The biggest political news is that Donald Trump may be doing even better than polls have suggested. Yikes.
Apparently, many Trump supporters have been fibbing to pollsters, saying they’re for someone else when they really intend to vote for The Donald. And those fudging the most are college-educated voters because, it seems, they’re too embarrassed to admit their preference. As well they should be. I’m kidding. Sort of.
Imagine it this way: Guy on the phone asks whom you prefer for president. You can say, I really like the bragging, eye-rolling, profane, nativist, misogynist, policy-free billionaire-birther “jerk” (Jeb Bush’s word). Or, you can select a more-sensible candidate – and keep your Trump crush to yourself.
Thanks to this treasonous gap – OK, this interesting anomaly – these recent findings by the polling group Morning Consult could shake things up a bit. Notably, Trump’s predicted ceiling of 35 percent to 40 percent, the figure many prognosticators have used to argue against Trump’s becoming the Republican nominee, may be much higher – and his nomination, therefore, more likely.
Morning Consult revealed this propensity to prevaricate, which was unique to Trump, by posing the which-do-you-prefer question to registered Republicans and independents who lean Republican. The polling was done by three means – a live person on the phone, an automated call, and an online survey. Turns out, people are more honest online than when speaking to another person, as any Twitter follower knows.
In the live surveys, just 32 percent chose Trump compared with 38 percent who picked him in the online poll. Among college-educated voters, the gap was even wider – nearly 10 percentage points. This phenomenon has previously been described as “social desirability bias,” meaning that people will say what they think the pollster wants to hear in order to be liked.
A reverse Bradley Effect, if you will.
Bradley, you'll recall, was former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, an African-American who ran unsuccessfully for California governor in 1982 and 1986. His 1982 defeat surprised pollsters who had predicted an easy win based on polling. Apparently, many people were fearful of being considered racist and falsely said that they were going to vote for him.
Now we have people not saying they'll vote for Trump lest the telephone surveyor think they’re out of their minds. But the question remains: Why do people like Trump even knowing that they probably shouldn’t? Morning Consult’s revelations got me thinking and, by Jove, I think I’ve got it: Donald Trump is White Man’s last stand.
Hold your donkeys. This doesn’t mean that Trump supporters are racist, xenophobic, nativist, anti-immigrant – or ignorant. It isn’t only that our nation’s approach to immigration defies law and logic – or even that whites will soon become a minority, though this is no small thing in the identity equation. Nor, finally, is it because Trump is the precise opposite of Barack Obama, though this surely helps.
No, I think it’s more than embarrassment that prevents people, especially college-educated folks, from confessing to Trumpism. I suspect they know it’s wrong to want such a person as president of the United States. To choose Trump requires a conscious suspension of judgment in exchange for the passing pleasure of hearing one’s buried feelings expressed.
Based on my research and observations in writing “Save the Males,” conservative white guys aren’t so much trying to hold on to power and privilege as much as they’re trying to find their footing in a culture they feel devalues and disrespects them. They’re tired of hearing that they’re the source of all problems. They’re sick of being the single demographic about which one can say anything at all and suffer only the annoyance of deafening applause.
Into this world gone awry drops Trump, the rich and powerful Wizard of Fifth Avenue, the deal-making champ with plush planes, a Palm Beach palace and a pin-up girl for a wife. His politically incorrect shtick may often be pure meanness masquerading as truth, but to those who’ve watched the country of their childhood reshaped into something unfamiliar, it sounds like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing Handel’s “Messiah.”
Trump is That Guy. He promises to return America to its greatness, in English, while defiantly shouting “Merrrr-ry Christmas!” and waving from the mistletoe-draped portal of his jet, his other arm encircling the wasp-waisted babe every man secretly wishes were his.
Hell yes, I’m voting for that, thinks White Guy to himself as he says to the pollster: “Ted Cruz.” Because as far as he’s concerned, Donald Trump is the American Dream, and his minions want that back, too.
Kathleen Parker, a columnist for The Washington Post Writers Group, may be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.