A silent majority is a large amount of people who, as the term implies, constitute a majority or large amount of the population on a certain issue or issues, but have not openly expressed their opinions. This causes the opposing side to appear numerically larger, but the silent majority can often be seen on election days.
In United States history, the silent majority has usually consisted of law-abiding conservatives, fed up or unpersuaded by the vocal left-wing minority. Rather than holding major protests, oftentimes disruptive or violent in the case of the left-wingers, they let their views be known through the ballot box.
Origin of the term
Nixon, who was elected president in 1968, promised an end to the Vietnam War. After he assumed office, Nixon decided against a quick withdrawl, as it would severely damage international trust and confidence in American leadership. However, liberal antiwar activists, who wanted a quick withdrawal regardless of its effects, were very unhappy and vocal in their unhappiness, staging at least one major protest in Washington D.C.
On November 3, 1969, Nixon gave a major speech to call for national unity and explain his plan for Vietnamization—to reduce U.S. troop presence in the country until either true peace could be achieved or until the South Vietnamese could defend themselves. At the end of his speech, Nixon called on the "great silent majority" to support his plan.
While the New Left, antiwar protestors, and hippies vocally expressed their leftist views, a silent majority of Americans who had not given in to their agenda. In fact, a Gallup poll released soon after Nixon's November 1969 speech showed 77 percent of Americans in favor of Nixon's policy, despite the antiwar protests.
The existence of the silent majority was further seen in the 1972 presidential election. Democrats nominated George McGovern, likely the most left-wing nominee in history at that point. Large numbers of Democrats abandoned the party and its nominee who was not in line with their traditional conservative values and voted for Nixon. Nixon was successfully able to point out McGovern's extreme views, and he won the election in one of the largest landslides in United States history. Even traditionally Democrat states, such as West Virginia, New York, and Texas, voted for Nixon (he won 49 states). As of 2016, the 1972 presidential election was the 4th largest landslide election in terms of the popular vote, and even larger than the 1964 presidential election.
Other examples of the silent majority in history
Black silent majority
During the 1960s and 70s, a silent majority existed in the black community that opposed the undue sympathy of the liberal elites towards criminals and drug dealers. Rather than condemning "police brutality", blaming crime and drug use on racism, or supporting the welfare state as a solution, they supported tougher crime laws. Some even supported capital punishment for these crimes.
Another example of the silent majority is seen in Ronald Reagan's presidential election campaigns. Despite beliefs that he was too conservative to be elected president, Reagan easily defeated Democrat Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential election. The American public was fed up with Carter's weak foreign policy, as well as liberal, big government economic policies, and even many Democrats voted for Reagan. In 1984, Democrats nominated liberal Walter Mondale, who even stated outright that he would raise taxes as president, who Americans rejected in a landslide—a repudiation of liberal policies.
Trump's silent majority
Donald Trump frequently mentioned the silent majority in speeches during the 2016 presidential election. While polling predicted Hillary Clinton would win easily, Trump performed significantly better than polling suggested. Trump voters were underrepresented, and it is possible that, because it is social taboo in mainstream society to support Trump, many voters did not state their real voting intentions to pollsters, even though that idea was rejected by some.
Throughout and after then election, anti-Trump supporters were extremely vocal about their views, while Trump supporters acted more discreet. Anti-Trump demonstrators caused massive disruption, stopping at least one Trump rally in Chicago, and after the election, they continued in their protests and violence. While Clinton narrowly won the popular vote (by about 2%), Trump won a large majority of the states (30.5, including Maine's second district; 61%). In addition, Trump won 2,623 counties—the largest number for both a Republican or Democrat since Ronald Reagan in 1984—while the Democrats won only 489. Geographically speaking, Trump accordingly won 85 percent of the nation.
Despite the fact that only 4.1% of the U.S. population identified as LGBT,just over half a percentage point higher than four years prior, Americans greatly overestimate the proportion of homosexuals in the nation to be an average of 23%. While neither statistic shows homosexuals in the majority, their size and strength is greatly exaggerated, in conformance with earlier examples. Interestingly, Republicans and conservatives gave estimates closest to the actual number.
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- Silent majority definition according to the Cambridge Dictionary