Monday, October 20, 2008

US Elections and the Bradley Effect

The Bradley effect is a proposition advanced to explain the "discrepancy" between opinion polls and the outcome of California's gubernatorial elections in 1982. Tom Bradley, an African-American, lost the race to George Deukmejian, an Armenian American, despite being ahead in some polls. The story here is that some voters may have told pollsters that they will vote for the black candidate, but on election day, in the privacy of the voting booth, voted for his "white" opponent.

With Barak Obama (African father, white mother) being ahead in the polls in the US, there are repeated references to the Bradley effect in the media. Because those polled may have lied, the argument made is that Obama may not be ahead, or at least not ahead enough to overcome the Bradley effect.

As Armenians we may see things a bit differently, and that the Bradlee effect may take on a totally different meaning. Indeed, the 1982 race was between a non-white man and a white man who belonged to an ethnic group that once was legally considered non-white in the US. It was not until Halladjian vs. the United States on December 24, 1909, that Armenians were classified as white and eligible for citizenship. However, varying judicial interpretations remained an obstacle for many would be citizens. Indeed, the United States government challenged the citizenship of one Tatos Cartozian in 1924. The government's prosecuting attorney argued that “It is the contention of the government that it makes no difference whether a man is a Caucasian or not or what the racial and language history of his people may be if the man on the street does not recognize him as white.” The case was dismissed in favor of Cartozian.

In many ways the legal environment, with its racial overtones, may explain the very low immigration of Armenians to the US pre and post the genocide of 1915 and during the earlier massacres and pogroms. In any event, I usually like to stick to economics, but I couldn't resist the relevance of the news to the historical formation of the Diaspora and its spreading across the globe.