How 'The Shy Republican' Could Be Masking a Landslide

At time of writing, polls show the race for the presidency to be tight.  General consensus seems to be that whoever wins, the 2012 election will be won by a bat squeak.

Yet to many, especially those of us on the right, it seems peculiar that Obama is still remotely in the race.  With high unemployment, minimal GDP growth, a 100% increase in food stamp costs, and out-of-control spending, many conservatives are asking how just under half of the American population can possibly want more of the same.

While it is not possible now to get into the many reasons certain people will vote Democrat in November, I propose that all polls, not just left-leaning polls, may be being strongly misled by their data, and Romney/Ryan may actually have a huge lead not seen in polls.

It is my contention that this is due to a mix of the infamous Bradley effect and what is known in Britain as "the Shy Tory Factor," with both coming together to exaggerate just how popular Obama is in America.

The Bradley effect is a much-debated polling distortion that is easy to demonstrate but difficult to prove.  The idea that when a black or minority candidate is on the ticket against a white candidate, certain voters may lie under pressure from a pollster, worried about being seen as a racist for choosing the white candidate over the minority, sounds highly plausible.  The consequence, should the Bradley effect be in play, would be a skewed poll indicating that the minority candidate is in better political shape than his or her opponent.

Some argued that while it may have been a factor in the past, it was not a factor in the 2008 election, when Barack Obama was elected convincingly, just as polls predicted.

Yet this dismissal may be premature.  A closer look at the statistics shows that predictions for how much of the white vote Obama would win were strongly exaggerated by polling companies.  For instance, a CBS poll near election day predicted that McCain would win the white vote by a mere 3%, and on election day the Republican actually brought in 12% more of the vote than the Democrat.  Had it not been for an unusually high turnout among blacks and minorities, Obama's landslide would have been a lot closer.

Therefore, there is no reason why we cannot expect at least a similar Bradley effect this year.  In fact, it could possibly be even stronger -- after all, the liberal smear that those who oppose Obama are racist is one that really took off since Obama took office, specifically with the rise of the Tea Party.  This could serve only to magnify the Bradley effect, as some white voters may feel ashamed of being seen as sympathetic to a "racist" organization.

Yet there is another factor that, mixed with Bradley, could radically distort the numbers -- and it is a concept not known in America, but known very well in the United Kingdom.  Called "The Shy Tory Effect," it could be the little-known variable that could be hiding a landslide for Mitt Romney.

The concept was coined after the British general election of 1992, the result of which stunned the pollsters, the politicians, and the media.  After 13 years in office, the ruling Conservative Party was Thatcher-less and divided.  Led by their extreme Welsh socialist leader Neil Kinnock (the same Neil Kinnock whose speeches Joe Biden had already ripped off), the left-wing Labour Party were firmly ahead in the polls.  Britain was drifting toward a socialist authoritarianism that they hadn't experienced since the 1970s.

As election day approached, Labour held a chunky lead, causing Kinnock to yell giddily into the microphone in his final speech to the Party before election day, "We're all right, we're all right" repeatedly, to rapturous applause.  

It seemed Labour had it in the bag.  The only exception was the cool and collected Tory prime minister, John Major, whose internal polling suggested that things were not as they seemed.

As the results came in on election night, Labour started off celebrating.  However, by 10 o'clock, the BBC's exit poll predicted that Labour might not win, but there would be a hung parliament, which would still probably cause Kinnock to be prime minister of a coalition. 

Yet the final result was a total shock -- a comfortable win for the Tories, losing a few seats, but picking up the highest total number of votes for any political party since 1951.  Left-wing pundits couldn't explain what had happened.

The explanation for the gap between polls and reality was eventually named "The Shy Tory Factor."  Since the ascension of Thatcher to Downing Street in 1979, the Tories had been presented as a nasty, evil party that wanted to destroy communities in their war against the miners, gut health care, and take money from the poor to give to the rich via the poll tax [i].  Does this sound familiar to any Americans at all?

While the policies of the Conservative Party were popular, the media and the screeching left had helped turn the Tory brand into a toxic one that many people didn't want to be associated with in spite of their secret support.  Therefore, when polled, the shy Tories answered Labour, but voted Conservative.

Although this happened twenty years ago and in a different country, I propose that the important characteristics that make up the Shy Tory Factor are present in America in 2012.  According to the mainstream media, the Republicans want to deny people health care, throw Granny off a cliff, and generally reduce the country to a Dickensian nightmare when the rich get richer, and do so by pulling bread out of the mouths of the hungry.  Mixed with the aforementioned labeling of Republicans and Tea Partiers as racist, this is quite a suppressive combination.

While this blend of the Bradley effect and Shy Tory Factor may not affect voters in red states, in purple states it is not difficult to see why those intending to vote Republican may not wish to publicly identify as so, even to a pollster promising anonymity, in fear of being judged as the new Jim Crow.

The other note worth mentioning is that, in the Shy Tory Factor, the only person who knew of its existence before the election was the leader, whose internal polling is usually more accurate.  Could this be why Obama's team seems to have gone into panic in recent weeks?  Do they know something the polling companies don't?

The Bradley effect has been influential, if at all, only by a few overall percentage points.  But if it is wrapped up with an American version of the much more powerful "Shy Tory Factor," we conservatives may be in for a treat in the form of a massive landslide come the first Tuesday in November.

Adam Shaw is a British conservative writer based in New York.  His blog is The Anglo-American Debate.  Follow him on Twitter: @ACShaw

[i] C Berlinski, There is No Alternative: Why Margaret Thatcher Matters.  Basic Books, 2008