LA Times: The ‘Bradley effect’ in 2008

LA Times

The ‘Bradley effect’ in 2008

If I had a nickel for every time some pundit has opined about Barack Obama and the dreaded “Bradley effect,” I could rescue Wall Street.

How many of those yakkers really know about the Bradley effect 1.0, the original, back in 1982, when Tom Bradley, the black mayor of Los Angeles — whom polls put ahead of his rival for California governor right up to voting day — lost by barely 52,000 votes out of 7.5 million cast?

The Bradley effect has come to mean this: Voters lie to pollsters about black candidates, and enough of them lie to create a huge gap between poll results and election results. The Bradley effect asserts that when Americans finally get into the voting booth and see the black candidate’s name on the ballot, they flinch.

I called up Charles Henry, who teaches African American studies at UC Berkeley. In 1983, he was the first to measure the Bradley effect. Yes, perceptions of race are changing, but still, for Obama now, as for Tom Bradley then, Henry calculates that it will take “a double-digit lead to feel confident come election day.”

It grieves me to say so, but he may be right. Good polls don’t change bad attitudes. If America 2008 hasn’t changed much from California 1982, by next year pundits will be calling it the “Obama effect.”


One Response

  1. […] Dog Whistle Racism posted a link to a piece yesterday by Pat Morrison questioning if the Bradley Effect still exists. […]

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