Kellyanne Conway has a difficult job. I’ve been in her position before – working for a candidate who is getting trucked in the polls late in the race and the press is constantly asking you why anyone should think your guy has a chance. You can’t just come right out and admit, “yeah, we’re getting killed” because that will only make the problem worse. So you hem and haw and you come up with some pat responses and grasp on to any straw you can find to avoid at least depressing your support further.
The particular straw that Kellyanne Conway has to grasp is the idea that online polls are more accurate than scientific polls. Now look, Kellyanne knows good and well this is not true but I don’t begrudge her lying about it because it’s all she has. What’s interesting to me is the reason she says the online polls are more accurate, which is kind of astounding:
“Donald Trump performs consistently better in online polling where a human being is not talking to another human being about what he or she may do in the election,” she argued. “It’s because it’s become socially desirable, if you’re a college educated person in the United States of America, to say that you’re against Donald Trump.”
So what she’s saying is, the online polls are more accurate because people are embarrassed to admit to another human being that they are actually planning to vote for Trump. And you know what? There’s probably some truth to that. At least, there should be some truth to that – if I were planning to vote for Trump I would sure as hell not say it out loud either.
But you know what, people aren’t socially embarrassed to admit voting for someone who has a chance of winning. I know liberal elitists found GWB and his voters terribly gauche but there was no massive sense of embarrassment about voting for him or admitting that you were going to vote for him because the country was more or less evenly split on the question, both times. There’s no shame in standing with a candidate who’s supported by half of America. Where people get ashamed is when a candidate is losing badly and they don’t want to be seen on the same side. People did start running away from having supported Bush in 2006 or so when he became an electoral albatross – which is exactly the phenomenon that drives voter embarrassment in the first place.
I think Conway is right that people are embarrassed to admit that they are voting for Trump; I think it’s ludicrous to use such a data point as evidence that he is somehow ahead.