Friday, October 17, 2008

Mulling the Kohut/Bradley lacunae

Here, I found a poll telling us that Obama has a 14 point lead over McCain. Yesterday I was driving around our predominantly blue collar town and came across no less than 15 McCain/Palin signs conspicuously stuck in the front lawns. I managed to count exactly 0 Obama/Biden signs. All this in the state of New Jersey which is supposed to be a solidly democratic state. This is a phenomenon that I noticed not just in our town, but towns all over this state. Often times, in the course of this election, we see the overwhelming lead in all the polls mentioned but little enthusiasm in the suburbs and homesteads… I guess it could be that a lot of people actually (inherently) support Barack Obama, but are actually not too happy with wearing it out on their front lawns. They are not too sure what their white neighbors over on the other side might think about them and hence plan to play it by ear. They are just content with going up to the polling booth and expressing their desires in secret.

Or maybe we are all wrong about this thing – the whole lead in the polls… Are these polls actually right? Are people telling us the truth? In this regard, we need to understand two factors that have been poorly quantified into the statistical engines that drive final tallies coming out of these polls: The Bradley effect and the Kohut Lacuna…

The Bradley Effect:

Bradley Effect, named for the black mayor of Los Angeles, Tom Bradley, who lost the California governorship in 1982 despite polls that had showed him in the lead, apparently because a small percentage of respondents would rather lie to a pollster than admit to opposing a candidate on the ground of his race.

The Kohut Lacuna:

Andrew Kohut, of the Pew Research Center, published an Op-Ed in the Times about the failure of polls to predict the outcome of a primary in New Hampshire between Clinton and Obama. He had a theory: undetected racism among working-class whites. Clinton, he noted, beat Obama among whites with family incomes under fifty thousand dollars and also among those who hadn’t attended college. “Poorer, less well-educated white people refuse surveys more often than affluent, better-educated whites,” Kohut wrote. “Polls generally adjust their samples for this tendency. But here’s the problem: these whites who do not respond to surveys tend to have more unfavorable views of blacks than respondents who do the interviews.”
On top of the effects of respondents lying to pollsters, it also looks like poorer, less well-educated voters are less likely to agree to answer the questions posed.

Looking at these polls and hearing the chest thumping from various democratic leaning blogs, I fervently hope that people are not lying to the pollster and poorer, less educated people know that they need to vote with their interests of self preservation at heart.

Look, I know that Obama is a politician and there is only so much we could actually expect from politicians. Remember the adage, politics makes for strange bedfellows… But the effort and the sincerity behind Obama’s ideas for propping up the middle class and the fact that he actually mentions that health care is a right to be enjoyed by all citizens should make the poorer, less educated whites think again and disprove the Kohuts and Bradley’s.

The pictures above depict the watercolor paintings of dead birds by artist Noel Grunwaldt. She is currently on with her first solo show at the Stellan Holm Gallery in Chelsea. The show runs from Sept 12 - Oct 25. She has an MA in Studio Arts from SUNY Albany and lives and works in upstate NY.

1 comment:

Tree said...

I was recently driving out in an unfamiliar, rural area here in Ohio and saw many McCain signs and one Obama sign which had been vandalized.