Bradley effect

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The Bradley effect, less commonly called the Wilder effect, is a theory proposed to explain observed discrepancies between voter opinion polls and election outcomes in some elections where a white candidate and a minority candidate run against each other.[1][2][3][4] The theory proposes that some voters tend to tell pollsters that they are undecided or likely to vote for a black candidate, and yet, on election day, vote for his white opponent. It was named for Tom Bradley, an African-american who lost the 1982 California governors race despite being ahead in voter polls going into the elections.[5]

The Bradley effect theorizes that the inaccurate polls were skewed by the phenomenon of social desirability bias.[6] Political Consultant Don Solem explained, "It's not so much they're afraid to say it as they think it might be taken the wrong way." Solem said the Bradley Effect is also known as social desirability bias. "Anyone who studies survey research will tell you one of the biggest problems we encounter is this notion of social desirability bias," said Patrick Egan, a professor of politics at New York University. Specifically, some white voters give inaccurate polling responses for fear that, by stating their true preference, they will open themselves to criticism of racial motivation. The reluctance to give accurate polling answers has sometimes extended to post-election exit polls as well. The race of the pollster conducting the interview may factor in to voters' answers.[7]

Some analysts have dismissed the theory of the Bradley effect, while others argue that it may have existed in past elections, but not in more recent ones. One analysis of 133 senate and gubernatorial elections between 1989 and 2006 suggests that "before 1996, the median gap for black candidates was 3.1 percentage points, while for subsequent years it was -0.3 percentage points."[8][9]

See also

Ballotpedia:Index of Terms