An election forecast model developed by a political scientist 99 days before the 2008 elections and before the recent Wall Street crisis predicts significant Democratic gains in the 2008 congressional elections—including 11 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 3 seats in the U.S. Senate.
The predictions are made in an article authored by Carl Klarner (Indiana State University) and published in an election-specific symposium in the October 2008 issue of PS: Political Science and Politics, a journal of the American Political Science Association (APSA).
Traditionally, efforts to call elections rely either on district- and state-level analyses limited to recently collected information (such as polls) or aggregate forecasting models measuring national trends. Klarner notes that “most forecasting models of House and Senate elections have not made predictions at the state or district level” and that “how national factors influence election outcomes is contingent on the distribution of votes across districts or states.” His 2008 forecast refines his own previous work in this area to use a model that combines both approaches.
The House and Senate forecasts were made in late July 2008, and the author’s model focuses on the percent of the major-party vote that the Democratic candidate received in a state or district. Klarner considers three main sets of factors in examining past elections from 1954 onward: district partisan composition, candidate attributes, and national partisan tides. The weighting of these factors is based on a range of historical and empirical data—including most recent votes for Democrats in a district; results of the most recent presidential vote; incumbency; prior experience in candidates; national vote intentions reported in surveys; presidential approval; performance of the economy; and the “midterm penalty” for the president’s party.
The model’s House prediction includes the following items of note:
The model’s Senate prediction includes the following items of note:
By integrating long-term data analysis with current local and national political factors, this election forecast model reflects ongoing efforts by political scientists to analyze election dynamics in the US. Notably, this prediction of the outcome of the 2008 congressional election was made well before the recent Wall Street financial crisis has made the political landscape more favorable to Democrats.
The full symposium is available online at http://www.apsanet.org/content_58382.cfm.
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