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What Is The Bradley Effect? Who Was Bradley?

The so-called “Bradley Effect” is a topic of conversation and, for Democrats, concern in the 2008 campaign.

What is the Bradley effect? Who was Bradley?

The Bradley effect is the idea that persons contacted by pollsters lie about support for a black candidate for public office. They tell the pollster they support a black candidate because they don’t wish to be seen as racist. But when they go to vote, they vote for the white candidate in the race instead of the black person they had told the pollster they favored.

This is the Texas Liberal Election Fact Of The Day.

A recent Associated Press story suggests that Senator Obama will have to have a lead in the polls of at least six points to overcome this factor on Election Day. This idea is disputed by a leading analyst of poll data. This New York Times article discusses the issue.

The term Bradley effect comes from the 1982 election for Governor of California. Los Angles Mayor Tom Bradley ( photo above), a black man, was leading in the polls over California Attorney General George Deukmejian. Mr. Bradley was a Democrat and Mr. Deukmejian a Republican.

Despite Mr. Bradley’s lead in the polls, Mr. Deukmejian won the election by a small margin.

From the New York Times 1998 obituary of Mayor Bradley

“Tom Bradley, the sharecropper’s son who became Mayor of Los Angeles and presided over the city for two decades of explosive growth and change, died yesterday..He was 80. Mr. Bradley was Mayor from 1973 to 1993, an era in which Los Angeles was transformed from a collection of suburban neighborhoods to what Mr. Bradley liked to call a ”world-class city,” a place with glittering skyscrapers, a striking new skyline and a vibrant downtown…. His election as the first black Mayor of Los Angeles, which was then the nation’s third largest city and largely white, reflected a significant change in local politics in the United States. For most of that time, Mr. Bradley was an immensely popular figure whose stately bearing and placid demeanor seemed to reassure his increasingly polyglot city….Soft-spoken and self-effacing, Mr. Bradley shunned some of the perquisites that his stature and office might have brought him. Calling it a foolish waste of money, he refused to use a cellular telephone that was installed in his car, a former aide recalled. Still, Mr. Bradley learned to move as easily in the society of the fabulously wealthy as he did in the world of the poor and disadvantaged from which he had come.”

Is the Bradley effect for real? Have we moved ahead in the 26 years since 1982? Will a kind of reverse Bradley effect take place this year where Senator Obama actually gains votes because he is black?

Nobody knows.

( Please click here for information about black governors in the United States)

(Please click here to read about black U.S. Senators.)

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October 12, 2008 - Posted by | Campaign 2008, Election Fact Of The Day, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. do you think it was that obvious? bad polling maybe? i think the country has come further than most give credit for and at the same time i can see the way people think here in ohio, bitching and not voting, voting along party lines for all the wrong reasons, there is a cocktail of voters and overall polls are silly. the cell phone users are missing as well. this could go either way but my guess it will benifit Obama who i support.

    Comment by bill brady | October 14, 2008

  2. Bill–I think you are right that we have moved ahead in the years since Mayor Bradley ran for Governor.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | October 16, 2008


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