The 15% Lie

THE 15% LIE….The Wall Street Journal takes a look at Harold Ford’s Senate race in Tennessee and wonders if he really has a chance of winning:

Polls have often shown African-American candidates scoring well in the polls only to fail to clinch the election.

….Some political scientists and strategists refer to it as the “15% lie” ? when whites, bowing to societal pressure, tell pollsters they intend to vote for a black candidate but fail to do so in the voting booths. Indeed, several political experts believe that despite Mr. Ford’s strong showing in the polls, some whites may desert him at the last minute. “We’ll get the non-surprise surprise when Ford doesn’t get the vote,” says Thomas F. Schaller, an associate professor of political science at the University of Maryland and author of a new book, “Whistling Past Dixie,” which argues that most of the South is beyond Democrats’ reach.

The problem is that even if Ford ends up doing worse than the polls show, there might be other factors at play. I’ve always suspected, for example, that in close races there’s a small but significant number of voters who can’t bring themselves to vote against their usual party, even if they planned to do so when they walked into the polling place. Thus, I figure that Republican candidates in reddish states like Tennessee and Missouri are actually doing a little better than the polls show, while Democratic candidates in bluish states like Maryland and New Jersey are doing better than you’d think.

I don’t think this effect is anything like 15%, but in a close election even 2-3% is more than enough. This is why I suspect, in the end, Democrats will gain Senate seats this year, but not quite enough seats to make Harry Reid majority leader.