Clinton or Trump? Here’s What 7 Weird Prediction Methods Say. – Politico
When Nate Silver started examining presidential polls in 2007, it marked the beginning of a new era in political forecasting. Frustrated by what he saw as lazy reporting of dubious surveys, Silver set to work applying his statistical acumen to the 2008 presidential election. That March, he launched a site, FiveThirtyEight, where he weighted polls based on their track record and developed a forecasting model based on historical trends and current data—correctly predicting the results 49 out of 50 states in that November’s Obama-McCain election.
Smart statistics had triumphed over uncertainty, and never again would the American people have to be needlessly surprised.
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Then came the 2016 race, which defies expectations on a seemingly daily basis. Early on, few predicted Donald Trump would get the nomination. In September, Silver himself suggested to CNN’s Anderson Cooper that Trump had a roughly a 5 percent chance of becoming the GOP standard-bearer (though in Silver’s defense, he made that prediction before developing his usual ironclad statistical model for the race).
In an election nobody could’ve foreseen, perhaps it’s time to find a new prediction model. Here are seven of the strangest and most offbeat forecasting models in U.S. politics, and what they say about who will win the Clinton-Trump general election.
1. The Klofstad Model: How Deep Are the Candidates’ Voices?
Forget charisma and trustworthiness, a 2015 experiment by University of Miami professor Casey Klofstad found that American men and women are more likely to vote for the candidate with a deeper voice. Klofstad found support for this finding in a survey of 2012’s U.S. House elections, where candidates with lower vocal ranges won a significantly larger share of votes than their squeakier competitors. There was, however, one caveat: When facing a female opponent, the candidates with higher-pitched voices—particularly male candidates—fared better.
What this means for 2016: Donald Trump, whose voice registers at 215hz, turned this model on its head when, in the Republican primaries, he bested 13 male contenders with deeper voices. The deepest-voiced candidate, John Kasich (147hz), wasn’t even Trump’s biggest competition; second-place finisher Ted Cruz, at a “whiny” 234hz, was the only male candidate with a higher-pitched voice than Trump. So far, if the Klofstad model holds any predictive power in 2016, things don’t look good for Hillary Clinton: Trump’s relatively high pitch would theoretically play well against a female opponent.
2.The Abe Lincoln Advantage: Who’s Taller?
In his book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell reported that 14.5 percent of American men in the U.S. are 6 feet or taller, a towering 58 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are at least 6 feet tall. For presidents, the story is the same. Several academic studies have shown that the taller presidential candidate has won about two-thirds of the time. Furthermore, presidents have, on average, been much taller than other men of their generation.
What this means for 2016: Both candidates are tall for their gender, but 6-foot-3 Trump still towers over Clinton, who was reportedly 5-foot-5 in 2008 but is now purported to stand at 5-foot-7. What isn’t known is how different genders play into the equation, because we’ve never had a female major-party presidential nominee. If deep voices don’t do well against women opponents, is the same true for height, another stereotypically masculine characteristic? If so, Clinton may come out on top, even if she is shorter.
3. Rauch’s Rule: Has the Candidate Been in Elected Office for 14 Years or Longer?
In 2003, Jonathan Rauch of the National Journal posited that a candidate doesn’t get elected president if it took them more than 14 years to move from their first major office (representative, senator, governor, mayor, etc.) to the executive branch (president or vice president). Sure enough, this statement is true for every president since Teddy Roosevelt, with the exception of Lyndon B. Johnson. The American people, it turns out, wants experienced leaders, but not too experienced.
What this means for 2016: Clinton was first elected to the Senate in 2000, which means that she is just past her 14-year expiration date. That said, it was only eight years after she joined the Senate that she became part of the executive branch, albeit as secretary of state. It gets even more complicated when you consider the fact that Clinton entered the national spotlight long before she became a senator. If your debut on the national stage was as first lady, then does that count toward the 14-year sell-by date? However you measure it, Clinton isn’t a political newcomer, which means that Trump would seem to have an edge on Clinton when it comes to the fresh factor.
4. Home-State Disadvantage: Does the Candidate’s Party Control the Governor’s Seat?
After the 2010 elections, many political pundits suggested that the wave of newly elected Republican governors would help the party take back the White House in 2012. There is little empirical evidence, however, to support the belief that a presidential nominee is helped in states where his or her party controls the governor’s seat. In fact, one 2015 study found the opposite to be true: On average, having a governor of the same party in office translates to a 3 to 4 percentage point penalty for that party’s presidential nominee in that state.
What this means for 2016: Of 2016’s likely swing states, seven have Republican governors, and four have Democrats. The seven under Republican control also have significantly more electoral votes up for grabs. If every battleground state was won by the candidate who doesn’t share the governor’s party, Clinton would win the election with 301 electoral votes to Trump’s 237.
5. Who’s Hosting the Olympics?
From boycotts during the Cold War to this year’s protests in Rio de Janeiro, the Olympic Games have always been political. Some even speculate that it has an effect on the victor of the U.S. presidential race: In every election since 1968 (other than 1988), if the country hosting the summer games has already hosted an Olympics in the past, the incumbent party will hold on to the White House. But if a country is hosting the Olympics for the first time, the incumbent party is out of luck. (Just ignore the 1988 exception.)
What this means for 2016: Unfortunately for Clinton, 2016 is not only the first time Brazil is hosting the Olympics, it is the first time any South American country is hosting. Therefore, it is safe to assume that, barring a 1988-like exception, Trump will win in a landslide.
6. Did the Lakers play in the NBA Finals?
In every election since 1960 (except 2008), the Republicans have won the White House if—and only if—the Los Angeles Lakers played in that year’s NBA Finals. They don’t need to win the championship; they just need to be one of the two teams playing in the finals.
What this means for 2016: Last season, the Lakers had one of the worst records in the NBA, winning just 21 percent of their games and finishing last in their division. They weren’t even close to qualifying for the playoffs, much less making it to the finals. Therefore, Clinton’s win is imminent. It’ll be a slam dunk, if you will.
7. The Oscars Method: How Did the Most Recent “Best Picture” Winner End?
Four years ago, Jacopo della Quercia of Cracked realized that determining the winner of the presidential election is as simple as this: Did the movie that won Best Picture at the Oscars earlier that election year have a happy ending? If so, the incumbent party will also prevail. But if the movie ends on a sad note, then the White House will change hands.
The trend started in 1976, with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which ends with a mental hospital erroneously lobotomizing a sane person. Later that year, Jimmy Carter took the White House from Gerald Ford. Kramer vs. Kramer, the Best Picture winner in 1980, ended with a couple agreeing to divorce and the mother saying goodbye to her young son; that November, Ronald Reagan beat Carter. Silence of the Lambs, the winner in 1992, closed with the cannibalistic Hannibal Lecter planning to “have an old friend for dinner”; months later, Bill Clinton defeated George H.W. Bush. Other than the slightly questionable case of The Last Emperor, which won Best Picture in 1988, the pattern has had a perfect record up through the 2012 election.
What this means for 2016: At the end of Spotlight, the most recent Best Picture, the hard-charging journalists at the Boston Globe finally publish their exposé on pedophile priests in Boston. As the journalists arrive at the Globe’s headquarters shortly after the paper hits newsstands, the paper’s phone lines are flooded with calls from past abuse victims coming forward with their stories. On-screen intertitles relate the chilling news that Cardinal Law, implicated in the cover-up in Boston, was given a new perch in Rome. We learn that the Globe’s coverage exposed a massive system of corruption and inspired similar investigations around the world.
Does that qualify as a happy ending? Is that somber and sobering final note enough to cancel out the important work accomplished at the Globe? Is exposing suppressed tragedy a moment of joy or sorrow? The answer is subjective.
These seven political forecast models—many of which bring up questions of correlation or causation—can save us from the anxiety of uncertainty this fall. Choose the model that you most prefer, or tally them up to determine an ultimate winner. Of the first six models, three predict a Clinton win and three predict a Trump win, which means the seventh model—the Best Picture winner—is a tiebreaker of sorts. So go watch Spotlight, be impressed by a work of real journalism, and interpret the ending however you like.