Wednesday, January 9, 2008

About the Bradley Effect: Not So Much

As depressing as I find Hillary's comeback, I can't agree with the initial reaction that it may have been the so-called "Bradley Effect," in which white voters say they will vote one way in a poll in order to appear more tolerant of a black candidate. Sully initially showed some sympathy for this view, though he has since backed off from it.

But looking at the last polls before the election, Obama does not appear to have lost much support. Indeed, the last four polls taken before the primary put Obama at between 37 and 42 percent support, with the 42 percent being the notoriously unreliable Zogby poll. The largest poll sample, Rasmussen, actually had Obama at 37 percent, which looks to be where he finished. The big swing, then, came in Clinton's support, which went from between 30 and 34 percent up to 39 percent. Richardson was between 4 and 8 percent, Edwards between 15 and 20, and undecideds between 5 and 8.

As much as Hillary gained, those gains appear to have come as much from the pool of undecideds/ former Dodd and Biden supporters, Edwards, and Richardson as it did from Obama. On average, Obama perhaps lost 2 percent of his support overnight- hardly significant, and well within each poll's margin of error.

We also know, according to the exit polls, that Obama's youth support got beaten pretty badly by an even more mobilized than usual elderly vote. Not only that, but he only won by 10 points amongst first time primary voters. That's not to say that the youth vote didn't turn out for Obama in large numbers- the 18-24 age group made up a surprising 11% of the vote- almost as much as the 65 and over vote, and proportionally almost as much as the baby boomer age bracket- and went overwhelmingly for Obama. The problem for Obama was that the 25-29 age group made up only 7% - and was about evenly split between Obama and Hillary. Finally, the 30-39 age group (which went pretty clearly for Obama) only made up 15%- only slightly more than the much smaller 18-24 age group. By contrast, Hillary dominated the three oldest age groups, which collectively made up 67% of the vote.

Bottom line: Hillary did a good job winning back the less certain supporters of all her opponents and of winning the undecideds. It's tough to say how much of that was her moment of sensitivity yesterday, how much was her moment of humanity during the debate the other night, or if it was just an outstanding get-out-the vote effort. Still- Obama should be proud of the fact that he is the first candidate in my lifetime (and probably longer) to actually succeed in mobilizing the youth vote; unfortunately, the Gen X-ers seem to have retained their collective cynicism about the political process.

(via memeorandum)

**UPDATE** One of Matthew Yglesias' commenters also noticed the same problem with the "Bradley Effect" narrative.