Friday, September 12, 2008

Prejudice against Obama

“The Obama campaign would do well to print signs to post prominently in its offices: ALWAYS SUBTRACT SEVEN PERCENT!”

That advice comes from Andrew Hacker, a political science professor at Queens College, in a September 25 New York Review of Books article titled: “Obama: The Price of Being Black.”

Hacker’s seven percentage point subtraction from pro-Obama poll results is based on the “Bradley effect,” named after Tom Bradley, the black mayor of Los Angeles who lost his 1982 bid for governor after every poll showed him ahead of his white opponent. Results in other elections indicate that many white voters don’t tell pollsters the truth about their feelings against black candidates.

Senator Barrack Obama faces another little discussed hurdle in his historic race for the White House. In a reversal of the decades-old trend to make the voting franchise universal, Hacker writes,

“…Now strong forces are at work to downsize the electorate, ostensibly to combat fraud and strip the rolls of voters who are ineligible for one reason or another. But the real effect is to make it harder for many black Americans to vote, largely because they are more vulnerable to challenges than other parts of the population.”

Hacker describes in detail how some new state and Federal rules – even “the amiably titled Help America Vote Act” –have the effect of placing a heavier burden on blacks to exercise their right to vote. One of his sources is “Restoring the Right to Vote” by Erika Wood, a 34-page publication of the Brennan Center for Justice of the New York University School of Law, which can be accessed here.

Hacker’s analysis does not mean Obama is bound to lose. It is, however, an alarm bell to unprejudiced whites, among whom a greater get-out-the-vote effort will be needed. At least seven percentage points greater.

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1 comment:

Al Giordano said...

Dear Robert,

A colleague forwarded to me an email sent out by you with a link to a short blog entry arguing that the "Bradley effect" means that one should reduce all polling counts for Obama by seven percent.

While I'm sure that the sentiment was sincere, I'd like to bring your attention to more recent data that demonstrates that whether or not the Bradley effect worked against Tom Bradley or Harold Washington, it no longer is a factor in polling on bi-racial political contests in the United States.

A National Journal column this spring by respected polling expert Mark Blumenthal of is definitive on the question:

"In recent years, however, that pattern has not held. As reported by Scott Keeter and Nilanthi Samaranayake of the Pew Research Center last
year, polls in five biracial contests in 2006 were largely accurate. The margins between the candidates predicted the vote, with no evidence of hidden support for the white candidates. "The accuracy of the polling in these five biracial elections," they wrote, "suggests that the problems that bedeviled polling in the 1980s and early 1990s
may no longer be so serious."

The reason I take the time to write this to you is because I think the argument - "Obama is really seven points behind where you think he is"
- works only to promote despair and apathy, the sense that it doesn't matter anyway, so why register voters or even vote. Much in the same
way that Rovian Republicans like to push their own voter caging and repression tactics into the spotlight (because to obsess on them has
the effect of reducing turnout as much or more than the actual caging), inaccurate citing of the Bradley Effect encourages that same defeatism.

I hope you will read the Blumenthal column and related links and research, and consider filing a correction, or at least consider offering this differing set of facts, to be sent to everyone you sent the original email, which seems to be a pretty large list.


Al Giordano
publisher, Narco News
political reporter, The Field