Emory Report
September 8, 2008
Volume 61, Number 3

What do you
see happening in
the presidential campaigns?

“The race, while always competitive, is definitely on now and closer than it
should be, given the rough economy, the war and widespread disapproval of the current administration… The election may come down to who has the best ground game in the battleground states.”
— Andra Gillespie, assistant professor of political science

“The Republicans are in better shape now than they were before the convention.
It has now become a competitive race. Governor Palin’s speech was a huge success…I would not underestimate her. The Democrats are clearly the favorites, but there is a chance for an upset.”
—Merle Black
, Asa G. Candler Professor of
Politics and Government

“The only way the Democrats could lose the election is if they allow it to become a referendum on Barack Obama instead of the Republican legacy of the
last eight years and the determination to continue it. But don’t underestimate the Democrats’ ability to seize defeat from the jaws of victory.” —Drew Westen, professor of psychology and psychiatry, Democratic political consultant, and author of “The Political Brain”



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8, 2008
Abramowitz’s election model forecasts a time for change

By beverly clark

Emory political scientist and polling expert Alan Abramowitz has crunched the numbers for his presidential election forecast and has found in the data a potentially decisive win for the Democrats. His “time for change” model predicts that Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama will win the majority of the national major party popular vote: 54.3 percent vs. 45.7 percent for Sen. John McCain.

Abramowitz’s forecast has correctly predicted the popular vote winner within two percentage points or less in every presidential election since 1988.

The state of the economy, presidential approval ratings and the number of terms a party has been in power are the three key factors Abramowitz uses in his “time for change” forecasting model.

“While factors outside of the model, such as rising partisan polarization and resistance to an African American candidate by some white voters may result in a somewhat smaller popular vote margin for the Democratic nominee, the combination of an unpopular Republican incumbent in the White House, a weak economy, and a second-term election make a Democratic victory in November all but certain,” writes Abramowitz in the forthcoming October issue of the journal PS: Political Science and Politics.

Based on the assumption that a presidential election is fundamentally a referendum on the performance of the incumbent, the model factors in:

• The presidential approval rating in the final Gallup Poll in June (which ran 33 percent for President George Bush).

• The change in real gross domestic product during the second quarter of the election year.

• A variable based on whether the president’s party has controlled the White House for only one term or longer.

The time-for-change factor plays a critical role in the model: “A candidate from the president’s party running in a second- or later-term election suffers a penalty of more than 4 percentage points compared with a candidate running in a first-term election…Regardless of the popularity of the president or the state of the economy, it is simply much more difficult for the president’s party to retain its hold on the White House,” Abramowitz says.