’ve heard Nate Silver make a version of this claim also, usually pointing to the apparent lack of such Shy Trump Voters in 2016. But the intensity of hatred for Trump has ramped up since then, so I’m not convinced that 2016 is a reliable guide. You can see why anyone working for FiveThirtyEight would be skeptical of the existence of STVs: If people don’t trust anonymous polls and either avoid them or lie, then the FiveThirtyEight model is in trouble. But it’s noteworthy that reluctance to believe in STVs leads Silver et al. to neglect what is after all a pretty obvious question about anonymous polling and surveying. 

September 25, 2020

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