Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

The Forum

A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics

Ed. by Disalvo, Daniel / Stonecash, Jeffrey

IMPACT FACTOR 2018: 0.500
5-year IMPACT FACTOR: 0.623

CiteScore 2018: 0.83

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.595
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.631

See all formats and pricing
More options …
Volume 14, Issue 4


Social Desirability Bias in the 2016 Presidential Election

Samara Klar / Christopher R. Weber / Yanna Krupnikov
Published Online: 2017-02-22 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/for-2016-0037


Partisanship is a stable trait but expressions of partisan preferences can vary according to social context. When particular preferences become socially undesirable, some individuals refrain from expressing them in public, even in relatively anonymous settings such as surveys and polls. In this study, we rely on the psychological trait of self-monitoring to show that Americans who are more likely to adjust their behaviors to comply with social norms (i.e. high self-monitors) were less likely to express support for Donald Trump during the 2016 Presidential Election. In turn, as self-monitoring decreases, we find that the tendency to express support for Trump increases. This study suggests that – at least for some individuals – there may have been a tendency in 2016 to repress expressed support for Donald Trump in order to mask socially undesirable attitudes.


  • Abramowitz, Alan. 2016. “Will Time for Change Mean Time for Trump?” PS: Political Science & Politics 49 (4): 659–660.Google Scholar

  • Berinsky, Adam J., and Howard Lavine. 2012. “Self-Monitoring and Political Attitudes.” Improving Public Opinion Surveys: Interdisciplinary Innovation and the American National Election Studies, edited by John Aldrich and Kathleen M. McGraw. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar

  • Enns, Peter K., and Jonathon P. Schuldt. 2016. “Are There Really Hidden Trump Voters?” New York Times, November 7.Google Scholar

  • Feldman, Stanley, and Leonie Huddy. 2005. “Racial Resentment and White Opposition to Race-Conscious Programs: Principles or Prejudice?” American Journal of Political Science 49 (1): 168–183.Google Scholar

  • Finkel, Steven E., Thomas M. Guterbock, and Marian J. Borg. 1991. “Race-of-Interviewer Effects in a Preelection Poll: Virgina 1989.” The Public Opinion Quarterly 55 (3): 313–330.Google Scholar

  • Gallup. 2016a. “As Debate Looms, Voters Still Distrust Clinton and Trump.” (September 23, 2016, Report by Frank Newport.) http://www.gallup.com/poll/195755/debate-looms-voters-distrust-clinton-trump.aspx.

  • Gallup. 2016b. “Trump and Clinton Finish with Historically Poor Images.” (November 8, 2016, Report by Lydia Saad.) http://www.gallup.com/poll/197231/trump-clinton-finish-historically-poor-images.aspx.

  • Holbrook, Allyson L., and Jon A. Krosnick. 2010. “Social Desirability Bias in Voter Turnout Reports.” Public Opinion Quarterly 74 (1): 37–67.Google Scholar

  • Huffington Post Polls. 2016. “2016 General Election: Trump vs. Clinton.” (November 8, 2016.) http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/pollster/2016-general-election-trump-vs-clinton.

  • Jackson, Natalie. 2016. “Election Polls Underestimated Donald Trump In More Than 30 States”. Huffington Post (December 23, 2016). http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/election-polls-donald-trump_us_585d40d7e4b0de3a08f504bd.

  • Karp, Jeffrey A., and David Brockington. 2005. “Social Desirability and Response Validity: A Comparative Analysis of Overreporting Voter Turnout in Five Countries.” The Journal of Politics 67 (3): 825–840.Google Scholar

  • Klar, Samara, and Yanna Krupnikov. 2016. Independent Politics: How American Disdain for Parties Leads to Political Inaction. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Kuklinski, James H., Michael D. Cobb, and Martin Gilen. 1997. “Racial Attitudes and the ‘New South.’” The Journal of Politics 59 (2): 323–349.Google Scholar

  • McDermott, Rose. 2002. “Experimental Methods in Political Science.” Annual Review of Political Science 5: 31–61.Google Scholar

  • Norpoth, Helmut. 2016. “Primary Model Predicts Trump Victory.” PS: Political Science & Politics 49 (4): 655–658.Google Scholar

  • Patterson, Thomas E. 2016. “News Coverage of the 2016 General Election: How the Press Failed the Voters”. Shorenstein Center Report. http://shorensteincenter.org/news-coverage-2016-general-election/.

  • Pew. 2016. “As Election Nears, Voters Divided Over Democracy and Respect.” (October 27, 2016). http://www.people-press.org/2016/10/27/as-election-nears-voters-divided-over-democracy-and-respect/.

  • Snyder, Mark. 1974. “Self-monitoring of Expressive Behavior.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 30 (4): 526–537.Google Scholar

  • Snyder, Mark. 1979. “Cognitive, Behavioral, and Interpersonal Consequences of Self-Monitoring.” In Advances in the Study of Communication and Affect: Perception of Emotion in Self and Others, edited by Patricia Pliner, Kirk R. Blankstein and I. M. Spiegel. New York, NY: Plenum Press.Google Scholar

  • Snyder, Mark, and Steven W. Gangestad. 1986. “On the Nature of Self-monitoring; Matters of Assessment, Matters of Validity.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 45: 1061–1072.Google Scholar

  • Terkildsen, Nadya. 1993. “When White Voters Evaluate Black Candidates: The Processing Implications of Candidate Skin Color, Prejudice, and Self-Monitoring.” American Journal of Political Science 37: 1032–1053.Google Scholar

  • Traugott, Michael W., and Vincent Price. 1992. “The Polls – A Review: Exit Polls in the 1989 Virginia Gubernatorial Race: Where Did They Go Wrong?” Public Opinion Quarterly 56 (2): 245–253.Google Scholar

  • Weber, Christopher R., Howard Lavine, Leonie Huddy, and Christopher M. Federico. 2014. “Placing Racial Stereotypes in Context: Social Desirability and the Politics of Racial Hostility.” American Journal of Political Science 58 (1): 63–78.Google Scholar

About the article

Published Online: 2017-02-22

Published in Print: 2016-12-01

Citation Information: The Forum, Volume 14, Issue 4, Pages 433–443, ISSN (Online) 1540-8884, ISSN (Print) 2194-6183, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/for-2016-0037.

Export Citation

©2016 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston.Get Permission

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in