Somebody, Please, Clobber the "Bradley Effect" with a Rusty Shovel Already

The Marvel No-Prize for "stupidest column of the day" goes to (drum roll) this slithering heap of offal by Susan Estrich, better known to you and me as the brains behind the Dukakis landslide. In the middle of an argument that boils down to "gee, the election is sort of close," Estrich worries that the "Bradley effect" of white voters lying about their support of black candidates will sink Obama.

The experience of the primaries, not to mention that of other African-American candidates, suggests that polls tend to overstate, not understate, support for black candidates.

For a debunkinging of the "other African-American candidates" nonsense, go here.

With the exception of Indiana, every pre-primary poll in a major state showed the race between Obama and Clinton to be closer than it turned out to be.

This is true, but not to the benefit of Hillary Clinton. Here's what the polls said, then what the voters said, in all of the big states from the end of February to the end of May.

Wisconsin. Final poll average: Obama 48.9, Clinton 41.9. Final result: Obama 58.1, Clinton 40.8. Obama beat the spread by 10 points.

Ohio. Final poll average: Clinton 49.6, Obama 43.6. Final result: Clinton 53.5, Obama 44.8. Clinton beat the spread by 3 points.

Texas. Final poll average: Clinton 47.8, Obama 45.9. Final result: Clinton 50.9, Obama 47.4. Clinton beat the spread by 1 point.

Pennsylvania. Final poll average: Clinton 49.8, Obama 42.8. Final result: Clinton 54.4, Obama 45.3. Clinton beat the spread by 2 points.

North Carolina. Final poll average: Obama 49.6, Clinton 42.3. Final result: Obama 56.1, Clinton 41.6. Obama beat the spread by 8 points.

Indiana. Final poll average: Clinton 48.6, Obama 44.4. Final result: Clinton 50.6, Obama 49.4. Obama beat the spread by 3 points.

Kentucky. Final poll average: Clinton 63.2, Obama 28. Final result: Clinton 65.5, Obama 29.9. Clinton beat the spread by less than 1 point.

Oregon. Final poll average: Obama 54.1, Clinton 41.6. Final result: Obama 58.5, Clinton 40.5. Obama beat the spread by 5.5 points.

Three conclusions: One, Obama never got a lower share of the vote than the final poll average projected, and the closest he came was winning 44 percent of the Ohio vote when polls had him at 43. Two, on average Obama outperformed Clinton in beating the spread predicted by pollsters. Her biggest surge was a 3-points-bigger-than-expected Ohio win; he won by 10 points better than expected in Wisconsin. Third, Obama beat those spreads by outperforming expectations among white voters. He won a majority of the white vote in Wisconsin, pre-Jeremiah Wright. He won whites in Oregon, post-Wright. Which segues nicely into more Estrich nonsense.

Recent polls showing America to be as racially polarized as ever don’t exactly give comfort to those who would dismiss the concern that some voters may be telling pollsters one thing and then doing something very different when they actually mark their ballots.

But they're not doing that! In Indiana, for example, Clinton won 78 percent of the white voters who said "race was important" in their vote—that was 10 percent of all white voters. In West Virginia, the site of Obama's biggest primary defeat, 21 percent of whites said race was important and they broke 84-9 for Clinton. The voters who actually have a problem with Obama's race are saying so when they vote against him.

Compare this to the 1982 race for governor of California between George Deukmajian and Tom Bradley. It was a complicated election, because conservative turnout was surging ahead of what polls projected as people came out to beat the anti-handgun Proposition 15. In the final Field poll, 3-4 percent of whites actually said they were voting against Bradley because he was black. But that same poll showed Bradley winning 47-41, with Deukmajian gaining, just presumably not by enough to overtake Bradley. There is no example of a similar reversal happening to Barack Obama in any 2008 primary; indeed, there's no example of a black candidate in 2006 (there were six such statewide candidates) underperforming the polls so badly. And yet people say that there is, and get paid for it.

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  • Episiarch||

    Three conclusions:...numbers, percentages, etc.

    Dave, are you a great Dungeon Master, or the greatest Dungeon Master?

  • Colin||

    The polls and the results you list are from Democratic primaries. I have yet to read where the Bradley Effect occurred during a Democratic primary.

    We'll see what happens in the general.

  • Elemenope||

    Dave, are you a great Dungeon Master, or the greatest Dungeon Master?

    You made me spew coffee.

    Bastard!

  • DADIODADDY||

    numbers? we don't need no stinking numbers.

  • Episiarch||

    You made me spew coffee.

    Literally? Awesome.

  • ||

    Don't make me dust off my 19th level Ranger! I gots mad skillz wit the dice, yo! I'd be like, Magic Missle, bitch! and +2 Sword of Sharpness, sucka! and you'd all come back at me and I'd be like...

    SAVING ROLL, MOTHERFUCKER!

  • ||

    Though anti-black racism is not yet dead in America, it has been waning for my entire life.* I remember when the race of characters in I Spy and Mannix were groundbreaking events. We are slowly leaving that pathology behind us.

    * I know there will always be those who irrationally hate folks for their pigmentation, just like there will always be those who hate Catholics.

  • ||

    It's a good thing the overwhelming majority of campaign coverage elsewhere doesn't resemble some kind of Obama ass-licking festival, because if it did, Weigel's work here wouldn't be so very special and important.

  • Baltimoron||

    Do we really need this kind of horse-race coverage here? What do Obama and the Bradley Effect have to do with "free minds and free markets"?

    I'm all for discussing the major party candidates' IDEAS, and how libertarian or not they are. But this is the sort of thing you could read just about anywhere. Just sayin'.

  • ||

    Curse you and your racist facts, David!

  • Alan Vanneman||

    Dave,

    You've convinced me! Susan is an idiot! Wait a minute! I already knew that!

  • Abhishek||

    Dave, I agree with your analysis. However, there does seem to be a significant Bradley efect when you look at the *exit polls*. Just run the same chart with , for instance, the CNN exit polls in all these states and you will see what I mean.

    Of course, opinion polls are more relevant than exit polls to the issue currently under discussion (Obama's present level of support vis-a-vis his probable performance in the election) so Susan's column remains stupid.

  • Pundit||

    Here's a set of data. It'll show whatever it is that I'm trying to prove, I'm sure. Just don't ask me to analyze it, stay within its limitations, or understand it on any level.

  • ||

    Yeah, but...

    You are talking about a Democratic Primary where voters are most likely to vote for the most liberal candidate, i.e. Barack Obama.

    Translate this to the general election and who knows what you get?

    To me this is like the "silly season" in European Football (Soccer). Writers have nothing better to do so they ponder their navel.

    But all of you wankers can have Kerry Howley. I think Susan Estrich is hawwwwt!

  • Rhywun||

    Recent polls showing America to be as racially polarized as ever



    Garbage in, garbage out.

  • ||

    there does seem to be a significant Bradley efect when you look at the *exit polls*

    There's more of one... that's what the "Wilder Effect" was in Virginia in 1989. Exits showed Wilder winning a close but safe race, and in the end he won by less than 1 percent.

    And you're right, that's not what Estrich is talking about. Estrich is feeding this get-happy line that you can discount Obama's small lead because it includes fibbing white voters. No proof of that.

  • ||

    But all of you wankers can have Kerry Howley. I think Susan Estrich is hawwwwt!


    Estrich, hot? I think not. Perhaps if her name were estrus. Howley, on the other hand, is a hoot.

  • ||

    Susan Estrich: best argument for why Obama's editing of the Harvard Law Review doesn't mean squat.

  • Sam-I-Am||

    Do we really need this kind of horse-race coverage here?

    No, but it fills space and all the cool kids are doing it.

  • ||

    Dave,

    You've convinced me! Susan is an idiot! Wait a minute! I already knew that!



    From my recollection of Thurber's "If Grant Had Been Drinking at Appomattox"

    McClellan [I think]: Did you tell President Lincoln I was an idiot?

    Grant: No. I thought he already knew.

  • Elemenope||

    You are talking about a Democratic Primary where voters are most likely to vote for the most liberal candidate, i.e. Barack Obama.

    He. Heehehe. HeeheHEheeHAHAHAHAHA! HA! [Hiccup] Heheehhhehe. Hehe.

    My apologies. Please, carry on.

  • Mark||

    "Please John, it's the primaries, just relax. Americans are only voting for the chance to vote for a black president. You see, once they get to the general election, I think they'll find a 73-year-old white Republicans is just about the kind of change they're ready for." - Larry Wilmore

  • joe||

    We can bury the Bradley Effect, Dave, when it doesn't show up in a general election.

    Here's hoping.

  • PacificGatePost||

    HILLARY MAY BE ANTICIPATING A DIFFERENT OUTCOME AT THE CONVENTION

    The Democratic convention is not over and done with.

    http://pacificgatepost.blogspot.com/2008/07/is-clintons-presidential-campaign.html

  • Hillary Clinton||

    For the sake of the Democratic party, I must get the presidential nomination because Senator Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again.

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