« | »

NYT: Bad Economy Doesn’t Affect Elections

From where else but the New York Times:

Models Based on ‘Fundamentals’ Have Failed at Predicting Presidential Elections

March 26, 2012

The 1988 presidential election was a victory for political science. Michael Dukakis had led George Bush in the polls for much of the spring and summer. But Mr. Bush had some fundamental advantages — the economy was sound, and he was the vice president to a popular incumbent, Ronald Reagan. As the fall came, Mr. Dukakis’s numbers wilted, and Mr. Bush captured a decisive victory, winning 426 electoral votes and taking the popular vote by about nine percentage points.

The election came at a time when political scientists and economists were interested in evaluating the relationship between economic performance — sometimes along with other “fundamental” (if harder-to-quantify) factors like war — and the fate of incumbent presidents.

This had long been something of a controversial subject. The elections of 1948 through 1968 had been a quirky lot…

Whatever it was about this period, the relationship between elections and the economy seemed to be very weak — and, in fact, often seemed to run in the opposite direction of what we might expect. The incumbent party had won in 1948 and 1956 despite a middling economy but lost in 1952 and 1968 despite a pretty good one.

Nevertheless, some economists and political scientists asserted, there was a relationship between the economy and elections in the long term. In 1978, the Yale economist Ray C. Fair published a well-known paper that looked to data as far back as the 1890s to make the case. The relationship between the economy and elections wasn’t particularly strong — it could be overridden by war, scandals and other factors — and the quality of the data was mixed

Still, the notion that economic performance helped to predict elections remained controversial in some circles. Some papers claimed that there wasn’t any relationship at all and poked fun at the news media for inflating it.

The American elections of 1972 through 1988 went much better for the theory of economic voting. The incumbent party had won big victories with a sound economy in 1972, 1984 and 1988, while Jimmy Carter had been trounced by Mr. Reagan in 1980 with a bad one. The year 1976 was something of a mixed bag — polls fluctuated wildly, the economic numbers were all over the map, and Gerald R. Ford had to deal with the aftermath of Watergate. But the others had seemed pretty darned predictable, and they were better predicted by the fundamentals than by the polls — Mr. Carter and Mr. Reagan had been fairly close in surveys until late in the 1980 campaign, for instance, whereas economic factors suggested all along that Mr. Carter would lose…

By now, the doubt [of the direct relation between the economy and election outcomes] has pretty much erased itself — probably to an unhealthy extent. It is often asserted that elections are easy to predict and that the economy decides most of them

But is it true? Can political scientists “predict winners and losers with amazing accuracy long before the campaigns start”?

The answer to this question, at least since 1992, has been emphatically not. Some of their forecasts have been better than others, but their track record as a whole is very poor

This is a mind-numbing 3,783 word, 61 paragraph article from the New York Time’s exalted statistics guru, Nate Silver. It is chock full of scholarly quotes and charts. But it all boils down to one claim: ‘it is a myth that the economy affects Presidential elections. So don’t worry. Obama will win no matter how bad the US economy is.’

In fact, it turns out that it is ‘not the economy, stupid,’ after all.

It is simply staggering to see just how far our news media will go to try to help get Obama re-elected. Here is a man, Nate Silver, who has made a brilliant career out of doing statistical predictions, who is now willing to say that you can’t predict anything because the current omens are so bad for Obama.

So, naturally, the omens, along with the entire history of election prediction models, have to be thrown overboard.

But this is what passes for ‘journalism’ in the United States of America in the 21st Century.

This article was posted by Steve on Wednesday, March 28th, 2012. Comments are currently closed.

3 Responses to “NYT: Bad Economy Doesn’t Affect Elections”

  1. Mithrandir says:

    They MAY be right. The invisible hand of secret communists, or Freemasons have guided this no-talent clown all the way to the White House. No resume didn’t stop him. Voting ‘present’ 36 times didn’t stop him. Sitting in a racist church for 20 years, kicking off opposition from the ballot, paling around with terrorists, –NOTHING stops this guy, why would a bad economy?

  2. mr_bill says:

    Let’s just say that today is November 7, 2012 and nerobama has just lost in a landslide election. Does the NYT run an article blaming the terrible economy for nerobama’s loss? If I were a betting man, I’d wager they would.

    A bit more food for thought, haven’t the NYT and the MSM been preaching to us about how well the “recovery” has been going? Why would they have any doubts about the state of the economy influencing the election? Everything is great, right? Maybe not, huh?

  3. wirenut says:

    Why is it, that every great American that fills this office, has to clean the floor, from a democrat? Jeesh-an-rice! Everytime a progressive takes office, It takes two terms to clean up the vomit. Here we go again. I never voted for
    this current spawn of evil. Models and fundamentals from this crowd are murky, to say the least. I stand with how it was written by our founders. No polls, No group-niks, No flash-mobs. Just give me liberty.
    In short, just leave me alone!

« Front Page | To Top
« | »