Bye, Bye, Wilder


Via John Sides, along comes political scientist Dan Hopkins with some empirical research into the "Wilder effect" question (PDF, the phenomena whereby black candidates get a smaller share of the vote than public polling would have predicted.

Titled "No More Wilder Effect, Never a Whitman Effect: When and Why Polls Mislead about Black and Female Candidates," the paper concludes that there really was a Wilder effect in the early 1990s but there isn't one any more. Here's the abstract:

Using new data from 133 gubernatorial and Senate elections from 1989 to 2006, this paper presents the first large-sample test of the Wilder effect. It demonstrates a significant Wilder effect only through the early 1990s, when Wilder himself was Governor of Virginia. Although the same mechanisms could impact female candidates, this paper finds no such effect at any point in time. It also shows how polls’ over-estimation of front-runners’ support can exaggerate estimates of the Wilder effect. Together, these results accord with theories emphasizing how short-term changes in the political context influence the role of race in statewide elections. The Wilder effect is the product of racial attitudes in specific political contexts, not a more general response to under-represented groups.

Good to know.