Ahead of every presidential election, we obsessively check the nation’s temperature. We take polls weekly, daily, hourly. We watch and listen while analysts deliver facts and numbers like they’re reading tea leaves. And when we’re really desperate, we start circulating press releases about which latex Halloween mask is outselling the others because right around the end of October is when our frustration with the length of the campaign process collides with a holiday that insists we dress up as something topical or culturally relevant. Also, because Halloween is fun, or whatever!
Costume emporium Spirit Halloween made headlines when they recently reported that Donald Trump masks were outselling Hillary Clinton masks. The company maintains their Mask Index, which tracks and compares the sales of their presidential candidate masks, and they claim to have “accurately predicted the outcome of every presidential election since 1996 based on their top selling candidate mask.” If we’re to believe Spirit Halloween’s claims, that means we’ll be singing “Hail to the Chief” to President Donald J. Trump come November 9 — an outcome that is either a trick or a treat, depending on who you ask.
The Mask Index, however, ignores that there are multiple places to buy a presidential Halloween mask outside of Spirit Halloween and its parent company, Spencer Gifts. People are buying other ill-advised political costumes from Party City, Walmart, or retailers on eBay, not to mention a variety of privately owned local shops. Brad Butler, manager of online operations for Halloween Express, revealed over the phone that, contrary to Spirit Halloween’s results, their Hillary Clinton masks were outselling Trump masks three-to-one. He added that “the notion that sales predicts the winner is nonsense. We’ve never seen it that way.”
Meanwhile, Rubie’s, the world’s largest designer and manufacturer of Halloween costumes, experienced a similar three-to-one ratio in favor of its Donald Trump masks, according to a Washington Post report. MTV News also reached out to Party City for additional comparative information and received the following response: “Unfortunately, we are unable to provide sales/strategy related information for the company.”
Though not wholly irrelevant, the Mask Index is circumstantial evidence at best, superstitious rhetoric at worst. It ignores the nuances of why one chooses to dress as a particular political candidate in the first place. In addition to tracking mask sales, Spirit Halloween collaborated with Harris Poll to assess the sentiments of 2,000 U.S. adults and why they would dress up as a candidate, finding that the top reason the polled Americans gave for dressing as Donald Trump was to mock him (39 percent), while the top reason participants said they’d dress as Hillary Clinton was because they liked her (31 percent).
Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have been pop culture fixtures for the last 20 years, making them universally recognizable — a crucial element in a popular Halloween costume. Hillary Clinton provides an opportunity for a timely couple costume with your Bill of choice (balloons optional). Donald Trump, with his signature “hairstyle” and, er, complexion, is both easily caricatured and simple to pull off.
Thanks to a perfect storm combining two candidates the American public has known for years, one of the most frighteningly divisive elections of all time, and relentless 24-hour media coverage, both Spirit Halloween and Halloween Express reported to MTV News that political costume purchases were way up over previous years. So if you feel like you’re seeing more politically-charged costumes than ever before this Halloween season, you’re not wrong. If you’re worried that a Donald Trump mask means a Donald Trump presidency, well, there are some dubious studies that will either reassure or horrify you. If you keep seeing them into November, you’re probably just being haunted by the election.