Sunday, January 13, 2008

No "Bradley Effect" -- It Was Girl Power

As the navel gazers try and figure out why the polls were so wrong in the democratic New Hampshire primary, some are nodding towards the so-called "Bradley Effect." The term references a governor's race in California in the early 1980s where black gubenatorial candidate Tom Bradley was up 10 points in the pre-election polls only to lose by a few points. Some analysts claim that people were unwilling to sound racist during phone polling, but were gladly willing to express it in the voting booth.

There are several problems with the application of this theory to what happened in New Hampshire. First, and perhaps most importantly, the theory might be bullshit. I doubt a 10-12 point swing can be explained by image-conscious whites being to cowardly to express their true polling preferences. Another problem with the theory is that it assumes that racial attitudes are static over time and comparable state-by-state (i.e., th relative size and views of racists in CA are the same as those in NH). There is simply not enough data to intelligently discuss the issue.

Further, the pre-primary support for Obama (36-37%) was the same as the actual result. I think its pretty obvious that the combination obsessive-mysogynistic coverage of Clinton drove women towards a solidarity vote. Further the Clinton folks adjusted their campaign brilliantly, focusing on turning out the woman vote in a state where the female portion of the electorate is significantly above 50%.

There was a sense of detached entitlement to the Obama campaign in the pre-primary days that made his team oblivious to the developments on the ground. Crowds are not votes, no matter how loud they may be. There was probably more curiousity than support at some rallies. Team Obama conducted themselves like all they had to do was not fuck up, and the people would come. The five days between Iowa and New Hampshire Clinton had plenty of time to adjust to a winning strategy, which she did (barely -- claiming a two point victory as major is Rovian spin). A tone deaf Obama campaign may not, however, had enough time to adjust back. Or, without the loss, they may never had.