'Wilder (Bradley) Effect': Polling Myths or Truths

As the general election draws closer, opinion polls show the Democratic nominee U.S. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois with a double-digit lead over Republican rival U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona. But some analysts think surveys don't accurately measure the support for black candidates because of the "Bradley effect". The term was coined after Tom Bradley lost his bid for governor of California in 1982. Bradley, who is African-American, had a solid lead before Election Day, only to lose the race by a slim margin.

It's also called the "Wilder effect," referring to L. Douglas Wilder, who in 1989 became the first African-American elected governor since Reconstruction when he won the Virginia gubernatorial race by a slim half a percent margin.

Wilder, now serving as the Mayor of Richmond, Virginia, discusses polling, race and the "Wilder effect."

'Bradley Effect' And The Obama Presidential Bid

Democratic presidential nominee U.S. Sen. Barack Obama

hide captionDemocratic presidential nominee U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) greets people at Amway Arena October 20, 2008 in Orlando, Florida.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The latest polls show Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) with a clear lead over rival Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona. The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, for example, shows Obama leading McCain 53 to 44 percent. But throughout the campaign analysts have questioned whether some voters are actually being honest with pollsters when they say they'll vote for an African-American.

It's been called the Bradley effect. The term was coined after then-Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley lost his bid for governor of California in 1982. Bradley had a solid lead in the polls going into Election Day, but then lost by a slim margin. Was it because he was black? And could the same dynamic be at play in this election?

Veteran Democratic pollster Ron Lester and Blair Levin, who worked on the Bradley campaign, discusses the issue. Levin recently wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times, arguing that Bradley's loss had nothing to do with his race.

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