Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Politics of Race and Gender in 2008: Will the Bradley Effect Hold Sway?

By Joe Sims

Will the “Bradley Effect” affect Barack Obama’s campaign for presidency? What is the Bradley effect? Tom Bradley ran twice for Governor of California and in the first contest narrowly lost despite having been widely projected as the winner. The term then refers to a tendency in some white voters to say one thing to pollsters, but do the opposite in the voting booth. It suggests that some with lukewarm support for a candidate or who say they are undecided are more conservative and end up voting that way. An a article published a year ago quoted a Newsweek story stating that a similar phenomenon occurred in the Virginia race of Doug Wilder:

“Ronald Walters of the University of Maryland was at Wilder's hotel as a projected easy victory turned into a nail-biter. That is a night "I'll never forget," says Walters, who thinks it "naive" to believe that things have changed very much. He believes that some percentage of whites—perhaps 5 percent or so, intent on being seen as less biased than they may be—will claim to support a nonwhite candidate when they actually do not.
Other political observers think the effect may have diminished over time. "We may be seeing the turning of this," says Ed Sarpolus, vice president of EPIC-MRA, a Michigan-based polling firm.”

Has such a turning point been reached? Only time will tell. Yet another question if a similar phenomenon will hound Hillary Clinton. I spoke with someone today who quoted a mid-Western labor leader as saying, if was their belief that ultimately the election will hinge around who voters think can win against a Republican and that won’t be an African American or a woman. An older African American veteran said as much today when leaving work, however, giving her nod to Clinton: because the main issue is defeating the Republicans.

Andrew Young according to a Washington Post newspaper column voiced similar concerns urging Obama to wait until 2016. Right now Young argued, Obama would be crucified if elected. Young, a veteran of the civil rights campaigns and an associate of Dr. King, grew more conservative with the passing of years as exemplified by an unflattering stint as the US representative at the UN. No surprise there. Yet many African Americans are wondering whether the Bradley effect still holds true.

3 comments:

normandmarkowitz said...

Joe's points are interesting, but there is a factual error that should be corrected. Tom Bradley ran for Mayor of Los Angeles and won the second time, running against the notorious reactionary Mayor Sam Yorty(mocked as Mayor Zorty on the Batman series of the 1960s)
Defeating the Republicans is of course the necessary condition for any change from the political course of the last twenty-five years. Defeating the Republicans with a candidate who concretely represents peoples movements, even in a limited way, will make that necessary condition sufficient

joe sims said...

to Norman:

The corrector needs to be corrected, (as the educators need to be educated). The comment refers to Bradley's race for governor, not mayor of LA.

Joe S

n said...

Joe,
You have a point. Sorry about that although besides that correction, comment was meant to be supportive.