Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Closet Republicans 

Roger Simon has an interesting post on Bush not being down and out in Beverly Hills:
"As most have heard, the current estimates of Jewish support for Bush in the election were 25%, up from 19% in 2000. This may be a serious underestimate. The following is only preliminary (more stats are being broken down) but it comes from ... of all places... BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - perhaps the most Jewish incorporated city in the state and also the home of many of Hollywood's supposedly left/liberal personalities (as well as numerous Iranian Jews who would tilt to Bush). Bush's support in Beverly Hills was up 22 percentage points (more than double) from 2000. Caveat: these stats are still unofficial but they are obviously very significant."
The unofficial figures that Roger quotes put Bush at over 42% of the vote in the Hills.

This is an interesting problem for pollsters and political junkies: opinion polls - both the pre-election one, as well as the exit ones - tend to underestimate the right-wing vote. Quite simply, there are closet Republicans (and in Australia, closet Liberals) who tell the pollsters one thing and then in the privacy of the polling booth do another. We're not talking about large numbers here - 1, maybe 2 per cent of the population - but considering how close many of the elections can be (I'm talking more about individual districts or states, rather than whole nations), such willful misinformation by those polled can make the numbers seriously out of whack.

Why do we have closet Republicans? The climate of opinion generated by large sections of the mainstream media, the kommentariat, the academic world, and the entertainment industry quite simply makes some people reluctant to admit they vote Republican. While in some places such admission can damage your reputation and career (Hollywood, universities), many others from less exalted walks of life nevertheless also feel uncomfortable telling the pollster that, yes, I am voting for the party of jingoistic, bigoted, homophobic morons.

I think this phenomenon tends to be even more pronounced among some minority groups in which the common wisdom sees voting for anyone else but the Democrats as tantamount to treason. Imagine being an African-American voting for Bush - you're an Uncle Tom selling your soul to racist good ol' boys. Or a homosexual - how can you support all those Bible-thumping bigots and homophobes? Or indeed a Jew - which, circularly brings me to the point made by Roger Simon. Of course many African-Americans, Jews and gays and lesbians do vote Republican - and many among them couldn't care less what others think of their choice. But I can imagine that the peer pressure would be too much to bear for many others who therefore choose to keep their voting to themselves - it is a secret ballot after all, isn't it?

Well, just a thought to keep in mind when you're reading the polls in the future.


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