Monday, October 13, 2008

Bradley Effect: I'm Worried

New polls out today show that Obama is nationally 10 points ahead of McCain. Well as we know, the polling on a national level really means bunk when it comes to the White House (Al Gore anyone?). What really matters in the race to the White House is state polling. To win the presidency, one of these two candidates must bring home 270 electoral points from across the United States. That leads me to my title: I'm worried.

From day to day the polls go back and forth. Generally Obama has been looking pretty good - pulling ahead in swing states and generally polling ahead of McCain where we need him to. The question is: by how much? There has been a lot of talk in the national media lately of the Bradley Effect. This effect refers to the documented research which states that in order to know the true viability of a black political candidate, you must subtract 5-7% from his/her polling data. The research suggests that when a pollster calls a voter, the voter attempts to seem "tolerant" or unaffected by race. But in the privacy of a voting booth, some Americans still cannot bring themselves to vote for a black candidate.

Well if we subtract 5-7% from all the polling data on Obama - we're a bit screwed. It is still possible that he will win, but darn that is not looking as good as it was before this talk of the Bradley Effect infiltrated politics.

I like to think of myself as a political scientist. I love a good old fashion OLS regression and a night of coding data (insert rolling eyes here please). As such a student of this science and an Obama supporter, I would like to think that there are some flaws in applying the Bradley Effect and its research to this particular race. For example, we are talking the presidency of the United States. There has never been any research done on the effect of a black candidate running in a race of this scale in America. It's just not possible. Furthermore, does Obama transcend race? I like to think he does, but our history and reality tells me differently. However, with the economic turmoil facing this country and three wars on our hands, he could. He could transcend race to that voter who, under the Bradley effect, would be unable to pull that lever for a black man but may in November because the opportunity cost of an America in ruins far exceeds any other considerations.

We shall have to wait and see.

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