POLITICS
11/21/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

How Pundits Get The Bradley Effect Wrong: Not Just About Race

Political pundits are hyperventilating over the possibility that Sen. Barack Obama's lead in presidential polls is overstated and that the so-called "Bradley effect" -- named for the late Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley -- could kick in and upend predictions.

In 1982, Bradley, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee in California, had led in pre-election surveys, and was declared the winner in pollster Mervin Field's exit polls. Bradley was poised to become the nation's first elected African-American governor. But when the votes were counted, the Republican nominee, California Atty. Gen. George Deukmejian, had eked out a narrow victory.

Political analysts declared that race was the reason for Bradley's loss -- and that the discrepancy between polls and the actual vote was due to white voters' fudging their responses to the "horse race" question, because it was deemed socially unacceptable to admit opposition to a minority candidate.

But the talking heads pretty much got it wrong. A lot more than race cost Bradley the governorship.

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