Lying Voters may skew poll results

It has been a concern among pollsters ever since Obama became a candidate; what percentage of voters are lying when they say they will vote for him?

AT's Political correspondent Rich Baehr refers to "the Bradley effect" which posits that up to 15% of voters will say they will vote for an African American candidate and then pull the lever for the other fellow. The phenomena is named after former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley who ran for governor of California in 1982. 

This from

The polls on the final days before the election consistently showed Bradley with a lead. In fact, based on exit polls on election day, a number of media outlets projected a Bradley win that night; early editions of the next day's
San Francisco Chronicle featured a headline proclaiming "BRADLEY WIN PROJECTED". However, Bradley narrowly lost the race. Post-election research indicated that a smaller percentage of white voters actually voted for Bradley than polls had predicted, and that voters who had been classified by those polls as "undecided" had gone to Deukmejian in statistically anomalous numbers.

But according to this Wall Street Journal article, pollsters are seeking to offset the Bradley effect in several different ways:

Peter Hart, a Democrat on a bipartisan team conducting the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, estimates that 10% of current Democrats and independents who say they support presumed Democratic Party nominee Barack Obama may not be giving a fully honest answer, at least based on their responses to broader questions about race. "This election is exceptionally tricky," he says.

While most political pollsters say they don't find large numbers of people lying on polls, they are taking extra precautions. At CBS, pollster Kathleen A. Frankovic says she will ask voters whether they think most people they know would vote for a black candidate -- an indirect way to fish for racial bias. John Zogby, president of the polling firm Zogby International, is asking white respondents whether they have ever been to a dinner party where a black person was present. It only takes a handful of people hiding their true opinion to skew poll results, he says: "A small number can loom large."

Indeed - especially when up to 11% of voters have admitted lying to pollsters:

In a recently released study, Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., found nearly 11% of people who have reported being polled said they have lied to pollsters about their views on politics and public affairs. "Why they're lying is probably as varied as individuals are varied," says Jerry Lindsley, director of the school's polling institute. "Halfway through a survey, they might all of a sudden get nervous about the kinds of questions they're being asked and start to lie or not be totally straightforward."

For years, Republicans have claimed that many voters are afraid of appearing politically incorrect if they give an answer in opposition to the dominant liberal view on an issue. This study would seem to confirm at least part of that hypothesis although there are many reason why people might lie to pollsters in the first place.

Still, polling being a science, the practioners have a vareity of methods they use to screen out those who might be lying to them about their preferences. Their best method is to simply use larger sampling. Asking the same question several different ways will also tend to identify respondents who are not telling the truth. In short, pollsters are not helpless when trying to determine if someone is telling them the truth or not.

For all the talk about America being ready for a black president, I guess we'll have to wait for election day to see if voters were telling the truth on that issue.
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