Central View: Polling data, the Bradley effect
December 2, 2013
The two questions this writer encounters most often are: No. 1. With the economy in the pits, why is the stock market so high? No. 2. Despite the Obama Administration’s continuing scandals, why do President Obama’s poll numbers, even after the healthcare.gov implosion, remain so favorable?
The answer to the first question is relatively easy. Too many dollars are being created (printed) by the Federal Reserve and too much money from abroad is chasing too few investments of merit, resulting in inflated stock prices across the entire market. Unfortunately, today’s artificially low interest rates are hurting America’s savings-class, which is composed mostly of senior citizens, while, at the same time, making Wall Street stock traders and investment bankers fabulously rich.
The answer to the second question is more difficult to explain. Every major polling company finds that most Americans think the nation is headed in the wrong direction. More people are pessimistic about America’s future than optimistic. Many people see their own past as brighter than the future that awaits their children. And yet, these woes don’t seem to be laid at the feet of the current U.S. president.
Some political scientists explain Obama’s surprisingly high poll numbers on the assumed reluctance of white voters to say anything negative to pollsters about black people. They find this to be true in pre-election polling and even to be true in exit-polling.
This phenomenon is called: the “Bradley Effect,” following the California gubernatorial race between the incumbent Governor George Deukmejian and Tom Bradley, the popular black Mayor of Los Angeles. Pre-election polling indicated a landslide victory for Tom Bradley. Exit polling showed that Bradley had defeated the sitting governor, causing major news organizations to embarrass themselves by saying that Bradley had won. But, after all the votes were counted, the white Deukmejian defeated the black Bradley by 100,000 votes.
This phenomenon would be repeated in a 1989 Virginia gubernatorial race won by the black L. Douglas Wilder versus the white Marshall Coleman. Based on pre-election polling, Wilder was supposed to win by nine points; however, Wilder only won by less than one-half of 1 percent.
And then there is the “Huxtable Effect.” By the time Obama was elected president, generations of Americans had watched Bill Crosby play the lovable and highly respected pediatrician, Dr. Clifford Huxtable, and his lawyer wife, raise an adorable family. Some theorists claim that the “Huxtable Effect” allayed the fears of some white voters about voting for someone of color.
So, pick whichever “effect” you choose to follow, but it appears that when race is involved, then the polling data are highly suspect. Hopefully, by the 2014 and 2016 elections, Americans will be able to follow the admonition of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and judge people “Not by the color of their skin. But by the content of their character.”
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.