Pollsters have long spoken of the “Doug Wilder” effect in polling: whites responding that they will vote for black candidates because they think they’ll be regarded as racist if they don’t, when they have no intention of doing so. As an article in the Detroit Free Press put it two days before the recent election:
The best known example occurred in the Virginia governor’s race in 1989, when Doug Wilder, an African American man, went into Election Day with polls showing a 10 percentage point lead but won by 0.5 percentage points. Analysts concluded that many white voters told pollsters they would vote for Wilder but did not.
Dawson Bell, the reporter, mentioned the Wilder effect to caution readers about the significance of a just-released Free Press poll that was the lede of his article:
Michigan voters may be poised to reject Proposal 2 — the controversial affirmative action issue on Tuesday’s ballot — according to the Detroit Free Press-Local 4 Michigan Poll. The poll showed 49% saying they would reject the proposal, 39% supporting it and 12% undecided.
In the event, thank goodness, they were not so poised at all; Proposal 2 was enacted with a whopping 58% of the vote, more than in California for the almost identical Proposition 209 and Washington state for the almost identical I-200.
Nor did the lying to pollsters stop at the ballot box, as the results of this exit poll reveal. You will note that, according to this poll, whites supported Proposition 2 by 56% to 42%, but blacks opposed it by 85% to 12% and Hispanics opposed it by 69% to 27%. I’m not a statistician (I’m not even an arithmetician), but even I can tell that many people who voted for Proposition 2 lied to the exit pollers about their vote (unless, of course, the poll was skewed for some other, technical reasons). There is simply no way these poll results can be squared with the actual result of 58% support.
Notice how far we’ve come: not long ago voters were embarrassed to admit that they will vote or had voted against a black; now they’re embarrassed to admit that they will vote or had voted for colorblind, race-neutral, racial equality.