Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Bare statistics have it: President Bush will win the election, according to political scientists who based their forecasts on data-driven “vote models.”

Six out of seven of these models — feasible scenarios formulated around scientific and historical data — predict Mr. Bush will win over John Kerry with an average of almost 54 percent of the popular two-party vote.

“In a nutshell, a president who is not challenged for renomination within his own party gets re-elected, a precedent which has been measured for about a century,” said Helmut Norpoth, a political science professor at State University of New York at Stony Brook.

He gave the president 20-to-1 odds that he would defeat Mr. Kerry, based on data from presidential elections since 1912, including voting patterns in primary elections, long-term partisan support and the role of presidential incumbency.

“But even with all the numbers, I also believe Bush has an edge in such things as personality,” Mr. Norpoth continued. “I think many Republicans feel warmly towards him, and none felt compelled to offer him a challenge.”

Mr. Norpoth presented his findings with eight other political scientists in the October issue of Political Science and Politics, a journal of the American Political Science Association, a District-based academic group with 15,000 members in 80 countries.

Mr. Norpoth was also the early bird, making his pronouncements nine months ago.

“The earlier the forecast, the greater the value,” noted Brad Lockerbie, another contributor from the University of Georgia who released his own prediction in May.

He said he believes Mr. Bush will win with almost 58 percent of the vote, after analyzing the power of incumbency and an index of consumer sentiment that tracks voter feelings about their economic future.

Thomas M. Holbrook of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee predicted the president would garner 55 percent of the vote, again based on economic trends, consumer satisfaction, incumbency and presidential popularity.

Emory University’s Alan Abramowitz also forecast a Bush win with 54 percent of the popular vote after gauging whether the nation sensed it was “time for change,” Mr. Bush’s approval ratings according to Gallup and variations in the gross domestic product this year.

Using combinations of economic indicators, income growth, approval ratings and other polls, Oxford University’s Christopher Wlezian and Columbia University’s Robert Erikson gave Mr. Bush the victory with just under 52 percent and almost 53 percent of the vote, respectively.

But one combined forecast made in late August by Michael Lewis-Beck of the University of Iowa and Charles Tien of Hunter College predicts a “paper-thin defeat for Bush,” predicting the president will get 49.9 percent of the two party-vote and 241 Electoral College votes.

Their conclusions were based on “economic voting and the institutional features of incumbency” along with “a variable that has been hitherto unstudied in the election forecasting world — jobs.”

Ideally, all the predictions should be judged by the accuracy of the voting percentages, according to project director James Cambell of the University of Buffalo, who added, “Still, these benchmarks provide some bearings.”

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