Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The White Guilt Effect

Reading this 538 post on The Bradley Effect it occurs to me there is another aspect to this effect that isn't discussed much. The presumption in most discussions of this effect is that bigots and racists may tell a pollster that they will vote for Obama because they feel bad expressing their racism out loud, but when election day comes they are alone and so their real feelings come forward. What I think is missing in this analysis is an understanding of voters who couldn't give a crap about Obama's race, but don't want their disagreement with him to be judged on racial grounds. The thinking of this kind of voter goes like this:

1. I don't like Obama's policies...

2. but, I don't want to be accused of racism if I say I won't vote for him...

3. So, I will tell a pollster that I am going to vote for him...

4. But, I will vote for McCain come election day.

Call this the "White Guilt" version of The Bradley Effect.

I don't know how much of this will be a factor in this election, but my gut tells me that it won't be. I think the one thing Obama has going for him is he makes people comfortable enough with him that they don't fear being labeled a racist if they disagree with him. That was not the case with previous national African American leaders (in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if this accounted for a lot of the polling differences 20 years ago when Bradley ran for governor of California).

We can hope.

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