Charles Barkley: Polls 'absolutely useless' because racists lie
Basketball great Charles Barkley has been an enthusiastic supporter of Barack Obama, but he told CNN's Campbell Brown on Monday that even though Obama is far ahead in the polls, he believes "this race is going to be neck-and-neck down to the wire."
Barkley, who was once known as a prominent black Republican, made it apparent in 2006 that he was fed up, saying "I was a Republican until they lost their minds." He suggested at the same time that he might run for governor of his home state of Alabama and now tells Brown that he intends to do so in 2014.
Barkley's remark about the presidential race came in response to Brown asking whether he believes in the reality of the "Bradley effect" -- the idea that racist Democrats will lie to a poll-taker rather than admit they are voting for a Republican.
"Of course, that's real," Barkley replied. "If you ask a white person on television, they're not going to say I'm not going -- well, actually, some people have said they would never vote for a black guy -- but ... there are some people who you ask them on television say they would vote for a black guy who are ... going to vote for John McCain."
The existence of a "Bradley effect," which was first postulated to explain the unexpected outcome of a California governor's race in 1982, has never been firmly proven. Experts have suggested that it may have lapsed, might not affect Obama in the same way as politicians who are more closely identified with black issues, or may amount to at most 5% of the vote.
"I think the polls are absolutely useless," Barkley continued. "Seriously, most people who are racist, they're not going to answer the question correctly, either on a phone call or on camera. So I 100% believe the polls are flat-out useless. I think this race is going to be neck-and-neck down to the wire."
Barkley did acknowledge that "I think there are some white people who are going to vote for Barack because he's going to be better for their financial situation." However, he did not believe this would be sufficient to cancel out the Bradley effect.
While Barkley has often expounded on perceived racial injustice in the sports world, he also has faced criticism for flippant remarks made during his playing career. In 1995 he into trouble when he was overheard saying, "That's why I hate white people," and the remark showed up on ESPN. Barkley explained it had been a joking comment to a white reporter with whom he was friendly and the NBA decided not to take action.
CNN has a transcript of Barkley's interview here.
This video is from CNN's Election Center, broadcast October 27, 2008.
Download video via RawReplay.com