Polls may underestimate Obama's support by 3 to 4 percent, researchers say

October 10, 2008,

(PhysOrg.com) -- Current polls of the presidential election may be underestimating Barack Obama's support by 3 to 4 percent nationally and possibly larger margins in the Southeast and some strongly Republican states, according to University of Washington researchers.

Psychologist Anthony Greenwald and political scientist Bethany Albertson, who analyzed data from the 32 states holding Democratic primaries, said race played an unexpectedly powerful role in distorting pre-election poll findings and the same scenario could play out in the election between Obama and John McCain.

"The Clinton-Obama raced dragged on so long, but it generated a lot of data. It is the only existing basis on which to predict how a black candidate will do in a national general election," said Greenwald, who pioneered studies how people's unconscious bias affects their behavior. "The level of inaccuracy of the polls in the primaries was unprecedented."

Prior to the start of the primary season, the UW researchers thought the so-called Bradley effect would play a key role in the 2008 election. Previously, this effect showed exaggerated pre-election poll support for black candidates in some prominent elections in the 1980s and 1990s.

The Bradley effect is named for former Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley, a black, who lost a close 1982 gubernatorial election in California after holding a solid lead in the polls. As the 2008 primaries played out, Greenwald and Albertson found that the Bradley effect only showed up in three states -- California, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

However, they found a reverse Bradley effect in 12 primary states. In these states they found actual support for Obama exceeded pre-election polls by totals of 7 percent or more, well beyond the polls' margins of error. These errors ranged up to 18 percent in Georgia.

"The Bradley effect has mutated. We are seeing it in several states, but the reverse effect is much stronger," said Greenwald. "We didn't have a chance to look at these effects before on a national level. The prolonged Democratic primary process this year gave us a chance to look for this effect in 32 primaries in which the same two candidates faced each other."

Albertson and Greenwald believe the errors in the polls are being driven by social pressures that can operate when voters are contacted by telephone prior to an election. They said that polls from states in the Southeast predicted a large black vote for Obama and a much weaker white vote. They found that, in a few Southeast states, exit polls showed that both whites and blacks gave more votes to Obama than the pre-election polls had predicted.

"Blacks understated their support for Obama and, even more surprising, whites did too. There also is some indication that this happened in such Republican states as Montana, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Missouri and Indiana," Greenwald said.

"If you call people on the phone today and ask who they will vote for, some will give responses influenced by what may be understood, locally, as the more desirable response. It is easy to suppose that these people are lying to pollsters. I don't believe that. What I think is they may be undecided and experiencing social pressure which could increase their likelihood of naming the white candidate if their region or state has a history of white dominance. They also might give the name of the Republican if the state is strongly Republican.

A good analogy of a desirable response and social pressure, he said, would be if you lived in Detroit and you get a call asking if you will participate in an anonymous survey about automobiles.

"You agree and are asked if you prefer American or foreign cars. Even if you own a Japanese car, you might experience some pressure to give an answer that might be more appreciated by the caller -- that you prefer American cars," said Greenwald. "When it comes to politics, although voters are presumably anonymous when speaking to pollsters, the fact that the person calling them knows their phone number may not let them feel anonymous."

Albertson noted that the polls have systematically underestimated Obama's support and this can have an impact on the election.

"This distortion is interesting because poll numbers are part of the story journalists tell the public and they can also affect campaign strategy, such as states in which to spend resources," she said.

Provided by University of Washington

Explore further: Super Tuesday results indicate race card may be a joker in primaries

Related Stories

Recommended for you

'Astrocomb' opens new horizons for planet-hunting telescope

February 19, 2019

The hunt for Earth-like planets, and perhaps extraterrestrial life, just got more precise, thanks to record-setting starlight measurements made possible by a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) "astrocomb."


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

2.8 / 5 (12) Oct 10, 2008
You have to get beyond Dems and Republicans to see the truth, Sean_W!!!!

I like the 200% tax rebate idea.....
3.2 / 5 (14) Oct 10, 2008
Soon our new Messiah will rise to power and punish the unbelievers. It will be interesting to see how much government funding it will take to keep Obama Christ's media corporations and newspapers solvent after four straight years of puff pieces and rectal smooching. Today Americans ready the bailout for the Dems' loan sharks for poor people, tomorrow they will be using taxpayer money to pay people to watch network TV and deliver the New York Times free as junk mail.

So what is your point? Lot's of stimulants in your life?

You type English words but you don't make sense in the English language.
4.7 / 5 (16) Oct 10, 2008
This is the problem with politics on the internet. So far, not a single comment has been about the article. It seems all people can do is spout rhetoric. I guess I am guilty of it as well with this message...
3.8 / 5 (21) Oct 10, 2008
I dont believe the crap I'm reading. This is the only corner I can retreat to that is not bombarded by politics. Now we have the political dirt bags infiltrating our science website.

Shame on Physorg !
2.1 / 5 (13) Oct 10, 2008
For those who care-write in Ron Paul http://www.ronpau...om/news/
He seems too make a lot of sence
3.3 / 5 (9) Oct 11, 2008
Gee I wonder what political opinion the Physorg editors have. Too bad this article doesn't give a hint.
3.8 / 5 (9) Oct 11, 2008
Note this "article" is listed under "General science".

4.1 / 5 (7) Oct 11, 2008
There is also the evidence of a bandwagon effect - in elections where one one side is projected to win by a large percentage, many voters will cross party lines to vote for the expected winner.
4.8 / 5 (4) Oct 11, 2008
Some of these comments are.....ERRATIC !
3.5 / 5 (11) Oct 11, 2008
I think this is about it for me. I'm deleting my bookmark to Physorg. Way to much bullshit and fluff, not enough science. Going to look around for a new science news site that might earn/deserve some credibility. KurzweilAI seems decent, Science Dialy seems ok as well. But i'll keep looking.
2.4 / 5 (15) Oct 11, 2008
MenaceSan: I agree.

I like my science without the communism.
3.5 / 5 (8) Oct 11, 2008
Another desecration of Physorg.
3.5 / 5 (11) Oct 11, 2008
It seems that this shouldn't even be a political article. It seems that it's an article about statistics and a phenomenon that arises in certain kinds of polling.

But it has a connection to politics, and the comments above me show what the slightest association with politics can do to otherwise intelligent people.
3.4 / 5 (7) Oct 11, 2008
Here's something else that's rather telling. Look at all the headlines on the physorg main page. For each headline, look at the user rating and number of comments. As I write this comment, this article is at the top of the page in larger type than any of the other articles, yet this article has the lowest user rating and certainly not anywhere near the most comments. I guess physorg accidentally stuck it at the top. Yeah, that's it.
2.3 / 5 (12) Oct 11, 2008
It cannot be an accident that every pseudo-scientific study reported here, including global warming so called research, always shows a leftist bias. You guys are ruining the scientific integrity of what has been my favorite site for science news with your bias. Wake up. Everyone who has not joined the cult of Obama can see through all the efforts of all sorts of media types to help the One.
2.7 / 5 (12) Oct 11, 2008
Well surprise, surprise - A Google search of Bethany Albertson turns up the following:

10 Oct 2008 ... Bethany Albertson donations and other campaign contributions on Huffington Post.

The ratemyprofessor link is also very interesting. No surprise here either.
2.8 / 5 (6) Oct 11, 2008
Go McCain/Palin ! I am all for banning books !
2 / 5 (2) Oct 11, 2008
2 / 5 (4) Oct 12, 2008
What about his statement are you too dense to understand? Yes, he is being sarcastic in extreme, and you obviously disagree. But to act like you cannot understand his point just makes you look stupid (or less charitably, reflects your actual stupidity).

This web site has gotten so stupid, losing any pretense of real scientific objectivity on most posts. We are in the Age of Obama I guess, so screw science, hail Marxian pseudo-science...

Soon our new Messiah will rise to power and punish the unbelievers. It will be interesting to see how much government funding it will take to keep Obama Christ's media corporations and newspapers solvent after four straight years of puff pieces and rectal smooching. Today Americans ready the bailout for the Dems' loan sharks for poor people, tomorrow they will be using taxpayer money to pay people to watch network TV and deliver the New York Times free as junk mail.

So what is your point? Lot's of stimulants in your life?

You type English words but you don't make sense in the English language.
3.4 / 5 (5) Oct 12, 2008
THANK YOU! I have been looking to dump this stupid rag for a while, and now you gave me two great sites that I will use to do it. I am committing myself not to browse fizorg again. There are other sources for real science out there, and I am going to vote with my feet finally. I'm quitting this lame site once and for all. Good riddance losers (not the cool commenters of whom there were many, but rather the a-holes who run the site and choose to post propaganda pieces regularly instead of science)...

I think this is about it for me. I'm deleting my bookmark to Physorg. Way to much bullshit and fluff, not enough science. Going to look around for a new science news site that might earn/deserve some credibility. KurzweilAI seems decent, Science Dialy seems ok as well. But i'll keep looking.
I think this is about it for me. I'm deleting my bookmark to Physorg. Way to much bullshit and fluff, not enough science. Going to look around for a new science news site that might earn/deserve some credibility. KurzweilAI seems decent, Science Dialy seems ok as well. But i'll keep looking.
1 / 5 (2) Oct 12, 2008
I would recommend dailygalaxy.....it's fairly decent but it won't be winning any spelling awards anytime soon.
2.1 / 5 (7) Oct 13, 2008
Seems that the whole newspaper industry, and other media, is so biased, and living in such a far away internalized mental state that they think that when they report somehting, it becomes the truth, rather than the truth is whats reported.

bush was never a mass movement, hitler was a mass movement, and shouted down alternative views, mobilized the police towards aims, and broke windows, and had violent protests... obama is mroe like hitler than any other president we have ever had, including having the same politial left leaning desires, as well as the same desire to use the power of the state to force compliance on a innocent and no longer politically relevent population.
3 / 5 (2) Oct 13, 2008
For those of you posting political messages:

Can you, for just one second, leave your politics at the door? This article is trying to address a scientific issue relating to statistics.

Can't we even look at something so basic as polling data analysis without posting our political affiliations? It's like we can't even fill a pothole anymore without demonizing someone for it.

JUST STOP. It's inevitable that this site is going to post some articles that tweak one political issue or another, because science affects everything. JUST GET OVER IT!

Ugh... this coming from a guy that never uses caps. But for crying out loud, get real people! Can't you see the damage you are doing? Keep it objective, keep it respectful, keep it science.
1 / 5 (3) Oct 13, 2008
the left flagging what they dont like just like the SA doesnt help either!

too many leftists acting like the SA for their leader and dont realize it... creating the same kind of science lysenko did.
1 / 5 (2) Oct 13, 2008
Bethany Albertson Melissa Harris-Lacewell
3 / 5 (4) Oct 13, 2008
Response to RFC - Your plea to leave politics out of this discussion is undoubtedly well intentioned but unfortunately too late and somewhat naive. For those who follow both science and politics this article is a transparent political statement. It is the authors of this supposed research who are corrupting science by interpreting statistics through their politically distorted glasses. Their conclusions are speculative. The statistics they analyze could be interpreted in a number of ways. The paper implies that blacks are afraid to tell pollsters that they plan to vote for Obama. What planet are you living on? All of the historical evidence, and especially in this election, points to just the opposite. It is conservatives who are afraid to express their beliefs lest they be labelled as racists, have a pie thrown in their face, or be verbally and even physically assaulted. As some of the other respondents have pointed out already; wouldn't the ACORN effect be a more plausible conclusion for the higher than predicted vote for Obama in some precints? Finally, a simple search of the background or Bethany Albertson shows that she is a contributor to the Huffington Post which is a far-left pro-Obama blog. Her other publications also have an anti-religion, pro-liberal bias. She believes that religion uses code words to influence politics - and where have we heard this before. She also co-authored a paper with Melissa Harris-Lacewell, who is a close friend of Michelle Obama and appears to be very left wing. So there is good reason to be suspicious of Albertson's motives and to question the premise, motivation and conclusions of this paper.

2.6 / 5 (5) Oct 13, 2008
good commentary Gammokozy... sounds like you might have experienced such pol systems before... :)

She believes that religion uses code words to influence politics - and where have we heard this before.

the communist left does this... so she is sensitive enough to pick up on it, but not sensitive enough to know its source, and so does their work.

and your commentary Gammokozy, shows even more than mine, why such articles and injecting them into the main stream media is the way SUBVERSION works... a thing that the left doesnt believe as they spoon feed themselve, their freinds, and children the thing they deny exists.

science like this is as bad as the false sceince of adorno's uthoritarian mind... another pip whose states purpose is to tear and destroy the US and western culture... yeah, lets listen to those guys.

RFC... its sad but thsi is the way it is.. and unless the left wakes up to what they are doing, theyw ill have to experience the pain that the germans, the czechs, the latvians, the estonians, the russians, the ukranians, the albanians, the lituanians, the cubans, the venezueallans, the chinese, the vietnamese, the cambodians, the bolivians, the spaniards, the hungarians, and i could go on...

all of these were stupid enough to let the same form of government we are making ourselves into right now..

when we succeed, they will all attack us... the left will make us like stalin but with the power of the US, and all will be bent on destroying it for it lost its moral compass and no longer can be trustetd with teh power it has.

imagine someone like hitler, excelt a blan NATIONAL SOCIALIST, with the nuke numbers, and more...

we certainly live in interesting times...

1 / 5 (2) Oct 13, 2008
Hahaha look at all these trolls infesting a science website.

I'm going to relish the Republicans whining for four years about the Democrats "stealing" the election. You want to know why? Republicans never took it seriously when Democrats came out with *proof* that voting machines were easy to hack (see many university studies). Four years later it's a lot better with many states using paper trail machines, but if the Republicans never took the Democrats seriously, well time for Republicans to have a taste of their own medicine. ACORN this, ACORN that. ACORN is not new: 30 years old and every election Republicans whine about ACORN in October if they're losing.

Standard Republican tactic of finding dirt on the author rather than addressing the arguments.

Standard Republican name-calling of liberal this, leftist that.

Complete ignorance of history, with one poster even saying that "historically" whites have had to hide their racism. Well I hate to break it to that poster, but the civil rights movement was a mere half century ago.

Time to apply Occam's Razor to these conspiracy theorists. Does it make sense that Obama has a concerted, national level campaign to influence not only the Democratic primary (of which the machine belonged to Clinton, not Obama remember Obama was an outsider) but also the general election? Or does it make more sense that voting irregularities are human error, outside of the few isolated cases of true voter fraud? ACORN helping Obama instead of Clinton? Are you mad?

And of course they trot out the Hitler and Stalin garbage. Hate to break it to you but Hitler was Christian and highly conservative, and Stalin's rapid industrialization of the Soviet Union was the only thing that prepared and saved the USSR from the Nazis. Of course Hitler and Stalin have nothing to do with Obama OR McCain, but Republicans will bring them up anyway.
2.3 / 5 (3) Oct 13, 2008
matelot and RFC and about 1 or 2 others are the only ones to actually read the article. Good job guys, you've all been trolled by people trying to grief you.

I find the article to be a nice study on race relations, poling policies, and statistics. It might also be interesting to see if there is a correlation between general societal acceptance of minorities and the Bradley effect. In other words, does a greater societal acceptance of people that are different translate to a decrease in the said Bradley effect?
2 / 5 (4) Oct 13, 2008
57,000 out of 250k registrations have been foudn to be false in pennsylvania by a supreme court justice. acorn is under investigation, and we can post video of their actions.

they are considering calling the election a scrub because everything is so far off... that acorn has poisoned the water so much that they may just let the electoral college decide, or some other...

the communists didnt figure that the internet would make the data availabel to average uncompromised people to go through... and they did...

they didntk now that they would go through the socialst new party... which tactics were unconstitutional and that obama was a member of that front..

the difference between the lef tand the right is easy... facts... you can dig and find alot ifyou know history.

like the democrats being FOR jim crow... and how communist subversives (prosecuted by the FBI) blew up african american homes they purchased for them in the south... look up the highlander school... closed for subversive acts, and funded by the same man that funded tuskeegee... turns out that they were found related to that...

when archives open, the truth comes out... an venona, mitroken, comrade j, sejna, and tons others confirmed teh facts.

the left talks in vagaries... greed...fat cats...etc...

the right talks facts. community reinvestment act, and shows videos of the politicians off of cspan

the fact that the left is a bunch of luddites who want to stop progress,means they havent done too good ralizeing that things habe been archived, so they cant scrub them... and people now have access to the information that they relied on expertsd to lie to them before.

waching the african american say how she registered many many times, shows it all...

and the tapes of others wishing that obama and his running mae palen would be a good ticket(not knowing enough to know that palin is for the other side).

my family fled the communists... we are afraid again... those that didnt died... and those that didnt had the same attitude as those on the left today...

so sure they were when they worked as youths for that up and comming mass personality hitler.
[too bad the left still follows stalins missive that everythign is to the right of them]

wake up... my family survived it... the ones that stayed did not...

and your trying to sound smart is kind of screwed up... in that before the lefts usage of the black man for thier own goals (sanger, highlander, etc), they did a lot better than now...

but hey.. you would have to be old enough to remember... and not taught hubris by being lied to in school.

1 / 5 (1) Oct 13, 2008
See also: KEATING 5
2.6 / 5 (5) Oct 14, 2008
your bringing it up to ding mccain...

The five senators, Alan Cranston (D-CA), Dennis DeConcini (D-AZ), John Glenn (D-OH), John McCain (R-AZ), and Donald W. Riegle (D-MI), were accused of improperly intervening in 1987 on behalf of Charles H. Keating, Jr., chairman of the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association, which was the target of a regulatory investigation by the Federal Home Loan Bank Board (FHLBB). The FHLBB subsequently backed off taking action against Lincoln.

lets see... 4 DEMOCRATS and one Republican...

the Senate Ethics Committee determined in 1991 that Alan Cranston, Dennis DeConcini, and Donald Riegle had substantially and improperly interfered with the FHLBB in its investigation of Lincoln Savings, with Cranston receiving a formal reprimand.

the democrats were found to be the ones who did the worst... and were most responsible...

and waht did the heroes john mccain and john glenn get?

John Glenn and John McCain were cleared of having acted improperly but were criticized for having exercised "poor judgment".

so ZeroDelta... mccain was CLEARED... Glen was CLEARED... the three others, all democrats, were GUILTY...

thanks for being a useful idiot.

1 / 5 (2) Oct 18, 2008
Ann Coulter in her latest article addresses the polling inaccuracy issue and is far more enlightening, and intellectually honest than this article. She reviewed polls printed in the New York Times since 1976 and found that when the polls were wrong they always overestimated support for the Democrat, usually by about 6 to 10 points. So the Bradley effect should be called the Liberal effect.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.