Maverick Modeller Helmut Norpoth Predicts Another Victory For Trump |
Political scientist Helmut Norpoth answers media calls every week for comment on the upcoming presidential election. Why the interest? In 2016, he was one of a handful of experts who correctly predicted the outcome of the US presidential election.
Norpoth, professor in the department of Stony Brook Political science, has achieved notable success in scheduling elections based on its Main model, a statistical representation of U.S. presidential races based on data dating back over a century.
In 2020, his model projects a Trump victory again, giving the incumbent president a 90% chance of re-election in a landslide – a controversial call that flies in the face of current polls.
The primary model correctly predicted five of the last six presidential elections, and when applied to the previous elections, correctly predicted a staggering 25 of the last 27, missing only the 2000 election in which George W. Bush defeated Al Gore and the 1960 election in which John F. Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon – two extremely close and contested votes marred by allegations of voting inaccuracies.
Norpoth began working on his model after the 1992 presidential election, first testing it in 1996.
“My first prediction was the 1996 election, when Bill Clinton was re-elected for a second term,” he said. “Predicting a victory for Clinton was considered an exaggeration at the time because he was bad enough in his first term.”
Norpoth, who has worked at Stony Brook since 1979, correctly predicted Clinton’s victory using a very simple early version of his model. It would expand the model in the years to come, a continuous evolution that continues to this day. But one key metric that was evident to Norpoth even at the start – the importance of the early presidential primaries – remains a critical part of the primary model.
After the 2008 election, in which Barack Obama won the nomination, and then the election despite his failure to win the New Hampshire primary, Norpoth expanded the range of primaries to also include the South Carolina primary.
“But that’s it,” Norpoth said. “I focus on the first primaries and the way the candidates behave in those first competitions. It’s a very good predictor and a leading indicator of what will happen in November.
He described the focus on primaries as the main difference between his model and the others.
“These are primary elections, which are real electoral competitions and the votes are counted and compiled,” he said. “I also use real numbers, such as previous election results, which indicate whether the pendulum is pulling away or heading towards the White House party. This is also something that is based on actual election results and not on a public opinion poll. “
Unlike many other projections, Norpoth’s equation ignores approval ratings.
“It’s a survey number,” he said, “and I don’t use them. I think the main performance of a sitting president is usually a proxy for that. But I don’t use any poll data or any opinion data.
In light of this information, Norpoth said he was not surprised his role model gives Trump a very strong chance for a second term.
“When I looked at New Hampshire and saw that Donald Trump got 85% of the vote and the closest challenger was Bill Weld at 10%, I was pretty sure what the model was going to predict, ”he said. “If Trump had only obtained 55% and an opponent had obtained 40%, I might not have predicted that Donald Trump would have a chance of winning. Perhaps. It would also depend on the other side.
As for the Democrats, Norpoth said the large number of candidates and the inability of one to start quickly could have doomed the party from the start.
“People have forgotten how Joe Biden did in New Hampshire,” Norpoth said. “It was horrible. He got 8.4% of the vote, which is incredible for a candidate who aspires to be president. “
So, was there something the Democrats could have done this year to put themselves in a better position, or was it electing Donald Trump to win or lose?
“What Democrats should have done if they were really serious about beating Trump would have been to rally with a candidate early on and not have a prolonged battle in which people would get hurt,” said Norpoth. “They had to choose a person and ask everyone to take a pass. This is the only way for me to see that my model would have worked in their favor.
Norpoth, who has studied electoral primaries since 1912, is confident in the mathematics behind his model. While some might suspect that unusual circumstances – for example, the COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest following the murder of George Floyd – could have an unpredictable effect on election results, Norpoth said these crises do not ‘had no effect on its projection.
“My prediction is what I call ‘unconditional final’,” he said. “It doesn’t change. It’s a mathematical model based on things that have happened. The 2016 presidential election has taken place, the primary results have fallen. I can add results from other primaries, but even those numbers have arrived and cannot change either.
Norpoth also scoffed when asked to comment on the argument that the Trump presidency has been widely described as “unlike any previous presidency.”
“Each president is unique, and I think people get a little carried away with that description,” he said. “Obama was the first black president. Isn’t that unique? If Hillary Clinton had won in 2016, she would have been the first female president. Isn’t that unique? I admit that Trump is in many ways a very special type of character, but I think we tend to exaggerate that as well. “
One model change Norpoth made for the next election was to focus on the Electoral College.
“Now I predict directly to the Electoral College,” he said. “I’ve never done this before, but I made an adjustment because of the lag we had in 2016, and I’m ready to see Trump lose the popular vote again. This prediction therefore relates entirely to electoral votes.
Norpoth said that while he manages not to emotionally connect to these projections, the reactions to his projections sometimes make take an emotional toll.
“I get a lot of feedback and I get a lot of mail,” he said. “Some comments are not printable. I get negative reactions, and I get them from people whose opinions I value, from people who are friends. And I can say that some people find it difficult. So there is an emotional part going on.
But deep down, Norpoth said, it’s just math.
“Everyone thinks Trump is going to collapse, and here I predict with almost total certainty that he is going to win,” he concluded. “It sounds crazy. But it’s not.”
Twenty-five of the last 27 US presidential elections can attest to this.
– Robert Emproto