Obama: Immune to the Bradley Effect

The campaign rhetoric is all about how Senator Obama inspires Americans to look beyond skin colour, and unite. He cannot then claim that he has been tripped up by the Bradley Effect, without undermining one of the central tenets of his campaign.

So, Obama lost narrowly in New Hampshire, an alleged victim of the Bradley Effect. This is the apparent phenomenon of White voters saying they’ll vote for a black candidate, but then actually voting for the white candidate when they get into the polling booth. People apparently want to appear liberal when they answer the pollster’s questions.

That Obama is the victim of such a phenomenon may actually be true, but it is an explanation that makes me uneasy nonetheless. It is not really a falsifiable assertion, and is therefore open to abuse.

Further, I think the previous arguments of the Obama campaign and its supporters precludes the use of the Bradley Effect excuse. The campaign rhetoric is all about how Senator Obama inspires Americans to look beyond skin colour, and unite. A main reason to vote for him is that he is able to transcend race and vault clean over any Bradley Effect. He cannot then claim that he has been tripped up by that same political phenomenon, without undermining one of the central tenets of his campaign.

5 thoughts on “Obama: Immune to the Bradley Effect”

  1. A similar, non racial linguistic phenomena, called the “politeness principle” was widely credited with explaining why the tories won the 1993 UK gen election despite trailing badly in the polls. When polled, significant numbers said they would vote labour, (as it was perceived to be a more socially acceptable vote) , but when they got into the polling booth, they actually voted conservative. This seems like the same effect, but with a racial dimension, of not wanting to appear racist.

    I’ll still think he’ll win it – he has that aura around him, mind you so did JFK and look what happened to him.

  2. I’m not sure you need to ban opinion polls, just the personal interaction around them, which is the essential context of the politeness principle. Opinion polling needs to be completely impersonal and anonymous to be accurate.

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