Jay Greene

Recent Articles

Forecasting Follies

Using models to predict presidential elections can be fun. Too bad they don't work.

L ike most political junkies during the summer of 1992, I closely followed every news report and analysis to see who was winning the presidential race. Yet political science colleagues told me it was unnecessary to pay attention to the twists and turns of the campaign since we already knew who was going to win. A number of social scientists had developed models that could predict the outcome of presidential elections months before anybody had cast a ballot. Eager to benefit from the advances in my discipline, I looked up the models. But different models predicted different outcomes. I then tried to figure out which were the better models, so I could know which predictions to believe. My close investigation of the history and statistical techniques of presidential election forecasting models led me to conclude that none of the existing models deserves our faith. My colleagues in political science are not the only ones who have been drawn to the predictive power of presidential...