Date of Award
This paper examines the use of the term “the silent majority” from 1920-1980, tracing the term from its roots in the prohibition and moral movements of the 1920s and 1930s, to its resurfacing in the 1950s in connection to race and integration, to finally Nixon’s popularization of the term. The sources in which the term was used as such were located through Google Books, the University of Mississippi’s One Search tool, and the Chronicling America database. The Google Ngram Viewer was also utilized in creating a graph that tracked the usage of “the silent majority” in digitized literature through the twentieth century. Upon analyzing these sources, it became apparent that “the silent majority” was used by conservative American citizens and politicians to describe voters they considered to be the anti-radicals, the anti-minority, and the virtuous majoritarian sect of the voting population in America. The conclusion of this paper considers the implications of such a definition on modern American politics – as the term resurfaced and many voters began to identify as members of 2016 candidate Donald Trump’s “silent majority” constituency – and suggests that “the silent majority” of the 2016 election might actually have been composed of liberals, who won the popular vote, rather than the conservatives who claimed membership to the group.
Holman, Jordan R., "Silent Majorities: The Brief History of a Curious Term, 1920-1980" (2019). Honors Theses. 1224.