A couple of economic researchers working for Yahoo say they have developed a forecasting model that predicts a win for President Barack Obama this November.
The model, created by David Rothschild and Patrick Hummel, predicts that Mr. Obama will carry 303 electoral votes this fall. At the same time, they say that several states contests remain virtual toss-ups.
In reviewing the last ten presidential cycles, the researchers say that their model correctly predicted the eventual winners in 88% of the 500 state elections that took place. Between now and mid-June, they they assume that personal income growth remains average for a reelection year and that the president's approval rating remains at or above its current 48% range.
One aspect of the model that might generate controversy within the ranks of professional politicians and their handlers is the conclusion about the value of a campaign and a candidate: Rothschild and Hummel believe that it matters far less than conventional opinion has conventionally believed.
"One of the interesting findings of the research is, quite frankly, that you can predict outcomes of elections with pretty amazing accuracy pretty far away," Rothschild said.
The researchers found that an increase or decrease in unemployment trend lines was a much more powerful predictor of election results than the unemployment rate itself. In particular, a key data point was the state-by-state growth in income in the first quarter of the election year. With the main economic indicators trending up, albeit at historically depressed levels, they say that's an encouraging harbinger for an Obama victory.
"The net effect of campaigns are meaningful but not massive," Rothschild said. He said that the economy's first and second quarters (in an election year) "more strongly correlate with a president's reelection chances."
The model assumes an error rate of slightly less than 3%.
Yahoo has not shared the methodology with the White House. The researchers will deliver a paper detailing their model at the American Association for Public Opinion Research national convention in May.
A spokesman for the Republican National Committee was not immediately available for comment.