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The Bradley-Wilder Effect in the 2008 Election? Maybe in Michigan.

By Michael Morse | October 12, 2008

Barack Obama’s race has been a topic of discussion throughout the Presidential campaign. He is obviously the first minority nominee for a major party. And he has a real chance of winning, according to the barrage of polling taking place across the country. But pollsters are wondering if they still have to adjust for lingering social biases. Among the polling community, the Bradley-Wilder Effect is used to describe the discrepancies between pre-election polls and the actual results when a white candidate runs against a non-white one. The name comes from the 1982 California Governor race involving Tom Bradley and the 1989 Virginia Governor race involving Doug Wilder. In both races, the polls drastically understated the support for the white candidate; the results for the black candidate proved accurate in both races though.

This phenomenon continued into the 1990’s, but many pollsters believe that this effect has faded, and maybe even died. Results from 2006 elections failed to show the Bradley-Wilder Effect. The notable difference was Michigan’s vote on Proposition 2, the anti-affirmative action initiative. Polls showed a narrow margin on this proposal before the vote, but the vote ended overwhelmingly for the proposal, striking down affirmative action initiatives. So, although the Bradley-Wilder Effect may be dead in the rest of the country, look out for it in Michigan come November 4. Let’s hope this nasty phenomenom has breathed its last breath in 2006 and Michigan voters vote for the better candidate: Barack Obama.

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