Tag Archive: Bradley Effect


Breakfast and Bay Area newspapers were served at a coffee shop, located directly across the street from the Cow Hollow motel at Steiner and Lombard.

Even though Friday, September 24, 1982 pre-dated mobile devices, there were no Thursday afternoon/evening phone calls from our campaign headquarters or even more germane, our political consulting firm in Los Angeles.

Copies of the San Francisco Chronicle, Oakland Tribune and most of all, the San Francisco Examiner were passed around over pancakes, syrup and black coffee. Next up was a morning editorial board meeting with the latter newspaper.

My boss was then-Attorney General/later-California Governor George Deukmejian.

After greeting editorial board members/reporters of the San Francisco Examiner, George Deukmejian was asked, if he saw the Los Angeles Times that morning.

Your Almost DailyBrett author, who was serving as the press director for the Deukmejian Campaign Committee, instantly experienced a pang of dread.

As the editorial board waited, George Deukmejian read the Los Angeles Times story. One thing was always certain: The Duke did not like surprises.

The Los Angeles Times story written by veteran political reporter Richard Bergholz reported on outrageous comments made by our gubernatorial campaign manager Bill Roberts.

Roberts predicted to Bergholz that our final election day results would be 5 percent better than what was being forecasted in the public opinion polls.

Roberts concluded that 5 percent of respondents would not admit their inner prejudice/bias to a pollster, and simply would not vote for our rival, a black candidate on election day.

The African-American candidate in question was our opponent, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley. As a result of the coverage by the Los Angeles Times of Roberts’ on-the-record comments, the much-discussed/debated for nearly four decades, “Bradley Effect,” was born.

And George Deukmejian was blindsided.

.Photo by Steve McCrank / Staff Photographer

Why didn’t Roberts call the attorney general on Thursday? Most likely, he knew the result of his free lancing. For some reason, he believed it was better for George Deukmejian not to know and to find out later (in the presence of editors/reporters).

The question that still comes back to me:  Why did Bill Roberts make this assertion? There is absolutely no way that George Deukmejian would agree with this conclusion, let alone authorize Roberts to say it on-the-record, on-background or off the record. We were running an effective, well-organized campaign.

In the presence of the San Francisco Examiner editors/reporters and throughout the next few days, George Deukmejian rejected the premise of “The Bradley Effect” about the under-the-surface 5 percent racial bias.

Leaving the Examiner offices, my boss turned to me and said: “Bill Roberts is now an issue in this campaign.” Roberts and his political consulting firm were fired that day.

The immediate reaction from the pundits/media elite was our campaign was dead. Obviously, this projection was not the first time the political class has been wrong, forecasting an election.

George Deukmejian was elected governor six weeks later 49-48 percent, a margin of 93,345 votes.

Bradley Effect/Reverse Bradley Effect

Typing “Bradley Effect” into the Google search engine results in 88.9 million impressions in 0.32 of a second. The “Bradley Effect” is eternal.

The term also raises the blood temperature of the author of Almost DailyBrett in less than two nanoseconds, even though the Bradley Effect Blindside occurred 36 years ago.

There have been recent applications of the Bradley Effect, questioning whether there would be an under vote against Barack Obama in 2008 because of his skin hue. He was twice elected the 44th President of the United States.

And just two years ago, the elite political class introduced the “Reverse Bradley Effect” to characterize voters who refuse out of embarrassment to admit to pollsters they were voting for Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States.

As your author writes this Almost DailyBrett epistle, I am mindful and grateful that Bill Roberts and others in his consulting firm supported hiring me as a very green press director back in early 1982. Roberts passed away in 1988.

Having acknowledged my gratitude, your author knows that our 1982 victory and landslide re-election (61-37 percent) four years later against the same Tom Bradley are tarnished in some eyes because of the so-called “Bradley Effect.”

Yours truly to this date is proud of the campaign we ran in 1982, and better yet how we governed California for eight years (1983-1991).

Two Million Absentee Ballots

The large absentee vote in the 1982 general election (6.4 percent of the total) came about primarily as a result of an effective organized campaign to get Republicans to vote by mail.” – Mervin D. Field, director of the California Poll

Based solely on the voters who went to the polls on November 2, 1982, Tom Bradley beat George Deukmejian by nearly 20,000 votes.

Having said that, the Deukmejian Campaign Committee without fanfare distributed 2 million absentee ballots to Republican voters. George Deukmejian won the absentees 59.6 percent to 37.4 percent, a margin of nearly 113,000 votes.

Game. Set. Match.

The distribution of absentee votes to high propensity, philosophically aligned voters was novel in 1982, and now its di rigueur in today’s campaign GOTV (Get Out The Vote) efforts.

Reportedly an overconfident Tom Bradley stopped campaigning the weekend before the election, comfortable with his upcoming victory. For example, the projected 20 percent electoral participation by minorities turned out to be only 15 percent.

Would another four days of campaigning by Tom Bradley have made a difference in the closest gubernatorial election in California’s political history? One could think so.

Time to Let It Go?

Some would suggest to Almost DailyBrett that it’s past time after nearly four decades to let go of the “Bradley Effect.”

Tranquillo.

Keep in mind, the “Bradley Effect” keeps coming back even when a Caucasian hombre (e.g., Trump) was running against a Caucasian mujer (e.g., Hillary) in 2016.

The worst impact in my mind as the former press director for the Deukmejian Campaign Committee is the implication that we were racist.

We also did not receive the credit deserved for running an effective, winning campaign with an outstanding candidate/future governor: George Deukmejian.

It’s a shame the “Bradley Effect” seemingly resurfaces every four years.

The reports of the death of the Bradley Effect have been greatly exaggerated.

https://abcnews.go.com/images/PollingUnit/FieldPoll1982analysis.pdf

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/persistent-myth-of-bradley-effect/

http://articles.latimes.com/1988-07-01/news/mn-6379_1_bill-roberts

http://articles.latimes.com/2000/dec/28/local/me-5509

https://www.thedailybeast.com/pancakes-and-pickaninnies-the-saga-of-sambos-the-racist-restaurant-chain-america-once-loved

Polls are much better as explainers than as predictors.” – Barry Sussman, Washington Post

We lost California before we won it.

Mervin Field of KCBS and Steven Teichner of KABC, both in Los Angeles, proudly projected at 8:01 pm (PST) on November 2, 1982 that LA Mayor Tom Bradley had just been elected governor based upon their scientific calibration of voters leaving polling places at carefully selected precincts statewide.

For the author of Almost DailyBrett, serving as the press director for the rival gubernatorial campaign of then-Attorney General George Deukmejian, it appeared there was going to be a bitter personal pill to swallow. Unemployment was just over the horizon.deukmejianbradley

As a 27-years-young PR practitioner, instinctively I knew my job was to stay positive in the face of crushing news as I was surrounded by swirling pack of vulture reporters on the floor of the Century Plaza Hotel. Meanwhile, Field was on television declaring Bradley’s historic election as the first black governor of California. There was only one problem for the creator of the California poll, my boss Deukmejian was maintaining a comfortable lead.

Yours truly verbally hung onto this lifeline as the night went on.

At approximately 11 pm (PST), ABC News out of New York proclaimed Deukmejian the winner, contradicting Teichner’s projection three hours earlier. Yours truly asked Chuck Henry of KABC, reporting from the floor of the Century Plaza ballroom, WTF was going on.

He didn’t know.

Two hours later, NBC News from Rockefeller Center projected my boss the victor. CBS News in Manhattan completed the trifecta at 5 am (PDT), ending a really bad night for Mervin Field. A bitter Tom Bradley never conceded. George Deukmejian was elected the 35th governor of California by a margin of 106,000 votes out of 7.8 million cast.

What the late-Mervin Field and Steven Teichner missed was the massive distribution of absentee voter applications to high-propensity voters in Orange County and Long Beach by our campaign. For obvious competitive reasons, we did not telegraph this now-accepted campaign practice. How could Field and Teichner reflect these voters, if they never showed up at polling places?

It’s certainly neither the first time political experts have called an election wrong nor will it be the last time.

Missing a Landslide?

“President Dewey warned me not to get overconfident.” – Ronald Reagan

The experts said it was close, but the voters – stubbornly irreverent as usual – made it a landslide. What happened?” – Robert Kaiser, Washington Posttruman

The photo of a beaming Harry Truman holding aloft an early edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune with the banner headline: “Dewey Defeats Truman” is now an eternal part of electoral lore.

Clearly, the pundits got it wrong in 1948. Thomas Dewey never became president of the United States. Certainly, this is the only time the political class got it wrong?

Certainly not.

The pollsters in their infinite wisdom kept telling the American people the 1980 race between President Jimmy Carter and Governor Ronald Reagan was too close to call. Amazingly, two days before the decisive election the Washington Post and Gallup polls reflected Carter leads of 4 and 3 percent respectively.

reaganpollsThe pundits immediately dismissed the polling conducted by Richard Wirthlin and Robert Teeter, citing their obvious bias because they worked for Reagan. As it turns out they saw the landslide that the media pollsters couldn’t or wouldn’t reveal.

From “too close to call,” the race shifted in epic proportions with Reagan ultimately winning the electoral college, 489-49; the popular vote, 50 percent to 41.0 percent; 43.6 million votes to 35.5 million; 44 states to 6 + DC for Carter.reaganlandslide

So what does this all mean as we head into the caucuses and primaries, starting next week?

It’s Down to Clinton vs. Bush: A Battle of Political Dynasties

Remember being told just that repeatedly by the political class: It will be Hillary vs. Jeb in November, 2016

It was inevitable these two familial standard bearers would clash this fall.

Donald who? Bernie who? Cruz who? Marco who?

Let’s see, we have been told that Hillary’s nomination, if not election, was inevitable.

And then there was a Trump surge. Has Trump peaked?

It’s Trump’s race to lose.

It will be decided between Trump and Ted Cruz (What happened to Bush?)

Sanders will win New Hampshire and lose Iowa.

Wait! Sanders may actually win Iowa or at least place well.

Hillary has a firewall in the South …

All of these pronouncements are based in part on traditional polling, based on the laws of mathematics. Let’s see: randomly sampled and selected, neutral questions, 1,000 nationwide respondents, within an acceptable margin of error of 3-4 percent, 95 percent of the time.

The other part of the equation are reporters tweeting each other, bouncing their “theories” off each other (e.g., The Boys and Girls of the Bus), and then colluding to make pious pronouncements.votersNH

But waiting at the lunch counters, the factory gates, the town halls, the bowling alleys, the bars, the PTA meetings are the voters of Iowa and New Hampshire.

The best and the brightest – The Experts — at their second screens may make the pronouncements, but the fickle voters will make the actual decisions.

And who should we listen to?

Almost DailyBrett Note: Very few things in life have a heightened impact on your author’s blood pressure than references to the so-called “Bradley Effect, ” a hidden anti-black bias by the voters. This sentiment does not take account that Bradley stopped campaigning about 10 days before the election, leaving only one campaign for scribes to cover, our campaign. This ill-fated decision was a critical mistake in a razor-thin election. We also directed absentee votes to our high propensity voters as noted above … and (now California Governor) Jerry Brown lost to Pete Wilson by a half-million votes that very same day. Bradley fared better with the voters than Brown. Simply said, it was not a good night for Democrats.

So much for the Bradley effect.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mervin_Field

http://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-mervin-field-20150608-story.html#page=1

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_gubernatorial_election,_1982

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barry_Sussman

http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/441/prejudice-campaign.html

 

 

 

 

Man Bites Dog Stories?

Let’s face it; drawing media attention, particularly for positive stories, is tougher than ever.

One reason is simple: There are fewer reporters, editors and traditional media outlets. And the ones that remain are under siege by a growing roster of flacks, many who used to toil as…you guessed it…reporters and editors.

We certainly have discussed via Almost DailyBrett and a plethora of other blogs the trend toward self-publishing employing digital tools. Ditto for the growing impact of bloggers as substitutes for disappearing mainline publication/electronic media editors and reporters. Blogging, podcasting, webcasting and participating on social media sites (e.g. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook…) represent the way we do business in the early decades of the 21st Century.

Does this mean that we abandon traditional media? There are still news holes to be filled and more often than not they are digital voids composed of ones and zeroes. Harried and worried editors and reporters still need information, so who are they going to turn to?

The obvious is they are going to rely on those sources that offer bona-fide news stories. PR professionals are being challenged in the present century just as they were previously to come up with news story ideas that more than pass the giggle test.

Here’s an intriguing thought, what about “man bites dog” stories? What about tales that are counterintuitive, lay waste to conventional wisdom and go against the grain? Here are few anecdotes.

The most celebrated case revolves around the leader of the free world. We were all told that no African-American could ever be elected president. That was the CW. On top of that there was this latent “Bradley effect,” (nothing raises my blood pressure faster…but that is the subject for another post) in which voters will behave differently in the voter booth, than what they tell pollsters, when an African-American is on the ballot. So much for the Bradley effect. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_bradley_effect

Here’s another, far-less known and virtually forgotten example of taking convention and turning it upside down. A timber association in Washington State petitioned the US Fish and Wildlife Service in 1990 to have loggers listed as “threatened” or “endangered” under the auspices of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Isn’t the ESA about protecting cute owls, squirrels and snail darters? What’s this about people being threatened or endangered? http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19901012&slug=1097881; http://www.seattlepi.com/archives/1990/9010140060.asp

Ultimately the loggers and their families were not listed under the ESA and critical habitat was not set aside for their survival, but the story still drew considerable media attention because it went directly counter to the trend and defied convention.

It certainly did not hurt the play of the story to have a representative of the Wilderness Society accused the loggers of a “mockery of the scientific world,” and taking a “ridiculous” action and making “irresponsible” statements. Not only do reporters and editors gravitate to man bites dog stories, but they are particularly attracted to counterintuitive stories that degenerate into public urination contests. Pass the towel, please!

Closer to home, I offered my own “man bites dog” response last week to MarketWatch.com. http://www.marketwatch.com/story/eight-ways-to-stay-healthy-during-a-long-job-hunt-2010-04-22?pagenumber=1 The reporter wanted to know how my health deteriorated during my nearly one year out on the hustings. After all, doesn’t every unemployed senior communicator turn to the bottle, gain three or four inches on the waist-line or suffer from sleep deprivation?

In my particular case, my unemployment has provided me with more time than ever to get into great shape (three days per week of upper-body resistance training and three days per week of aerobics). That is not what she expected to hear, which makes the response in my very humble opinion even more interesting.

Or as Henry Kissinger reportedly said, “It has the added value of being the truth.”

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