If the economy remains the same between now and November, Mitt Romney will win the 2012 election, according to a model that correctly predicted the last eight presidential elections.
The election model, created by University of Colorado political science professors Kenneth Bickers and Michael Berry, predicts that if the election were held today President Barack Obama would win only 218 votes in the Electoral College, short of the 270 he needs. Romney would win 320 electoral votes.
The prediction is based on a number of economic measures, including both state-by-state and national data.
“Based on variables of relative employment across the 50 states and rising or falling real income across the 50 states we’re able to go back and analyze how the states have come out over the last 8 election cycles,” Bickers said. “In this election cycle what that model shows is that the Obama-Biden ticket is likely to lose the election.”
“For the last eight presidential elections, this model has correctly predicted the winner,” Berry added in a press release. “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.”
According to their forecast, Obama would lose almost all of the major swing states, including North Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire, Colorado, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida. Obama’s re-election chances are hampered, according to the model, because of the high unemployment rate. Despite an increase in job growth, the national unemployment rate was at 8.3 percent in July, according to the Labor Department.
Berry said that “the apparent advantage of being a Democratic candidate and holding the White House disappears when the national unemployment rate hits 5.6 percent.” He also noted “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.”
Although their model correctly predicted all presidential elections since 1980, Bickers and Berry acknowledged some factors not considered by their analysis could swing the election. In addition, changes in the economic health of the country from now until the election will alter the results of the model.
“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.
Berry and Bickers model did not account for elections before 1980 and — like any model — it is has limited predictive power. But the election model strongly suggests that the economy is the driving force behind a presidential candidate’s success or failure.
“It’s not about gaffes, political commercials or day-to-day campaign tactics. I find that heartening for our democracy,” Bickers said.
The results of their forecasting model will be published this month in PS: Political Science & Politics.
[Ed. note: Updated for clarity.]