Sep 20, 2008


How big of a factor is Barack Obama's race in the race for president? An AP Yahoo News poll indicates it's substantial:
Statistical models derived from the poll suggest that Obama's support would be as much as 6 percentage points higher if there were no white racial prejudice.
It may be impossible to quantify the effect prejudice will have on the election. Certain other factors could compensate for or even magnify feelings about race - Obama's age, how closely he resembles black stereotypes, rumors he's Muslim, McCain's age, etc.

To the extent the Obama campaign can make the election one of issues rather than one of affinity, the chance that race becomes a decisive factor in the voting booth diminishes. And so McCain's choice of Sarah Palin, an affinity candidate, becomes all the more important to the Republican side.

It's in that regard that the Palin pick could pay off for McCain among Hillary Clinton supporters. It's not that she's a woman, it's that she's an attractive choice to those looking for a reason not to vote for Obama (despite their general agreement with him on the issues).

From the poll:
Among white Democrats, Clinton supporters were nearly twice as likely as Obama backers to say at least one negative adjective described blacks well, a finding that suggests many of her supporters in the primaries — particularly whites with high school education or less — were motivated in part by racial attitudes.
*Update: Nate Silver at has some interesting observations about the poll results and the so-called Bradley Effect (see comments).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The revelations in this Yahoo survey should neither be shocking nor surprising to anyone.

Obama can only win if he can maintain a double digit lead over McCain because of the "Bradley effect".

The Bradley effect referred to the phenomenon of Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley losing the California governor's race when he was shown to be in the lead, yet that lead produced a mirror-image win for his Republican opponent. Voters turned against a black candidate in the privacy of the voting booth.

Polls have also noted that when an African American is conducting the survey, Obama support rises.

Obama's problem is that he cannot break through and mount an insurmountable lead over McCain.

His level of support is more or less remaining steady from where it was during the primaries.

If Obama loses, one way to test for the Bradley effect is to count the primary states where Obama won, and see which of those states McCain wins in the general election.

There was higher turnout for Democratic races than Republican races this year. Also, there were a few campaigns by talk radio and right-wing blogs encouraging conservatives to vote for the Democrat they perceive as the least palatable to the general public, to set them up for a loss in November.

Keep an eye on the states Obama won in the primary but McCain will win in the general. The Bradley effect may shift results in these states.