‘Bradley effect’ has a new name: Obama


As America recently voted for its 44th president-elect Barack Obama, people are noticing how race and politics are bringing a new twist to the “Bradley effect.”

The event that occurred in 1982 affected former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, a black candidate who ran for governor in California. RealClearPolitics.com states how pre-election polls predicted an easy win for him between 9 and 22 points. However, white voters who claimed they would vote for Bradley went against their word and voted for his white Republican opponent George Deukmejian, causing him to lose the election by 1.2 percentage points.

Pre-election polls are taken for a number of reasons. Quentin Kidd, chairman of the Department of Government at Christopher Newport University, said, “It’s an effort to determine how voters are feeling about the course of the campaign, which issues are resonating with them, and their views on important issues.

“News organizations like to write stories about which candidate is up and which is down and polls help them write these types of ‘horse race’ stories.”

Pre-election polls can predict one result, but sometimes the exit polls have different outcomes. In 1989 Douglas Wilder, a black candidate for governor of Virginia had pre-election poll results with a 9-point lead, but ended up winning by less than 1 percentage point.

Some people believe a person’s race plays its part to skew public opinion. Bradley effect believers assume some white voters will tell pollsters their decision, but actually vote against a black candidate. “Race is still important in our society, from the way someone talks, to the way they dress and walk, all of these things are visual cues,” said Kidd.

However, since Obama is the United States’ first black president-elect, his win against his white opponent, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., shows how he defeated this effect that occurred more than 25 years ago. “I could say America accepts Barack Obama because he talks white, dresses white, smiles a lot and has degrees from the top schools,” said Kidd.

In order to win, a candidate needs to receive 270 Electoral College votes. According to FiveThirtyEight.com, Obama received 365 Electoral College votes, while McCain received 173. Obama won the popular vote margin by 52.3 percent, compared to McCain’s 46.2 percent. By states, Obama won more votes in the West, Northeast and Midwest regions. As Virginia was a battleground state between the candidates, Obama won the state that hasn’t elected a Democratic presidential candidate in the last 44 years.

As indicated by NOLA.com, Obama captured 43 percent of the white voters, in which 46 percent were white women and 41 percent were white men. He got support from more white voters than Democratic nominees John Kerry and Al Gore in the 2000 and 2004 elections.

Craig Stafford, a junior political science major at Hampton University, said, “Obama won this election because he didn’t portray a pro-black power attitude as was the case for Jesse Jackson when he ran. He was encouraging to all races and even got support from some Republicans.”

According to USNews.com, among voters across the nation, Obama was able to capture 56 percent of female voters and 49 percent of male voters while also gaining support from more than 84 percent of Democrats who supported Hillary Clinton in the primaries.

FiveThirtyEight.com stated how Obama captured votes based on race by 67 percent of Latinos, 62 percent of Asians and 96 percent of blacks. He had 66 percent of voters between the ages of 18-29 and 52 percent of voters between the ages of 30-44.

Chad Smith, a junior political science major at Hampton, said, “The Bradley effect still occurred because Obama didn’t win the vote of white conservative males, but he did win the vote of more white women to some degree.”

One can not compare these two different elections as Bradley attempted to win a state election, while Obama ran for a national position. Both California and the nation as a whole are ethnically diverse, but perhaps times have changed over the last 25 years.

Obama overturned the Bradley effect that was highly publicized before Election Day. Pre-election polls predicted his possible win against McCain, and now the polls have become a reality as voters didn’t turn against the black candidate.

The writer is a junior at the Hampton University Scripps Howard School of Journalism.