Among the interesting items of the U. K. elections last week was how the pollsters got it all wrong. They has us (me included) thinking that there was no way the Conservatives would win a majority of seats without a majority. It even seemed Labour and SNP combined might have a shot at a coalition.
Then as voting closed, exit polls surprised by indicating the Conservatives would actually get much closer to a majority then previously thought. The talk among many was that those exit polls could not possibly be right.
They weren’t - the Conservatives actually won a majority of seats by a comfortable margin.
So what happened? And why were the pollsters so wrong? Some think millions of “Shy Tories” turned out to stop a Labour-SNP government, and I suspect they were right.
My American friends especially might be asking, “What is a Shy Tory?” A Shy Tory is one who votes Tory, but is reluctant to tell you about it ahead of time. And they have made pollsters look foolish before:
Shy Tory Factor is a name given by British opinion polling companies to a phenomenon observed by psephologists in the 1990s, where the share of the vote won by the Conservative Party (known as the 'Tories') in elections was substantially higher than the proportion of people in opinion polls who said they would vote for the party.
In the 1992 general election, the final opinion polls gave the Conservatives between 38% and 39% of the vote, about 1% behind the Labour Party – suggesting that the election would produce a hung parliament or a narrow Labour majority and end 13 years of Tory rule. In the final results, the Conservatives had a lead of 7.6% over Labour and won their fourth successive general election, though they now had a 21-seat majority compared to the 102-seat majority they had gained in the election five years previously. As a result of this failure to 'predict' the result, the Market Research Society held an inquiry into the reasons why the polls had been so much at variance with actual public opinion. The report found that 2% of the 8.5% error could be explained by Conservative supporters refusing to disclose their voting intentions; it cited as evidence the fact that exit polls on election day also underestimated the Conservative lead.
And history has at least echoed with even exit polls underestimating Tory strength this past Thursday.
I think two factors made the army of Shy Tories larger than usual this time around:
1. Labour, led by “Red Ed” Miliband, has lurched to the Left in recent years and really did not hide it. Further, their likely would-be coalition partner, the Scottish National Party, is even further Left and doesn’t like the English all that much to boot. That pushed a lot of middle England into running to the Tories.
2. There is at least a segment of the UK Left that has made being an open Conservative problematic. There is not only the toxicity of the Left in social media, but there are a number of professions and occupations in which having open Tory tendencies is not good for one’s career and workplace comity. (Yes, the phenomenon of the Toxic Left is probably worse in the U. S. But I will get to that.) Understandably, this has made many Tories that much more shy. And it has also surely repelled people from Labour, increasing the number of Shy Tories.
I am normally not the most optimistic man in the world. But I think alert readers can already see where I am going. Here in the U. S., the Democrat Party has lurched to the Left in recent years. In the past, Democrats, with the help of the “Mainstream” News Media, would try to hide their Leftism from the electorate, and they may again in the Fall of 2016. But so far Hillary at least is not. (Not to mention Obama is not now that he does not have another election.) She herself is moving to the Left on immigration, class warfare, opposition to freedom of religion, etc. (Sorry, I lack time to get into specifics for now.) Both Obama and Hillary have made it that much more difficult for middle of the road people to find excuses to vote Democrat.
Further, the Toxic Left here in the U. S. (And those with any involvement in social media or certain occupations will know what I am talking about.) are both driving people away from the Democrats and at the same time making people reluctant to say they might be such BIGOTS, RACISTS, and SEXISTS as to actually vote Republican. I would guess this factor is even stronger in the U. S. than in the U. K. We are just not as nice as the English, you know.
Thus it would not surprise me that we see a big Shy Republican phenomenon in the 2016 U. S. elections with polls having the election close, and the actual election returns being something else altogether. This past Thursday, the U. K. may have given the U. S. a preview of 2016.
P. S. Apologies for the lack of links and details. This is a big subject in the midst of a busy day. But I hope I (with the help of the UK) have alerted you to what may be an important aspect of the 2016 elections.