Racism No Longer Throws Off Polls: Study

Voters aren't overstating support for minority candidates
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 29, 2008 12:21 PM CDT
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., speaks at a rally in front of the Detroit Public Library in Detroit, Mich. Sunday, Sept. 28, 2008.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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(Newser) – The so-called Bradley effect, in which support for minority candidates in opinion polls isn’t matched by votes in actual elections, has disappeared, Sam Wang writes for the Princeton Election Consortium. A study of polling and outcome data from 133 gubernatorial and senate races in 1989-2006 found that before 1996, blacks polled 3.1% higher than they finished; after that, 0.3% lower.

The reasons for this drop are unclear. “This is not to say that racism is dead,” Wang cautions, though it no longer appears to influence poll accuracy. Perhaps something fundamental changed around 1996, or pollsters simply improved their techniques. The report also concludes that gender similarly has no effect on accuracy, but that support for the front-runner is often overstated. (Read more Election 2008 stories.)