Super Tuesday Results Suggest Race Card May Be A Joker in the Primary Deck

  • February 07, 2008
  • By Anthony G. Greenwald and Bethany Albertson

Sifting through overnight results after the Super Tuesday primaries, we have found that race still plays a role in American politics but that it showed up in surprising ways in the tallies from states holding Democratic primary elections so far this year.

Early analysis of primary counts and polling data from the final week of the campaign indicated that pre-election polls exaggerated support for Sen. Barack Obama in two states with relatively low black populations --California and Massachusetts. But the reverse was true in Alabama and Georgia, where blacks make up a larger bloc of voters. The same phenomenon is seen in the earlier primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina.

The findings in Alabama and Georgia suggest the discovery of a new "reverse" Bradley effect.

The Bradley effect was first noticed by survey researchers in 1982 when black Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley had a solid lead in the pre-election gubernatorial polls, but lost a close election in California to his Republican opponent. Results from that and other races involving black candidates indicated that, for whatever reason, pre-election polling tended to overstate support for black candidates compared with their actual vote percentages.

In research we jointly undertook last December, we analyzed data from an online test that measures unconscious or automatic preferences. On the basis of our findings, we surmised that the Bradley effect might well repeat itself in 2008. Our more recent findings, however, suggest a more complicated pattern.

Read the full analysis Super Tuesday Results Suggest Race Card May Be A Joker in the Primary Deck on the Pew Research Center Web site.