'Bandwagon effect' may decide fate of Obama, McCain on Election Day

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Washington, Oct 31 : Republican presidential hopeful John McCain's supporters are hoping for a "Bradley effect" bounce on the Election Day, but some pollsters and strategists say they may have another thing coming that is: Bandwagon effect.

While the Bradley effect posits that some White voters who tell pollsters that they will vote for a Black candidate often have second thoughts in the voting booth, the "bandwagon effect" suggests that a small but significant number of persuadable voters will decide at the last minute to go with the winner.

As with the Bradley effect, the "bandwagon effect" is hard to measure or prove, The Politico reported.

Pollster John Zogby is skeptical of the bandwagon theory and says voters always say it's someone else who votes that way. "No, no, no, not me," he said they say. "It's the stupid people across the street."

Academics who have spent years researching the nexus of polling and voter behavior say that it takes a change in poll numbers to get voters jumping on board - or at least thinking about it.

If the tide turns toward a candidate, persuadable - but previously unpersuaded - voters begin to ask what they've been missing.

"The original bandwagon theory is that people don't want to miss the party," said Samuel Popkin, a political scientist at the University of California at San Diego and the author of "The Reasoning Voter: Communication and Persuasion in Presidential Campaigns."

"There will be somebody in the end who says, 'I don't want to vote for him because he's Black, but McCain is going to lose so I'll vote for him to tell my grandkids I did,'" Popkin said.

Popkin said Obama's rise in the polls is just the kind of movement that would cause a voter to reevaluate, creating a positive feedback loop where more support begets more support.

The reverse is true on John McCain's side: The more he drops, the more people reassess him.

On the other hand, if McCain surges in the polls in the last few days before the election, the bandwagon effect could have voters reconsidering and jumping off the Obama train.

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