The 'Bradley effect' lesson in Research

Why I always take Consumer Research results with a pinch of salt is 'cos many a times they tell me about consumers who prefer to reveal nothing of how they actually consume, but more of what looks best in terms of their 'image' as consumers. For example, ask consumers if they are the bargaining type and you think they are gonna own up that, at the cost of looking miserly?

The Bradley effect best demonstrates this when it comes to voter research. The Bradley effect, is named after a black gubernatorial candidate for California in 1982 who was predicted in the exit polls to win by a double-digit margin, went on to lose it by 50,000 votes. The Bradley effect describes a problem with polling methodology rather than racism as such, since many respondents were clearly embarrassed to admit they had not voted for the black guy.

As Ann Coulter notes in her explanation on the Bradley effect, 'Named after Tom Bradley, who lost his election for California governor in 1982 despite a substantial lead in the polls, the Bradley effect says that black candidates will poll much stronger than the actual election results. First of all, if true, this is the opposite of racism: It is fear of being accused of racism. For most Americans, there is nothing more terrifying than the prospect of being called a racist. It's scarier than flood or famine, terrorist attacks or flesh-eating bacteria. To some, it's even scarier than "food insecurity." Political correctness has taught people to lie to pollsters rather than be forced to explain why they're not voting for the African-American.'

Its good to note that the fear of a 'lousy consumer image' is what researchers must be most careful about.


Karthik Murali said…
I loved this article , and I was actually searching for a name of this phenomenon for quite sometime..

I had written an article a month back based on a similar concept

pls read and send ur feedback
Ray Titus said…

Read your post, 'Do you know what you want?'

I completely agree. Differentiation that is irrelevant to the consumer will be rejected.

Well written too.


I have followed all your posts which have been directly or indirectly related to the upcoming US Presidential elections. Also, I have wrote about the same topic quite a few times in my blog too.

I have just a small request. Please write about who do you think will win the elections in your upcoming posts. Your analysis will help me and all the readers understand the Indian context and its interpretation of the entire campaign. The reason I said this is because all the articles we have read so far have a bias towards it, as in there are a few newspapers, bloggers and authors who have a bias towards either McCain or Obama. Your post (supposing you write on it) will let us have an impartial analysis of the campaign and your prediction about the winner.

Thanks !!
Ray Titus said…
I am afraid, I am subject to the same 'taking of sides'.

If the polls are to be beleived, Obama can get that bottle of champagne out right now. What do I think? I feel its gonna be closer than it seems, tho' I too think Obama stands the better chance.

Less than two more weeks to go. If Obama wins, do I think it would be a disaster? Oh yes, he may be darling of the media and the supposedly intellectual crowd out there, but he aint mine. His leftist socialist policies are something I completely disagree with. His policy of 'spreading the wealth around' is what I believe breeds incomptence.

So my candidate for the post of US presidency is the McCain-Palin combination.

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