Introducing The Bradley-effect Effect

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JANUARY 9, 2008

Introducing The Bradley-effect Effect

I had two thoughts when I woke up today: 1.) Isn't it strange that "Hardball" is on so early? (Turned out it wasn't--you lose a little perspective when you wake up at three in the afternoon.) 2.) Whether or not we observed the Bradley Effect last night (and I'm not convinced we did, though I'm open-minded), maybe the more important question is: What's the effect of all this Bradley-Effect talk? Call it the Bradley-Effect Effect.

Even if it existed, I think the first-order Bradley Effect was pretty small last night. Moreover, I think it would be restricted to certain idiosyncratic states like New Hampshire going forward (see my post early this morning for why). But the Bradley-Effect Effect strikes me as a real concern. You have to wonder about the effect of all the talking heads complaining that Obama lost because white voters opposed him on racial grounds, then lied to pollsters about it. Amid all this talk, will previously supportive African Americans suddenly get squeamish? Will downscale whites suddenly get defensive? Will they react against being lectured to by the national media?

Both of these scenarios are plausible. But there's a third possibility: That the Bradley-Effect Effect actually benefits Obama. Is it so crazy to think working class voters will react to the racism charge by going out of their way to prove it false?

If anyone, Obama is an ideal candidate for a positive Bradley-Effect Effect. He often talks about the respect he has for the judgment of the American people. He says they sometimes get distracted by unimportant things, but that they usually make the right decision in the end. And, of course, with refrains like "Yes We Can," he specifically appeals to their desire to feel good about themselves. 

Just like Hillary may have benefited when the media told voters the race was over, I could see Obama benefiting when the media tells them they're racist.

--Noam Scheiber

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