Wednesday, January 09, 2008

New Hampshire Recap -- Your Depressing Thought for the Day

So as a bandwagon-jumping Obama supporter, I was trying to figure out how things went so wrong so fast for my guy. Both Obama's and Clinton's polls had her losing by double-digits in New Hampshire last night. Yet, as we now know, Hillary won and is re-energized heading into South Carolina and Super-Duper Tuesday.

How did they get it so wrong?

Katherine Q. Seelye at the Times politics blog has this simple but depressing explanation. "[The Iowa result] may lead to speculation that in a secret ballot, white voters will not vote for an African American. In Iowa, which Mr. Obama won, the caucuses are public." In other words, white voters may tell a pollster that they're for the African-American candidate in order to appear enlightened, but when alone in a ballot booth their baser instincts take over.

Ms. Seelye's colleague Janet Elder had previously published a longer piece on this topic, the first paragraph of which foresaw what happened last night in Iowa:
In high-profile contests where one of the major party candidates is black, pre-election telephone polls have often been wrong, overstating the strength of the black candidate. In polling circles this is known as the “Bradley effect” or the “Wilder effect” or the “Dinkins effect.” Will it also be known as the Obama effect?
I don't purport to know much about polling, but this argument and last night's result is going to affect (can I say color?) the way I look at prediction and results from now through November.

*UPDATE* I see this morning that Andrew Sullivan blogged essentially the same theory last night. Complete with Wikipedia link no less.


Blogger Jeff Harrison said...

Yes, that is depressing.

It is depressing when anyone feels that to appear enlightened they must base a purported vote on the race of a candidate as opposed to that candidate's views.

But your post raises another question about the theory. Is it really true that having the desire to appear enlightened for whatever reasons -- social presssure, for example -- one's "baser instincts" must have taken over when he or she does not vote for your man? How so? It depends on what is meant by baser. If baser means voting on the issues then thank goodness people do not extend their hypocricy all the way to the voting booth. On the other hand, if by "baser" you mean they are closet racists, I hardly think Hillary is their best alternative.

1/09/2008 1:54 PM  

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