In Defence of Liberty

Driven by data; ridden with liberty.

The Silent Majority

the-silent-majority

Is there a silent majority? (Source: Epic Times)

Politicians may make reference to the ‘silent majority’, a large and unspecified group who do not publicly voice their opinions.

This phrase was historically, and euphemistically, used to refer to those who have died, or those who came before. In November 1969, United States President Richard Nixon used this phrase to call upon people who were not involved in public and vehement demonstrations against the Vietnam War [1]:

And so tonight – to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans – I ask for your support.

(Video: Richard Nixon Speech)

Even when this phrase was first popularised, it was not an accurate reflection of public sentiment. Whilst opponents of the Vietnam War were generally more vocal, they were in the majority: Gallup found that 57% of Americans believed the United States made a mistake sending troops to Vietnam, in January 1970. In the same poll [2], 32% said the U.S. had not erred in its involvement in Vietman.

pew-gallup-polling-vietnam

Gallup found a majority thought the Vietnam War was a mistake. (Source: Pew Research Center)

“Take our country back”

In contemporary politics, Republican nomination candidate Donald Trump [3] has declared a new silent majority: “The silent majority is back, and we’re going to take our country back.”

On this side of the Atlantic, Daily Mail columnist Katie Hopkins has similarly said she represents a silent majority:

Just me, standing up for Britain. Speaking out for the silent majority.

These vanguards of the silent majority are, typically, very loud and hold minority view-points. The polling company YouGov [4] asked British citizens whether they believed “a ban on all Muslims entering the United States, including Muslims seeking immigration visas as well as tourists” was an appropriate or inappropriate policy for the US. 64% said it was inappropriate, with only 25% believing it was appropriate.

the-silent-majority-yougov-trump-uk

There were pockets of support for this proposal. (Source: YouGov)

There was only one party, the United Kingdom Independence Party, with a majority of supporters believing Donald Trump’s proposal was appropriate.

Pluralities

When YouGov asked US citizens about “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on”, which is the exact wording of Donald Trump’s statement. 45% agreed with the idea, with 41% opposing. This is a plurality, not a majority: the margin of error in this poll was 4.1%.

the-silent-majority-yougov-trump-us

There was a sharp partisan division on this issue. (Source: YouGov)

It was overwhelmingly supported by Republicans, with a central estimate of 69% [5].

It becomes evident from polling that there is no conservative, silent majority, who are acquiescent and disengaged from normal political processes. There is no progressive majority either. Politics and parliamentary democracy is the means of reconciliation for competing, conflicting and contradictory desires among the public.

There is no silent majority, for politicians or columnists to appeal to, readily made for their rhetoric. The only political coalitions are the ones we build.

References

[1] Watergate, 1969. Nixon’s ‘Silent Majority’ Speech. Available from: http://watergate.info/1969/11/03/nixons-silent-majority-speech.html [Accessed: 20th December 2015]

[2] Allen, J. T., 2009. Polling Wars: Hawks vs Doves. Pew Research Center. Available from: http://www.pewresearch.org/2009/11/23/polling-wars-hawks-vs-doves/ [Accessed: 20th December 2015]

[3] Fandos, N., 2015. Donald Trump Defiantly Rallies a New ‘Silent Majority’ in a Visit to Arizona. New York Times. Available from: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/12/us/politics/donald-trump-defiantly-rallies-a-new-silent-majority-in-a-visit-to-arizona.html?_r=0 [Accessed: 20th December 2015]

[4] Dahlgreen, W., 2015. Strong British opposition to Trump’s Muslim policy, but pockets of approval. YouGov. Available from: https://yougov.co.uk/news/2015/12/09/brits-oppose-muslim-policy-pockets-approval/ [Accessed: 20th December 2015]

[5] Moore, P., 2015. Two-thirds of Republicans back Trump’s Muslim proposal. YouGov. Available from: https://yougov.co.uk/news/2015/12/14/two-thirds-republicans-back-trumps-muslim-proposal/ [Accessed: 20th December 2015]

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This entry was posted on December 20, 2015 by in National Politics and tagged , , , , .
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