White Lies, Bad Polls

Before last week's unexpectedly close Virginia contest, Pollster Harrison Hickman got revealing results by making an offbeat correlation. When white voters were questioned by white pollsters, Hickman found, they favored Republican Marshall Coleman by 16 points. But when whites were telephoned by interviewers with recognizably black intonation, they leaned to Douglas Wilder by 10 points.

The fact that Americans are notoriously unreliable when answering questions related to race was dramatically evident in the Virginia and New York City elections. Although several surveys in the final fortnight gave Wilder and David Dinkins comfortable leads (as high as 15 points for Wilder and...

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