Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The "Bradley Effect"

Commenting on tonight's episode of Hardball on MSNBC, the University of Virginia's highly regarded Larry Sabato conceded that the explanation for Hilary Clinton's 1/8/07 primary victory in New Hampshire is a "complicated phenomenon." However, he stated also that not only did the pre-election polls show a substantial Obama lead (including, I've heard, 11% in HRC's tracking poll and 13% in BHO's tracking poll), but the exit polling indicated a 5% Obama victory- and exit polls in the Republican primary proved accurate. Moral of the story: the (Tom) Bradley (and Doug Wilder, Harvey Gantt, and David Dinkins) effect lives- white voters are reluctant to admit that they voted against the black candidate.*

This does not mean (this is me talking, now) that these voters are racist or bigoted. Think of it this way: wouldn't most prejudiced whites be willing and able to admit- maybe even boast- that they voted against the black candidate? More likely it is the well-intentioned white voter who votes for the white candidate for reasons unrelated to race who feels guilty voting against a qualified, popular black candidate. There are probably several reasons that Mrs. Clinton came from way behind to score an extraordinary victory but it is straining credulity not to believe that self-consciousness about admitting to a pollster a vote against a black played a role.


*Admittedly, this effect did not show up in the 2006 United States Senate race in Tennessee, where black Democrat Harold Ford lost (narrowly) to white Republican Bob
Corker by approximately the same margin as predicted in the last pre-election polls.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Can it be said, and this is going to be an odd stance coming from me, that the same polling effect might have been present with Clinton? Simply interchange race with gender and I think you can make that argument.

I believe New Hampshire voters felt obligated to say Obama to the pollsters because of his Iowa finish and subsequent (fleeting) frontrunner status. When they actually went to vote, however, they picked the candidate who had been their choice all along.

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