Obama - Are the polled lying?
In 1982 Tom Bradley ran for the governorship of California, and was expected to win by a wide margin. In the run-up to the election, polls gave the African-American candidate a lead of between 9 and 22 percentage points over his white opponent. On election day the first exit polls also predicted that he would win, and one newspaper even declared him the victor on its front page.
Bradley lost by more than 100,000 votes.
The impetus for the deception was not simple racism, but social pressure - white voters, it seems, did not want to appear racist by admitting that they would be voting for the white candidate rather than the black one.
This, then, is the spectre that haunts the Democrats. Mr Obama is at present up to 14 points ahead in the national polls, a lead that would seem unassailable were it not for the unpredictable Bradley Effect, a nagging fear that defeat could be snatched from the jaws of victory because opinion polls behave differently when a black candidate is running.
A similar phenomenon occurred in the 1992 election in Britain, which pollsters put down to the “shy Tory factor”. Opinion polls put the Tories one percentage point behind Labour; but in the final result, the Conservatives won by nearly eight percentage points.
In certain, rare circumstances voters do not tell pollsters the truth, more out of embarrassment than mendacity.
So if Obama loses America is tarred with the racist brush whereas it, as with the "Shy Tories" it is more a case of wanting to appear hip and modern that causes people to lie to pollsters rather than a more discreditable motive in most cases. And of course there are some of us who lie to pollsters on principle....
(I note that overnight the odds on McCain being next president have decreased - 13/2 was available just now, and 1000/1 on Dick Cheney might also be worth a small flutter, only a heartbeat away and all that....)