Sunday, October 19, 2008

Is the "Bradley Effect" An Urban Myth

We were quite fascinated with a discussion of the "Bradley Effect" we found on Ron Gunzburger's Politics 1 website. It's worth repeating in full, below, as it suggests, with some good grounds, that the Bradley Effect is nothing more than an urban myth. Here's what Ron had to say:

"Despite the frequent pundit references to the so-called 'Bradley Effect' -- the phenomena where 2-6% of white voters will purportedly lie to a pollster and claim to be voting for a black candidate when in reality they are voting for the white opponent -- the 'Bradley Effect' is simply a political urban legend."

"So says GOP political consultant Robert Wolfe, who was Southern California Political Director of the 1982 George Deukmejian (R) for Governor campaign against Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley (D) [pictured here]. Wolfe told Politics1 that anyone who 'claims there was a "Bradley Effect" in 1982 has no idea what they are talking about. Tom Bradley actually beat us on election day, and by a significant margin, so there was no "lying" to the exit pollsters.'"

"'Deukmejian only won because of the absentee ballots. That was the first year California allowed the use of absentee ballots and that was our secret strategy. We piled up absentee ballots from Armenian Democrats, because Deukmejian was Armenian. They were not likely voters, so they were under-polled. But there were roughly 100,000 Armenian voters living just in the area around Los Angeles County -- plus lots elsewhere in the state. It was that absentee effort that gave us the victory -- and earned me a position in the Deukmejian Administration.'"

"'If it was just the election day votes, we would have lost. The only place you would have seen any lying was among those voters who claimed they were "uncommitted" but were really voting for Deukmejian. But there was really no lying with voters telling pollsters they were voting for Bradley. There just was no "Bradley Effect" and people should stop claiming there was such a thing. Trust me, I was there.'"

This actually makes a lot of sense. If the "Bradley Effect" were real, we'd see it in countless election polls over the years, but we don't. It's just one of those things political pundits like to discuss to fill time.

We don't think there's any Bradley Effect going on this year. Why would voters feel such a need to lie to pollsters? There may be another effect going on in polls this year, however, which we discuss in the next post (above).

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