Despite the polls trending toward Obama as of late, he is still only three points ahead in the latest Rasmussen poll, and tied with McCain in the latest Gallup poll. By all accounts, the race is still neck and neck, but are the polls really hiding a lead for McCain?
There are two reasons to believe that McCain may actually be about 2 to 4 points ahead of Obama at this point in the race. One reason has been talked about quite a bit in this race, but the other, and arguably just as important reason, has been almost completely ignored.
The first reason is the Bradley Effect. The Bradley Effect states that black politicians(and indeed other minority candidates) tend to do better in the polls than they do on election day. Many pollsters and pundits are saying that there is no Bradley Effect in play, because they did not see it in the primaries.
This is not a good measure of the Bradley Effect for the general election. The reason there was no Bradley Effect in the primary, is because most of the voters that would have contributed to the Bradley Effect, never said they would vote for Obama. They said they would, and did, vote for Hillary Clinton. She acted as a lighting rod, eliminating almost completely any evidence of a Bradley Effect.
Though the Bradley Effect will probably be at least a small factor, it should not sway the race any more than about 2 points. At this point in the race, a Bradley Effect would put McCain and Obama in a dead tie.
The second and more significant reason is the youth vote. This is because youth voters are notoriously unreliable on election day. This is not for lack of support of their candidate, it is that they do not show up to the polls on election day.
This youth problem is a much bigger problem than the Bradley Effect. The "youth effect" could have up to a 3 to 5 point effect on the race in McCain's favor. Though not many pollsters are discussing this, it is a very real factor, and one the Obama campaign is discussing.
At this point in the race, with these effects factored in, there is reason to believe McCain could be ahead as much as 3 points. At the very least, these effects have McCain and Obama tied at this point.
Will the Bradley Effect and the youth vote come into play and hurt Obama on election day? Only 40 more days until we know for sure.