For months we’ve read poll results about how much more likable President Obama is than Mitt Romney. I don’t believe them, and the reason I don’t is that for three years I’ve heard people preface their disagreements with Obama’s policies by saying, “I really like and respect him, but…”

Why qualify the disagreement?  No one ever did with previous presidents.  Only this one.  It’s a tell.  The apologists are protesting too much, betraying a sentiment.

What’s behind it?  Obama’s race. People fear being deemed racist and hedge their true opinion.

The Bradley effect is in play, and the commissioning of these likability polls is itself evidence of that.  Those most in the tank for Obama are the news publishers and broadcasters who commission them.  They have to keep peddling a false image of likability to overcome the points Obama oversamples.

But even inside the media echo chamber, an occasional truth escapes.

Consider this sports report yesterday in the Los Angeles Times about Stanford’s football loss to Notre Dame, written by Chris Dufresne. Bear in mind that the typical sports section of a typical daily paper may be more inside that echo chamber than any section aside from editorial.

David Shaw is a good man and a fine coach, yet Stanford fans have a right to wonder what’s going on.

What’s going on is that Dufresne felt obliged to insert a gratuitous disclaimer contradicted by the rest of his story, in which he repeatedly cited Shaw’s predictable play calling for Stanford’s last three losses, including January’s Fiesta Bowl.  Against Notre Dame:

Four times, Stanford ordered running back Stepfan Taylor into the teeth of the nation’s No. 2 scoring defense.

Was anyone surprised?

Certainly Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly was not. “That’s what Stanford does,” he said.

So maybe Shaw isn’t such a fine coach after all, since a hallmark of fine coaches is keeping the opposition off balance.

As for Shaw’s being a good man, who asked?  No one.  The writer protested too much.

Shaw, you see, is black.  Which explains why I suspect that some people who answer questions from a pollster they don’t know but who knows their names and phone numbers may fear being thought racist, and so they aver that the president is a good man and a fine president—when really they believe the guy has no friggin’ idea what he’s doing and his play-calling sucks.