'Bradley Effect' Is Overblown, But Obama Can't Ignore It

Racism will play a factor, but might not boil down to simple dishonesty
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 2, 2008 6:20 PM CDT
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., speaks at a rally at Calder Plaza in Grand Rapids, Mich., Thursday, Oct. 2, 2008.    (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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(Newser) – Much has been made of the so-called Bradley effect in this year's election—the propensity of white voters to tell pollsters they've got no problem voting for a black candidate but to change their tune in the privacy of the voting booth. Patt Morrison cautions in the Los Angeles Times that the phenomenon is probably exaggerated. After all, Tom Bradley’s 1982 California gubernatorial run was complicated by a gun-control proposition, which turned out many rural voters who hadn’t been polled as heavily.

So polling inaccuracy, not voter dishonesty, was probably more to blame for the original Bradley effect. Morrison notes that voters today seem more upfront about telling pollsters they can’t vote for a black candidate. Still, "good polls don't change bad attitudes," she says, agreeing with one pollster that Barack Obama probably needs a double-digit lead to feel secure.