The Bradley effect theorizes that the inaccurate polls were skewed by the phenomenon of social desirability bias. 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.
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."
- Washington Monthly, "East Coast Bias Watch," July 23, 2008
- Payne, Gregory(1986). Tom Bradley: The Impossible Dream : A Biography Roundtable Pub.
- Langer, Gary. (1989, November 8). “Election Poll Problems: Did Some Voters Lie?”, Associated Press
- Buffalo News, Does McCall Have A Chance?" January 20, 2002
- TIME, "Press:Fighting the Last War," November 15, 1982
- KCBS, "Could Bradley Effect Change November Election?" October 9, 2008
- Sacramento Bee, "California poll on Proposition 8 could show 'Bradley effect,'" October 9, 2008
- Real Clear Politics, "The Bradley Effect-selective memory," October 13, 2008
- Harvard: "No more Wilder Effect, never a Whitman Effect:When and why polls mislead about black and female candidates," accessed November 20, 2013