We’re getting close, folks. So close you can feel it. Close your eyes and feel the soft, warm breath on the back of your neck. (Now open your eyes and continue reading. You’re such a good reader.)
As you watch the polls shift rapidly toward Trump, you might wonder what’s happening. What’s happening is completely natural, but it’s not normal. Elections don’t usually go this way. And two psychological phenomena are working to deliver the Trump landslide I predicted long ago.
Hillary’s Self-Doubt Phenomenon
The 2016 election is more like sports than any other election in my lifetime. In fact, it’s a lot like the 1964 National League pennant race. Think of Trump as the St. Louis Cardinals and Hillary as the Philadelphia Phillies. (Where was the DNC convention this year?)
In sports, losing and winning both produce psychological changes. I’m not talking about the hot hand fallacy. I’m talking about subconscious expectations, the same things that cause people to sabotage themselves. The voice in the back of your head that says, “you’re not good enough” and “here we go again.”
You can see this happening to Hillary every day. She wrote off 27 percent of Americans as “irredeemable” and “deplorable.” She hid her major health problems. She lied. She said “bombing” then said Trump shouldn’t say “bombing.”
Just as she lost the primary in 2008, she’s losing the election in 2016. Her mind is whispering “you can’t win” and “here you go again,” and she’s listening.
That’s the first step. The second though is more intriguing, and you’ll now begin to see it develop before your eyes like a post-hypnotic suggestion.
Trump’s Tipping Point of Support
In many circles, it’s been unpopular to admit support for Trump. In the spring, I literally watched a man go from bashing Trump to praising him the moment the two people he was talking to admitted “we’re both for Trump.” Let’s call him Mike.
Mike’s eyes popped open and he said, “Oh, so we’re safe here.” It was as if a runaway slave realized he’d wandered into a meeting of local underground railroad conductors. While the polls were showing Trump down, guys like Mike kept their true opinions about Trump to themselves. They felt alone and “different.”
Now that the Mikes of the world know that many, many people just like them support Trump, they’re free to say “I support Trump.” It’s happening everywhere.
And the more people who hear someone say “I support Trump,” the more people support Trump. It’s called a “preference cascade,” and it’s picking up steam.
Deeper Than Preference Falsification
The formal name of the Bradley Effect is preference falsification. Named for the black former mayor of Los Angeles, the Bradly Effect means people tell pollsters they plan to vote for the politically correct candidate, but they actually vote for the other guy. Falsification skews polls.
While that’s happening in the presidential race, it’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about actual human behavior. I’m talking about people who’ve secretly supported Trump and are now flooding out of the closet and the effect they have on undecided voters or soft supporters.
It’s Social Proof
This flood of people admitting they support Trump influences the people around them. It’s called social proof. It means that, when in doubt, most people do what they see people around them doing.
Say you softly support Hillary because your family and friends might beat you up if you supported Trump. You don’t really like Hillary, but you feel safer saying you do. And you plan to vote for Hillary because . . . you don’t want to be a liar.
Then one day, a woman you work pulls into the parking lot with a Trump sticker on her car. “If Madelaine can say she supports Trump, maybe I should take another look,” you think.
Pretty soon, you put a Trump sticker on your car. And you work up the courage to come out to your family and friends. When you’re all sitting around talking about the election, you might find yourself saying, “I’m for Trump.” Chances are you won’t be alone. Someone else in your conversation circle will admit “I’m for Trump, too.”
That’s how preference cascades work. They are influenced by polls and they influence polls. But they’re really about the way we influence each other.
It’ll take some time for this work out, but expect to see a tipping point in the polls very soon. The tipping will come when the RCP average of states shows Trump is expected to win 270 electoral votes—enough to capture the election. At that point, people will move so fast to the Trump column it will make your head spin.
The RCP magic could happen in a week or two after the first debate on September 26. It takes time for the RCP average to work out the old polling data from weeks or months ago. But it’s going to happen, and when it does something amazing will happen.
The question is how the media will portray it. Will they talk about Trump’s magnificent rally or about Hillary’s historical collapse?
Also published on Medium.