Ta Nehisi Coates: Max Cleland on the Bradley Effect

Ta Nehisi Coates

Max Cleland on the Bradley Effect 

This is the sort of thing that makes me wonder if I’m delusional. I have to admit, who knows more about white people in the South, me or Max Cleland? I know there are GOP pundits who’d disagree, but frankly very few of them are to be trusted on race. That may sound harsh, but I can think on one hand the GOP folks who I’ve seen think about this with some degree of honesty and seriousness. Back to the point, you also wonder how much age is playing into this. Again, this is why I can’t have this debate. I could go back and forth on this all day. Better to focus on what we can control than on whether we’re going to have to play in the rain.

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NY Times Campaign Stops: Race and the Suburbs

NY Times Campaign Stops

Race and the Suburbs

Lawrence C. Levy, a former political columnist and senior editorial writer for Newsday, is the executive director of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University in New York.

Everybody seems to have an opinion on race and the race, but nobody knows for sure whether Barack Obama’s skin color will hurt or help him in his quest for the presidency. Even the “Bradley Effect” — the theory that a certain number of white voters lie to pollsters when they say they’re supporting a black candidate — has seen its share of defenders and debunkers.

But if the Bradley Effect holds in this election, the place you’re likely to see it the most is home to the voters who matter the most: the suburbs. It’s not that most suburbanites are racist, but rather that they tolerate more manifestations of racial bias than their urban and rural counterparts. What’s more, although minorities (particularly blacks and Hispanics) are moving in greater numbers to the suburbs, these bedroom communities are among the most segregated counties in America.

The problem, according to research by the Brookings Institution, is that minorities moving into the suburbs tend to be lower income families, and they are choosing (or in some cases are forced to for financial reasons) to live in the same communities, creating pockets of poverty in affluent areas. Indeed, a number of recent studies show that the income gap between blacks and whites is greatest in the suburbs.

Talking Points Memo: All From the Same Script

Talking Points Memo

All From the Same Script

From John Judis

“I mention the Bradley effect because I think, too, that McCain and Sarah Palin’s attack against Obama for advocating “spreading the wealth” and for “socialism” and for pronouncing the civil rights revolution a “tragedy” because it didn’t deal with the distribution of wealth is aimed ultimately at white working class undecided voters who would construe “spreading the wealth” as giving their money to blacks. It’s the latest version of Reagan’s “welfare queen” argument from 1980. It if it works, it won’t be because most white Americans actually oppose a progressive income tax, but because they fear that Obama will inordinately favor blacks over them. I don’t doubt that this argument will have some effect, but I suspect it’s too late and that worries about McCain and Republican handling of the economy will overshadow these concerns.”

Just more McCain filth.

Racism Review: Hoping for a Bradley Effect?

Racism Review

Hoping for a Bradley Effect?

 

Like so many others at this point, I’m suffering from election fatigue. Despite promising poll numbers, many argue that McCain shouldn’t be counted out .

After wondering why the heck McCain was continuing to campaign in places like Iowa and Pennsylvania, states in which Obama leads on average by double-digits (see this), there seems to be only one explanation: that the McCain campaign is hoping for the Bradley Effect, along with the Wilder Effect.

The former refers to whites lying to pollsters about supporting the black candidate while actually voting for someone else (i.e., the white candidate), while the latter refers to the remaining undecideds to break overwhelmingly for the white candidate. (Thus, it is more accurately called the “white racism effect.”)

In both RCP averages in those states, Obama’s raw score is above 52 percent, meaning that the Wilder Effect alone would be insufficient for McCain to win in those states. So why spend time campaigning there with such little time left before Election Day? Part of the explanation could be that they have nothing left at this point, but why ignore Colorado at this juncture? Turns out that they may be banking on the older white populations of Iowa and Pennsylvania (along with others like Florida and Ohio), while giving up on Colorado (the youngest state in the union). 

 

Newsweek: Stumper: Should Dems Worry About an ‘Obama Effect’?

Newsweek: Stumper

Should Dems Worry About an ‘Obama Effect’?

The Bradley Effect is dead! Long live the Obama Effect!

Or at least that’s the cri de coeur coming from conservative circles as the 2008 presidential race enters its final sprint. Writing this morning for Salon and the Weekly Standard, a pair of political consultants–Bill Greener (a Republican) and Arnon A. Mishkin–seize on the same statistical argument to explain how John McCain, who trails Barack Obama by 7.3 percent in the latest RealClear Politics national polling average, could still win the White House eight days from now. Neither operative claims that pre-election polls are overstating the black candidate’s support–perhaps because research has shown pretty convincingly that the Bradley Effect no longer exists (if it ever did). Instead, both posit the existence of an Obama Effect. According to this theory, most undecideds are actually decided–for McCain. Which means, in turn, that the Republican nominee will benefit from a big boost on Nov. 4.

Greener and Mishkin advance different explanations for their hypothesis. Mishkin attributes it to “social acceptability.” Given Obama’s overwhelming momentum, he writes, “it seems likely that if voters are not ready to tell a pollster that they are with Obama, they are unlikely to get there… Where there is a perception that there is a ‘socially acceptable’ choice, respondents who do not articulate it are likely not to agree with it.” Greener, meanwhile, is more blunt. “If you’re a black candidate running against a white candidate, what you see is what you get,” he writes. “And it doesn’t matter whether you’re an incumbent or a challenger. If you’re not polling above 50 percent, you should be worried.”

So should Obama be worried?

I’d say no. As always, the standard caveat applies: anything can happen between now and Nov. 4.  But there are a few problems with the Greener/Mishkin theory–at least as an explanation of why McCain might still win (a claim, it should be noted, that only Greener makes). 

First of all, Greener’s claim that undecideds break overwhelmingly against black candidates on Election Day doesn’t really hold water. As evidence, he points to four races from 2006–the Tennessee and Maryland senate races and the Massachusetts and Ohio governor’s races–then compares the pre-election polls to the final results. In each case, he says, the black candidate’s support held steady while the white candidate’s support shot up. Unfortunately, Greener chooses to cherry-pick surveys that support his thesis instead of using the more comprehensive RCP averages as the basis of his comparison. As a result, his conclusion is misleading. 

FiveThirtyEight.com: Bradley Effect? Or Elephant Effect?

FiveThirtyEight.com

Bradley Effect? Or Elephant Effect?

I have received quite a number of requests for comment on the article published by Republican consultant Bill Greener at Salon.com. The article purports to find evidence of a “Bradley Effect” in Senate and Gubernatorial Elections in involving black candidates in 2006. 

So, I’ll comment on it.

Problem #1: Greener cites data from four races: the Tennessee and Maryland senate races, and the Massachusetts and Ohio governor’s races. Greene, however, ignores a fifth race, the Pennsylvania governor’s race, in which a white Democrat, Ed Rendell, competed against a black Republican, Lynn Swann.

Rendell defeated Swann in this race. However, Rendell’s margin of victory was no larger than that predicted by the polls (in fact, it was incrementally smaller). Greener completely ignores this race.

(There was actually a sixth race involving a black candidate, that being in Mississippi, where Trent Lott won re-election to the Senate over Erik Fleming. However, there was essentially no polling of this race, so it isn’t useful to us.)

Problem #2: Greener cherry-picks his data in literally every race. He isn’t even subtle about it. Here is a good example:

How about Tennessee, where black Democrat Harold Ford was up against white Republican Bob Corker for Republican Bill Frist’s old U.S. Senate seat? Harold Ford did slightly better than Steele and Blackwell. The day before the election, he was within a point of Corker, 47 to 48 with 5 percent undecided, according to OnPoint Polling. On Nov. 7, Corker got 50.7 percent of the vote, Ford got 48 and an assortment of independents took 1.3 percent. Ford was able to pick up one out of every five undecided voters.

OnPoint was the only polling firm to show the Tennessee race within 1 point on the eve of the election. Meanwhile, Gallup showed a 3-point lead for Corker, Rasmussen showed a 4-point lead for Corker, SurveyUSA and Pollmetrix showed 5-point leads, and Mason-Dixon showed a 12-point lead. Corker eventually won by 2.7 points, smaller than the margin predicted by all firms butOnPoint.

LA Times: Rethinking the ‘Bradley effect’

LA Times

Rethinking the ‘Bradley effect

Bradley’s narrow loss stemmed from a convergence of political difficulties for the mayor, who was then seeking to become the nation’s first African American governor, and only one of them was his race. Twenty-six years later, those engaged in that contest still differ on whether there was a Bradley effect.


More to the point for Obama, there is no evidence that one still exists. A recent study by a Harvard political scientist showed no sign since 1996 of an otherwise unexplained election day drop-off in support for African American candidates for governor or U.S. Senate.

That is not to say that race is not an issue, particularly as Obama seeks to become the first black president. Exit polls in primary states demonstrated that for many voters, Obama’s race was a stumbling block. But those voters were open about their views, suggesting that polls may be roughly accurate.

Joe Trippi, the deputy campaign manager for Bradley in 1982, thinks voter discomfort with the Democratic mayor’s race was key to his defeat but that those concerns have eased with time.

“Whatever doubts race caused 26 years ago, it doesn’t create the same level of doubt today,” Trippi said.

“Anyone who thinks it’s zero is kidding themselves,” he cautioned. “But it’s a hell of a lot closer to zero than it was. . . . I just don’t see this election as being close enough [for it] to matter.”

More than this campaign, the 1982 governor’s contest was fraught with the issue of race. It was less than a generation removed from the late-1960s riots in America’s cities, including Los Angeles, that sent fearful white voters scrambling for the suburbs. Bradley, the reserved, patrician mayor, a former police officer and city councilman, was running against George Deukmejian, the state’s Republican tough-on-crime attorney general and a former state legislator from Long Beach.

On the same ballot was a U.S. Senate race between Pete Wilson, then the GOP mayor of San Diego, and Jerry Brown, then the Democratic governor. Also on the ballot — and this would matter more — was Proposition 15, a measure that would have imposed statewide handgun registration and a freeze on new handgun sales. The candidates for governor lined up on opposite sides — Bradley supported it, Deukmejian opposed it.

Intent on brushing back gun controls, opponents of the measure mounted a massive voter registration drive to draw gun enthusiasts to the polls. At the same time, Republicans took advantage of a change in state law that allowed any Californian to vote by absentee ballot. In previous governor’s races, only those with medical needs or travel plans could vote absentee.