Many Believe Halloween Masks Predict the Election and They've Been Right

presidential halloween masks
Screengrab Bloomberg
Screengrab Bloomberg

People believe crazy things. For instance, many believe that Paul the Octopus has the power to accurately predict the winner of the World Cup. Others, like divisive radio personality Bill Mitchell, believe that Halloween mask sales can accurately predict the election. 

The weird thing is that, according to some data, it's true. Halloween mask sales have accurately predicted presidential elections since 1980 when an actor beat out a peanut farmer. There's not a single index of mask sales nationally, so the details vary. One index claims winners since 1980, while data from retailer Halloween Spirit claims their sales have predicted victors since Clinton in '96.

This year, Trump is leading 55 percent to 45 percent, according to an early survey from Spirit Halloween. However, they and others have noted the different tone of this election. In that, ahem, spirit, they've teamed up with Harris Polls to shed some light on why people are choosing Trump masks. 

The top response was, at 39 percent, because they thought the mask was funny. Twice as many people say they're dressing up to mock Trump as people who say they're dressing up as Clinton to mock her. In fact, the top reason cited for dressing up as Clinton (31 percent) was an admiration for Clinton.

Anecdotal evidence affirms that data. Though retailers are quick note the tone of sales is different. Kim Hermann of Novelties Unlimited in Ghent, Virginia told the Virginian Pilot, "Most people buying candidate costumes are doing it to be negative." Chloe Nelson of Spirit Halloween said, "Oh, it’s definitely all about mocking them."

Apparently, sales of Nixon, Bush, Clinton, and Reagan masks weren't about mocking those candidates, which is surprising. They do say that dressing up as a caricature of someone is the sincerest form of flattery.

Additionally, Howie Beige of Rubie's Costume Co. notes that having a male and a female candidate may also make a difference. The vast majority of mask-wearing Halloween revelers are male. That could, at least anecdotally in the absence of a real study, have an impact on mask sales this election season.

In the real world, none of those asterisks really matter because using Halloween mask sales as an index of how an election will go is insane and really just an indication of how much people are ready for this election cycle to be over. Political Halloween costumes aren't even that popular. About four percent of adults over 35 choose to dress as a candidate in any given election year. Sexy Ken Bone and Harley Quinn/Joker combos are going to be far more popular despite the apparent excitement many have in dressing up as The Donald and the desire for some, like Mr. Mitchell, to use masks as an indicator of something.

If mask sales were really an indicator of how elections will swing, we'd be sad to see That Guy From Scream leaving the White House amid a groundswell of support for Green Party candidate Slimer and vice president Sexy Super Mario.

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Dustin Nelson is a News Writer with Thrillist. He holds a Guinness World Record, but has never met the fingernail lady. He’s written for Sports Illustrated, Men’s Journal, The Rumpus, and other digital wonderlands. Follow him @dlukenelson.