CU-Boulder analysis of election factors points to Romney win

Aug 22, 2012

A University of Colorado analysis of state-by-state factors leading to the Electoral College selection of every U.S. president since 1980 forecasts that the 2012 winner will be Mitt Romney.

The key is the economy, say political science professors Kenneth Bickers of CU-Boulder and Michael Berry of CU Denver. Their stresses economic data from the 50 states and the District of Columbia, including both state and national as well as changes in real per capita income, among other factors.

"Based on our forecasting model, it becomes clear that the president is in electoral trouble," said Bickers, also director of the CU in DC Internship Program.

According to their analysis, President will win 218 votes in the Electoral College, short of the 270 he needs. And though they chiefly focus on the Electoral College, the predict Romney will win 52.9 percent of the popular vote to Obama's 47.1 percent, when considering only the two major political parties.

"For the last eight , this model has correctly predicted the winner," said Berry. "The economy has seen some improvement since President Obama took office. What remains to be seen is whether voters will consider the economy in relative or absolute terms. If it's the former, the president may receive credit for the economy's trajectory and win a second term. In the latter case, Romney should pick up a number of states Obama won in 2008."

Their model correctly predicted all elections since 1980, including two years when independent candidates ran strongly, 1980 and 1992. It also correctly predicted the outcome in 2000, when received the most popular vote but George W. Bush won the election.

The study will be published this month in PS: Political Science & Politics, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Political Science Association. It will be among about a dozen election prediction models, but one of only two to focus on the Electoral College.

While many forecast models are based on the , the Electoral College model developed by Bickers and Berry is the only one of its type to include more than one state-level measure of economic conditions.

In addition to state and national unemployment rates, the authors looked at per capita income, which indicates the extent to which people have more or less disposable income. Research shows that these two factors affect the major parties differently: Voters hold Democrats more responsible for unemployment rates while Republicans are held more responsible for per capita income.

Accordingly -- and depending largely on which party is in the White House at the time -- each factor can either help or hurt the major parties disproportionately.

Their results show that "the apparent advantage of being a Democratic candidate and holding the White House disappears when the national unemployment rate hits 5.6 percent," Berry said. The results indicate, according to Bickers, "that the incumbency advantage enjoyed by President Obama, though statistically significant, is not great enough to offset high rates of unemployment currently experienced in many of the states."

In an examination of other factors, the authors found that none of the following had any statistically significant effect on whether a state ultimately went for a particular candidate: The location of a party's national convention; the home state of the vice president; or the partisanship of state governors.

In 2012, "What is striking about our state-level economic indicator forecast is the expectation that Obama will lose almost all of the states currently considered as swing states, including North Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire, Colorado, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida," Bickers said.

In Colorado, which went for Obama in 2008, the model predicts that Romney will receive 51.9 percent of the vote to Obama's 48.1 percent, again with only the two major parties considered.

The authors also provided caveats. Factors they said may affect their prediction include the timeframe of the economic data used in the study and close tallies in certain states. The current data was taken five months in advance of the Nov. 6 election and they plan to update it with more current in September. A second factor is that states very close to a 50-50 split may fall an unexpected direction.

"As scholars and pundits well know, each election has unique elements that could lead one or more states to behave in ways in a particular election that the model is unable to correctly predict," Berry said.

Election prediction models "suggest that presidential elections are about big things and the stewardship of the national economy," Bickers said. "It's not about gaffes, political commercials or day-to-day campaign tactics. I find that heartening for our democracy."

Explore further: How parents can help their children succeed and stay in school

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Which politicians do voters blame for the down economy?

Aug 17, 2010

A down economy usually spells trouble for incumbents, but a new Brigham Young University study shows that six Republicans up for re-election this year caught a break when John McCain lost the last presidential election.

Recommended for you

User comments : 15

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

defactoseven
4 / 5 (2) Aug 22, 2012
"For the last eight presidential elections, this model has correctly predicted the winner,"

When it is either one or the other, 8 correct predictions in a row means absolutely nothing. I have predicted the outcome of the last 8 elections myself without their models.
Deathclock
3 / 5 (6) Aug 22, 2012
Say goodbye to your right to choose to have a child or not... say hello to tens of thousands of new children born into poverty, on welfare, that we hard working tax payers have to support.

(yes, you can choose to not have sex or to take precautions to avoid unwanted pregnancy, but let's face it, the people who have these problems simply are not responsible in the first place, and this won't happen.)
defactoseven
5 / 5 (4) Aug 23, 2012
Say goodbye to your right to choose to have a child or not... say hello to tens of thousands of new children born into poverty, on welfare, that we hard working tax payers have to support.


If Romney and his masters have their way there won't be any welfare. Then where do they go? Still the hard working tax payers will be responsible one way or another with unwanted children everywhere. It's an ugly thought.
Vendicar_Decarian
4.4 / 5 (7) Aug 23, 2012
A Romney win will mean a 1 to 2 year economic recovery followed by a 30 year long American economic depression.

It will be fun to watch...
draa
4.4 / 5 (7) Aug 23, 2012
I'll admit, it will be a disaster if Romney wins because Republicans are unfit to govern right now. They're not your fathers Republican Party anymore. These folks are dangerous.
defactoseven
4.2 / 5 (5) Aug 23, 2012
Try this scenario: There are trillions of dollars held off shore by the fat cats, right wing businesses are purposely holding back on hiring. Romney wins. Taxes are cut. These guys now flood the market opening business to jobs by sheer cash withheld for political gain. They literally buy the US lock stock and barrel and the US becomes a bought and paid for theocracy. Money rules, guns blaze, white man ascends, Jebus is gawd, science and reason die. And the holy Catholic Supreme Court takes their payment and enjoys a lovely luncheon.

Any takers?
xX_GT_Xx
5 / 5 (3) Aug 23, 2012
Taking liberty with the word "predict" here. To have "predicted" the result of elections that took place since in 1980, the model must have been developed 32 or 33 years ago. Take a look at their bios on the university's site. Neither gentleman appears old enough to have pulled that off, unless they were child prodigies or something.

Bickers appears to be the older of the two, and if he received his PhD in 1988 as the bio states, then he was 18, maybe 20 in 1980.

I call baloney. I think it's more likely that their model used data from older elections but actually only "predicts" that last few.
defactoseven
1 / 5 (1) Aug 23, 2012

I call baloney. I think it's more likely that their model used data from older elections but actually only "predicts" that last few.

You're right at the absolute least if you give them the benefit of the doubt. Outside of that, it's a downright fabrication.
Vendicar_Decarian
5 / 5 (3) Aug 23, 2012
The words Fabrication and Romney seem to go hand in hand.

Have you noticed?
moebiex
5 / 5 (2) Aug 23, 2012
And if it does come to pass- it really will prove the thesis that overestimating the stupidity of the mob is impossible
Vendicar_Decarian
5 / 5 (3) Aug 23, 2012
You are witnessing the self destruction of a culture due to the ideological rejection of objective reality.

Libertarianism and Randism are the origin of that rejection.
defactoseven
5 / 5 (2) Aug 23, 2012
And if it does come to pass- it really will prove the thesis that overestimating the stupidity of the mob is impossible


Speaking of stupidity.... According to Bloomberg Business, the Mormon church is now the wealthiest religious entity on the planet. Including Catholics.

http://www.busine...ke-money

Romney can use Joseph Smith's magic hat and magic glasses to set policy. His magic underwear will protect him from the seething, diseased masses.

kochevnik
2 / 5 (4) Aug 23, 2012
Libertarianism and Randism are the origin of that rejection.
Libertarianism is backed by the zionist Koch brothers. Ayn Rand was a rabid zionist. The Rockfellers founded the John Birch Society as a way to mold US conerservatives along the ideological lines of zionism, making neoconservatism. This is no differenc that their alliance with Hitler, whose National Association lacked support until forging with ZIonism to make the NAZI party.
kochevnik
3 / 5 (2) Aug 23, 2012
The comment-less down-ranking troll 'lite' is an excellent example of a typical neoconservaturd.
Deathclock
3 / 5 (2) Aug 24, 2012
You are witnessing the self destruction of a culture due to the ideological rejection of objective reality.

Libertarianism and Randism are the origin of that rejection.


What the hell are you talking about? Do you just string random words together? Rand was a proponent of objective morality... how exactly do Randites reject objective reality when the core ideology of Ayn Rand was that of objective moral truths?