23 September 2008

The Bradley Effect

During the 1990s, UK TV series Spitting Image included a song “Thank You Tory Voters”, listing disasters caused by the Conservative government. One memorable line was “Voting Tory’s like a fart, no-one admits they’ve done it”.

This was the point at which opinion pollsters noticed something interesting: Conservatives would routinely lose in every opinion poll, and then win the election. Studies were carried out, and it turned out that a surprisingly large number of people were so embarrassed by their support for the Tories that they would routinely tell opinion pollsters one thing, and then vote differently in the privacy of the voting booth.

People are starting to ask whether something similar might be happening in the US Democratic voter base. Here, it’s known as The Bradley Effect. And it’s real:

Deep-seated racial misgivings could cost Barack Obama the White House if the election is close, according to an AP-Yahoo News poll that found one-third of white Democrats harbor negative views toward blacks — many calling them “lazy,” “violent” or responsible for their own troubles.

[…]

Given a choice of several positive and negative adjectives that might describe blacks, 20 percent of all whites said the word “violent” strongly applied. Among other words, 22 percent agreed with “boastful,” 29 percent “complaining,” 13 percent “lazy” and 11 percent “irresponsible.” When asked about positive adjectives, whites were more likely to stay on the fence than give a strongly positive assessment.

Among white Democrats, one-third cited a negative adjective and, of those, 58 percent said they planned to back Obama.

Emphasis mine.

So a third of Democratic voters are racists. Imagine what the statistics for Republicans must look like.

The survey team also used Implicit Association Testing:

The survey broke ground by incorporating images of black and white faces to measure implicit racial attitudes, or prejudices that are so deeply rooted that people may not realize they have them. That test suggested the incidence of racial prejudice is even higher, with more than half of whites revealing more negative feelings toward blacks than whites.

© mathew 2017