Is There a Real Silent Majority?

Photo Courtesy: [Saul Loeb/Getty Images]

Silent majority — it’s a term that’s been used more frequently in the past five years than it has in the last few decades. Dozens of groups and accounts on social media now incorporate “silent majority” into their names and bios. Many of them have massive followings and active users, while others have their privacy settings adjusted to keep people out. This can make them appear silent in a sense, even though online anonymity can be a thin veil. Still, being a part of a silent majority has become an identity for some folks.

When people invoke a term like “silent majority,” it’s often related to politics and a large group of voters who don’t express their political stances openly. Much like an October Surprise, a silent majority can affect the results of elections at local and national levels. The most notable recent invocation of a silent majority involved Donald Trump, who first used the term in 2015 and continued to do so during campaigns for the 2016 and 2020 elections.

“Silent majority” doesn’t begin and end with Trump or social media, though. Looking beyond Trump, “silent majority” has become a popular campaign slogan among a slew of candidates. But seeing it start to appear so frequently in news cycles can raise even more questions than it answers about candidates, constituents and the real meaning of the term. As it turns out, “silent majority” has a surprisingly non-political origin you won’t find in history textbooks — and it hasn’t always meant the same thing.

Editor’s Note: This article is a part of our ongoing American Myths series in which we explore the truths behind misrepresented people and events throughout history.