Is 99% Too High?
by Drew • June 27, 2012 • 9 Comments
That depends on whether you believe the historical model. Of all the numbers on this site – and there are a lot of them – the one that may be most eye-catching right now is the high probability my model places on Obama’s chances for re-election. Whether that probability is 99%, 95%, or 90% (there will be blips up and down), the point is that the model is very confident in forecasting an Obama victory.
Is 99% too high? Given the current polling data, and how this year’s fundamentals compare to those of previous presidential elections, I don’t think it is. The baseline forecast I am working from estimates that Obama will win 52.7% of the national (two-party) vote right off the bat. When translated to the state level, combined with current polls, then converted into electoral votes, the median forecast is Obama 328 – Romney 210. There’s actually quite a bit of uncertainty around these estimates, though. The model indicates that with 90% probability, Obama’s electoral vote total could be anywhere from 281 (e.g., Bush vs. Kerry) to 367 (e.g., Clinton vs. Bush). The entire range of simulated Obama electoral votes is roughly 225 to 425. The reason the model is so confident is not because the uncertainty in the estimates is too small, but because the underlying data are tilted so far in Obama’s direction.
That said, this does not mean that the forecasts are fixed, or that the election is over. The key to my approach is that it is dynamic: when older forecasts conflict with newer polling data, it updates the estimates automatically. At some point in the campaign – whether it’s one week before the election, one month, or even now – the model predictions will be correct (that is, at least, as long as the polls are accurate, which I sure hope they will be). What we won’t know until Election Day is how quickly the model got us to the right answer.
In fact, the biggest missing piece at the moment is not more polls, but rather the Q2 economic data. By necessity, I’m still relying on Q1 data, even though they are historically less predictive. As soon as the Q2 numbers are released, I will recalculate the baseline structural forecast, and continue updating from there. That’s been the plan all along. (…but if Q2 growth is around 2% – as some expect – the baseline forecast will end right back up at 52-53%.)
So just as you wouldn’t look at the weather forecast a week ahead, then not re-check the day before, the model is telling us how things look right now, subject to new information later on. It’s not impossible for Romney to win, and I’m not guaranteeing an Obama victory. But, barring any major, historically exceptional turn of events, it’s very reasonable to think that Obama has a very, very good chance of winning in 2012.