October 14, 2015


Forget the debate: Two simple reasons a Republican will likely win in 2016 (Clifford Young and Julia Clark October 14, 2015, Reuters)

Modeling results is a simple concept: look at past data, identify patterns, and use those patterns to make predictions. So we begin by aggregating data from past U.S. presidential elections, but are immediately hampered by the fact that there aren't very many elections to work from -- 25 if we go back 100 years.

So we created a much larger database of elections by looking beyond the United States to hundreds of presidential and parliamentary elections in democratic countries around the world. This exercise gave us far more data to work with: a sample size of more than 450 elections from 35 countries.

The most important finding from our model is the power of incumbency: if you already hold the office you seek, you are far more likely than not to retain it. Our model showed that incumbents have a threefold greater chance of beating their opponent. When no incumbent is running, successor candidates (in this case, Democrats) are three times less likely to win.

From our database of global elections we also learned about the importance of knowing where the public stands on the direction their country and leadership are going. Are they generally happy or unhappy with the government? There are a few ways to measure this, but the most universal (and therefore the one we use) is approval ratings of the sitting leader or president.

Our model proves the power of presidential approval ratings. It determines that in order for a successor candidate to have better than even chances of winning, the sitting president must have an approval rating of above 55 percent. Because Barack Obama's average approval rating is now at 45 percent, a successor candidate (i.e. Democrat) is unlikely to win.

Posted by at October 14, 2015 3:10 PM

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