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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Barack Obama and The Bradley Effect

The folks on MSNBC and out in the blogosphere have cited the Bradley Effect as a possible explanation for the big gap between the final polls which had Obama cruising to an easy victory and up approximately 7% and the end result, Hillary's 39%-36% victory.

Wikipedia explains the Bradley Effect also known as the Wilder Effect below:
The term Bradley effect or Wilder effect refers to a phenomenon which has led to inaccurate voter opinion polls in some American political campaigns between a white candidate and a non-white candidate. Specifically, there have been instances in which statistically significant numbers of white voters tell pollsters in advance of an election that they are either genuinely undecided, or likely to vote for the non-white candidate, but those voters exhibit a different behavior when actually casting their ballots. White voters who said that they were undecided break in statistically large numbers toward the white candidate, and many of the white voters who said that they were likely to vote for the black candidate ultimately cast their ballot for the white candidate. This reluctance to give accurate polling answers has sometimes extended to post-election exit polls as well.

Researchers who have studied the issue theorize that some white voters give inaccurate responses to polling questions because of a fear that they might appear to others to be racially prejudiced. Some research has suggested that the race of the pollster conducting the interview may factor into that concern. At least one prominent researcher has suggested that with regard to pre-election polls, the discrepancy can be traced in part by the polls' failure to account for general conservative political leanings among late-deciding voters.

This phenomenon was first noticed in the 1982 race for governor of California, where Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, a black Democrat, narrowly lost to Republican George Deukmejian, despite polls showing him with a lead ranging from 9 to 22 points. The next year, African American Democrat Harold Washington barely won his race for mayor of Chicago against Republican Bernard Epton. Pre-election polls taken within the last two weeks of the campaign showed Washington with a 14-point lead.
Times like these remind us all that even white liberals from New England are not completely free from the racist tendencies that still plague much of the South. And if the Bradley Effect is indeed real in this instance and Obama is able to secure the nomination - what will happen in a General Election when more moderate Democrats and Independents and actual Republicans participate? America needs Barack Obama. I guess a potential Bradley Effect just signals to Authentic Progressives that an Obama Presidency could be a tougher task than expected. However, I HOPE there is another explanation for tonight's gap between the polls and results. While my experiences lead me to probably believe otherwise, I'll remember Obama's wise quip to Senator Clinton that "there's no such thing as false hopes." Hopes aren't false.

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Blogger Bart Barber said...


Do you not think that HRC's tearful plea moved some voters?

6:41 PM

Blogger Big Daddy Weave said...


I think the NH debate, the perception that John and Obama were being a little "mean" and the tear helped. Clearly women responded in a positive way towards HRC.

If the Bradley Effect is real, we'll know after South Carolina I think. Nonetheless, NH was a big win for Hillary but she's got a real fight on her hands.

I prefer Edwards. But it's just not going to happen. I wish he would drop out or that his supporters would realize the reality of the situation and throw their support Obama's way. The under 40 crowd and especially 20-somethings just isn't energized by Hillary's candidacy. She's more of the same and I think most people, Republican and Democrat alike, want something fresh and new.

1:12 AM

Anonymous Chuck said...


Interesting observation I heard:

The Iowa Caucus may have had a reverse-Bradley effect for Obama, since the voting was not secret, but in neighborhood gatherings where the voters' actions were in the view of others.

5:20 AM

Blogger Bart Barber said...

Oh, I don't doubt that there's something to the "Bradley effect." But you have to put a point value on it. I just think that Hillary's point swing outpaced the value I would put on the Bradley thing.

8:17 AM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

The thing about the Bradley effect, of course, is that it's totally impossible to prove. I think it's negated in this case because if you look at the pollsters' predictions for the total percentage of votes Obama would get, they were dead-on. What they miscalculated was the turnout for Clinton.

I doubt the assessment that we'll know whether the effect is real after S.C. 50% of the D's who vote in primaries there are African-American; it seems highly unlikely that they would lie to pollsters as to how they're going to vote, and I don't think most white South Carolinians would lie to pollsters if they weren't going to vote for Obama. There's not as much social pressure there to support an Ivy League-educated, African-American Yankee.

The thing that's going to determine this is how Edwards' supporters break.

1:20 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

America does not need Barack Obama. America needs Jesus Christ, for whom pro - abortion Barack Obama has no respect.

1:54 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Incidentally, what happened with Barack Obama was female voters leaving Obama for Hillary Clinton at the last minute in response to Hillary Clinton's tearful speech. But Hillary Clinton has no more respect for Jesus Christ than does Barack Obama. Or any of the Republicans for that matter. Six one one, half a dozen of the other, either way the anti - Christ gets his man just like he got him in George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, etc.

1:56 AM

Anonymous Michael Westmoreland-White said...

BDW, like you I supported Edwards on the issues. But, after NH I think he is just splitting the left-of-Hillary vote and could keep Obama out of the nomination, but not win it himself. I and other Edwards supporters have flooded his email asking him to resign--but he won't until after SC, sadly.

Here's to Barack Obama, next president of these United States. Great endorsement from Gov. Janet Napolitano (D-AZ) whom I suspect is on the Obama shortlist for VP running mate if he gets nominated. I hope a President Obama will appoint Bill Richardson as Sec. of State. Richardson is young enough to run again for pres. and will get more exposure and foreign policy influence as Sec. of State than in a VP situation. (And wouldn't be nice to a Sec. of State who is bi-lingual, Latino, a former ambassador and hostage negotiator who stood up to Saddam Hussein, and who, as Gov. of NM, prevented Bush from war with North Korea, negotiating a phased end of N.K.'s nuclear weapons program??)

My reasons as a former Edwards supporter for endorsing Obama are here:

Feminist reasons to oppose Hillary the Hawk are here:

A young university student's feminist response to Gloria Steinem is here: http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/01/10/6288/

The Bradley effect is real, but I think it was only one factor in Clinton's victory. Look the media overplayed Obama's chances. It was never going to be a double-digit victory. After all, 2 weeks earlier Clinton was way ahead. She had been leading in NH for a year and had the better ground game. That was THE important factor. (The media also misrepresented the crowds--Clinton was drawing equal or near-equal size crowds.)

The independents deciding that the media was right led them to vote for McCain. The students came out for Obama, but not in the % sas with Iowa. And the economy helped: People remembered Bill Clinton pulling people out of the last Bush recession. (Forgetting that the Clintonian trade policies have helped Bush II create economic chaos.) Then, the piling on of the media and Clinton's tearing up--as well as her switching from set speeches to long open fora --humanized her. And the apparent misogynist notes from the media created a backlash from women. It wasn't any one thing.

But post NH, there have been plenty of racially coded messages from the Clinton camp and more from supporters. They may come to regret the endorsement from NY Attorney General Andrew Cuomo who referred to Barack Obama as a "shuck and jive" act. This is alienating the longtime strength of the Clintons with African-Americans--and could cause them to lose in SC. (Nevada will be close. Neither side has strong ties to the Latino community which is key there. And there is some racism among Latinos--as with all groups. We'll see. The Culinary Workers Union endorsement helps Obama, but Clinton's door to door campaigning will help her. It'll be close. Drop out John Edwards.)

4:12 PM


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