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The silent majority is an unspecified large majority of people in a country or group who do not express their opinions publicly. The term was popularized (though not first used) by U.S. President Richard Nixon in a November 3, 1969 speech,[1] where it referred to those Americans who did not join in the large demonstrations against the Vietnam War at the time, who did not join in the counterculture, and who did not enthusiastically participate in public discourse or the media. Nixon along with many others saw this group as being overshadowed by the more vocal minority.

This majority referred mainly to the older generation (those World War II veterans in all parts of the United States) but it also described many young people in the Midwest, West and in the South, many of whom did eventually serve in Vietnam. The Silent Majority was mostly populated with the blue collar people who allegedly didn't have the ability or the time to take an active part in politics other than to vote. They did, in some cases, support the conservative policies of many politicians. Others were not particularly conservative politically, but resented what they saw as disrespect for American institutions.

The silent majority theme has been a contentious issue amongst journalists since Nixon used the phrase. Some thought Nixon used it as part of the Southern strategy; others claim it was Nixon's way of dismissing the obvious protests going on around the country, and Nixon's attempt to get other Americans not to listen to the protests. Whatever the rationale, Nixon won a landslide victory in 1972, taking 49 of 50 states, vindicating his "silent majority."

Since Nixon, many conservatives have pointed to the silent majority as a force still ignored by the media, who, in the eyes of conservatives, focus generally on sensational activities of both parties to boost the media's own viewer ratings. The silent majority has been used to explain a number of Republican victories in areas where no chance was given to conservative politicians by the media.

According to Republican pollster Frank Luntz, "silent majority" is but one of many labels which have been applied to the same group of voters. According to him, past labels used by the media include "silent majority" in the 1960s, "forgotten middle class" in the 1970s, "angry white males" in the 1980s, "Perovians" (supporters of Ross Perot) in the early 1990s, "soccer moms" in the later 1990s, and "security moms" and "NASCAR dads" in the 2004 election. He posits that the emerging label is "Fed-Ups" and that it reflects a change in attitude: "In the past, the unifying emotion was anxiety. Today, it is frustration. In the past, the lexicon expressed a mixture of fear and hope. Today, the lexicon is stark, dark, and bitter." He also states that "older fed-ups identify with Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, and anyone else with a cranky attitude ... They're not ideological. They just want their country to work again."[2]

Other uses

In 1874, writer and war correspondent Junius Henri Browne wrote an article for Harper's Magazine entitled "The Silent Majority," in which he described funeral procedures for various cultures. Browne's "silent majority" referred to the number of dead being greater than the number of living people.[3]

In 1975, in Portugal, then president António de Spínola used the term in an attempt of rising a movement against the most progressive and revolutionary forces of post-revolutionary Portugal[4]

The phrase "silent majority" has also been used in the political elections of: Ronald Reagan during his presidency and beyond, the Republican Revolution in the 1994 elections, and the victories of Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, both of whom were at the time Republicans, in the New York City Mayoral races of the 1990s and 2000s.

See also


  1. ^ "And so tonight — to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans — I ask for your support."
  2. ^ Luntz, Frank I. (2007). Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear. New York: Hyperion. pp. 199-200. ISBN 9781401303082.  
  3. ^ Browne, Junius Henri. "The Silent Majority". Harper's Magazine, June to November, 1874
  4. ^ Discurso da "maioria silenciosa" ("Silent majority" speech)

Simple English

A silent majority is a large group of people who support something, but choose not to express their opinions publicly.

This term was made popular by US President Richard Nixon in a speech he gave on November 3 1969, about the Vietnam War.[1] Nixon said "And so tonight, to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans; I ask for your support."[1] The opposite of the silent majority were a noisy minority, a small group of people, who Nixon said tried to get their way by holding demonstrations in the streets.[2]

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