You may recall that, late in the campaign season in 2012, as polls began to show the presidential election slipping away from Mitt Romney, his supporters went into denial. First there was a noisy effort to claim the polls were “skewed” in Obama’s favor (most famously by Dean Chambers, who offered “unskewed polls” showing the Mittster cruising to victory). Then, at the very end, Republicans indulged in public-opinion mysticism, ignoring adverse polls and focusing on crowd sizes, yard-sign visibility, vague “mood of the country” assessments, and their own deeply perceptive guts.
It was easy to make fun of all this wishful thinking, but it was understandable given the timing. That Donald Trump’s supporters are already manifesting the same fingers-in-the-ears la-la-la-la-I-can’t-hear-you self-deception three months before Election Day is harder to accept.
But it’s happening. Trump himself has a habit of criticizing individual polls he doesn’t like. Some of his fans are getting more systematic about it. Radio-talk-show host Bill Mitchell offered this Zen-like observation on Twitter: “Imagine polls don’t exist. Show me evidence Hillary is winning?”
Alternative evidence that the polls are just wrong was served up at the pro-Trump site Gateway Pundit, where Jim Hoft lofts up social-media traffic numbers to “prove” Trump’s not only winning, but on the brink of a landslide. My favorite involves YouTube livestream views: “Trump has 5900 percent more live viewers than Clinton. That’s plain devastation!” Yeah, I’m sure Team Hillary is devastated by that.
At least Hoft is bothering to offer specific data points, odd and “skewed” as they are. Others just retreat into dogmatic assertions that Clinton can’t win for this or that nonempirical reason. My favorite approach involves attributing the conservative writer’s biases to “the American people,” like blogger Nicholas J. Fuentes does:
After six years of betrayal, the American people have found their voice in Donald Trump, the instrument of righteous popular retribution against a downright evil political class. And this year, at long last, Hillary Clinton’s time has come; and she is beyond salvation.
All righty then: If “the American people” have already made up their minds, why bother reading polls? And for that matter, why bother having an election? I fear that’s the real question Trump fans would like to ask if they could.