Sunday, October 19, 2008

How much is "Bradley effect" a thing of the past?

By DeWayne Wickham

It’s quite possible that when Americans go to the polls next month to select the next president, race will be of little consequence.

I want to believe that the kind of unstated — and unforeseen — racism widely thought to have scuttled the 1982 California gubernatorial campaign of Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley is gone forever.

I’m hopeful the hidden bigotry that appears to explain why L. Douglas Wilder’s 15-point lead nine days before Virginia’s 1989 gubernatorial election translated into a victory of less than 1 percent is a thing of the past.

Earlier this month, pollster John Zogby said this so-called “Bradley effect” likely won’t be a factor in the presidential contest between Barack Obama and John McCain.

Why? In the vast majority of 2008 Democratic primaries, “there was no significant difference between our final polling results and the actual results,” Zogby wrote for “Last-minute voters were fairly evenly split between Hillary Clinton and Obama supporters in many key states.”

If that reassures you, it shouldn’t.Measuring this year’s Democratic primaries against Bradley’s 1982 general election is a warped comparison.

Racism didn’t make its appearance in the California contest until the general election, when state voters chose between Bradley, a black Democrat, and George Deukmejian, his white Republican opponent.The same was true in Virginia. Wilder’s 1989 Democratic primary victory offered no hint that many voters harbored a hidden resistance to black candidates.Contrary to what Zogby suggests, there is reason to worry that the attitudes behind the Bradley effect still infect American politics.

In 2006, Massachusetts voters, among the most liberal in the country, made Deval Patrick just the second black elected governor in history. His victory came in a Democratic landslide that gave the party control of all six statewide offices for the first time in 22 years.

But Patrick received the fewest votes of any candidate on the party’s statewide ticket.“That’s very unusual,” said Ronald Walters, a professor of government and political science at the University of Maryland and author of “Black Presidential Politics in America.”

Candidates at the top of a party’s ticket usually get the most votes. But Patrick received at least 200,000 fewer votes than Democrats elected to the positions of attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer and state auditor.

Far more voters cast ballots for Patrick’s Republican opponent than voted for any of the GOP challengers who lost to the other Democrats seeking statewide office.

It’s possible that was due to something other than the color of Patrick’s skin. But because Patrick won by a comfortable margin, it seems likely Zogby and other political analysts simply missed seeing signs that the Bradley effect still exists.

Walters finds the results of Massachusetts’ 2006 election curious, but he doesn’t think the Bradley effect will hurt Obama’s chances of becoming the nation’s first black president.

He believes it can’t stand up to the large numbers of new voters expected to heavily favor Obama. Walters may be right.

But even if he is, that doesn’t mean the Bradley effect no longer operates as a force in this nation’s political life.

1 comment:

Namų Darkytoja said...

Is it possible, that Obama's lead could evaporate on election day because of Bradley-Wilder effect? Or nowadays Americans are significantly less reluctant to vote for an African-American? Vote here -