Monday, October 13, 2008

More on race in the Presidential race

There has been much speculation in the blogosphere about how many points in the polls racism is costing Senator Obama. Some try to sugarcoat it, saying that white people sometimes have no idea how racist they really are, that it's an unconscious thing... but nobody talks about the reverse. I've seen no discussion save for some of CC's comments as to any offsetting advantages the color of his skin confers.

I've also heard many young people (white), and people of all ages at church say how exciting it is to be a part of history in the making by voting for Senator Obama. Of course, that's merely anecdotal evidence.(always remember that YOUR examples are data, while the other guy's examples are merely anecdotes) But in this case, GALLUP agrees- they find that race is either a non-issue, or possibly even a net plus for Senator Obama.
"More specifically, to review perhaps the most important finding in these data, 7% of white voters say Obama's race makes them less likely to vote for him. But 6% of white voters say Obama's race makes them more likely to vote for him. And among nonwhite voters, Obama's race is a significant net plus."

Personal note. There is one aspect of race that does affect me personally in all this. You may not have noticed, but I make a point of calling the Democratic nominee Senator Obama. I'm old enough to remember when honorifics (Mr., Mrs., Officer, etc.) were not used when referring to people of color. It was in my lifetime that many magazines and newspaper first used honorifics for African Americans (negroes back then), and it caused many letters to the editor, and cancellations of subscriptions. If you don't know what I'm talking about, go rent In the Heat of the Night. I know that in today's world, it's considered an honor to be recognized by a single name, like Madonna, but to my ancient ears it sounds disrespectful to do it too often.


ogre said...

The effect you're referring to is called the Bradley -- or Bradley-Wilder -- Effect.

It's been gummed nearly to death over at -- with the upshot being that the evidence for it was modest, and that it's faded over time. However, if it exists today, it appears to be pretty schizophrenic, with a small swing against Obama plausible in liberal states (where the taboo against expressing one's disfavor for the duskier candidate might be stronest), and an also small swing towards him in the red states where voters might be wary of publicly admitting that they were actually going to vote for him.

Bottom line is that if the effect exists, it's small, and probably is unlikely to have an effect save in very strange situations, on a state by state level (say... if GA actually were to get within the proverbial win by an eyelash range).

It's made harder to measure by the fact that there are several other hard to determine effects out there, such as the increasing cell phone-only demographic not being polled... and it's made harder to decide if that means anything by the fact that there's an age demographic skew to that demographic, too.

ogre said...

You just had to mention it--now it's popping up all over. Scroll down. There's mention of a small reverse effect in some areas.