George says the really surprising thing about 2008 is that, despite the historic significance of an African-American becoming president, so little about the election had to do with race. "People looked way beyond race," he says. "We asked about it in our polls, and 80 percent said it didn't matter at all in their vote."
During the election season, some in the press discussed the possibility that the "Bradley effect" could cost Obama the election. This theory recalls the 1982 California governor's race. In the polls before that election, Tom Bradley—the African-American mayor of Los Angeles—lead over the white Attorney General George Deukmejian. Yet when the votes were actually counted, Deukmejian won. The Bradley effect explains the differential by theorizing that voters told pollsters they would vote for Bradley in order to mask their racial bias...then actually cast their votes for Deukmejian.
"The best line I've heard about that in this election is by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who said, 'In this election, the Bradley effect may have been overwhelmed by the Buffett effect,'" George says. "What he's talking about is [richest man alive] Warren Buffett. And what he means there is the economy. The economy, for so many people, is in such tough shape right now. ... They were able to look past other issues that might have held them back in the past."