The press and the Bradley effect

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

Boy, the flow of these stories has become a torrent. The latest comes from abcnews.com: "Will the Bradley Effect Be Obama's Downfall?"

To us, the stories have the same ring as the McCain "comeback" narrative, and that the press seems more interested in injecting some missing drama into the campaign (Obama could still lose!), than advancing real news stories.

The problem, as illustrated by the ABC story, is that despite the breathless headlines, there's very little that's news to substantiate the Bradley effect narrative, which is named after former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, an African-American, who he ran for California governor in 1982 and lost, despite pre-Election Day polls showing him with a comfortable lead. The theory was that voters mislead pollsters about whether they would vote for a minority candidate.

The issue is a legitimate one for debate and discussion. It's just that in terms of the press presenting it as a burning news issue right now, there were few if any examples of The Bradley effect during the very long primary season. Polling pro's say there hasn't been a clear example of the Bradley effect in decades. And the Obama campaign claims the notion is absurd:

"I think this is a completely overblown story," said Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, saying concerns about hidden racism skewing polling data are "ridiculous."

Yet the press won't stop writing about it. And worse, journalists claim they're not the ones obsessed [emphasis added]:

Despite the lack of empirical evidence, the Bradley effect lives on, fueling anxiety and nervousness among many Democrats that Obama's lead will disappear on Election Day.

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, Race & Ethnicity, Elections
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