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Political Scientists Forecast Big Losses For Democrats

Topics: 2010 , Alan Abramowitz , Alfred Cuzan , American Political Science Association , Charles Bundrick , Charles Tien , Christopher Wlezien , Gary Jacobson , Jim Campbell , Joe Bafumi , Michael Lewis Beck , Robert Erikson

With the midterm elections now just nine weeks away, a group of political scientists gathered for a conference in Washington D.C. this weekend forecast significant losses for the Democrats. Three of the five forecasts predicted that Republicans will gain majority control of the House of Representatives.

The annual meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA), which featured nearly 5,000 participants and close to 900 panel and roundtable sessions, was about far more than election forecasting. Those most interested in the 2010 campaigns, however, gravitated to a Saturday session in which five political scientists presented the latest results from their forecasting models, some of which have been in development for 30 years or more.

Democrats currently hold a 256 to 179 seat advantage, so Republicans need to win at least 39 seats to gain majority control. Three of the models, two of which draw on national polls measuring whether voters plan to support the Democrat or Republican candidate in their district, point to Republicans picking up between 49 and 52 seats in the House, more than enough to win majority control. Specifically:

  • Alan Abramowitz of Emory University forecast a Republican gain of 49 seats, based on current polling showing Republican with a roughly five percentage-point lead on the generic House ballot.
  • Joe Bafumi of Dartmouth College presented his forecast of a 50-seat Republican gain, based on a model and paper co-authored with Robert Erikson of Columbia University and Chris Wlezien of Temple University (and summarized last month in the Huffington Post). Their model also rests heavily on national polling on U.S. House vote preferences.
  • James Campbell of SUNY Buffalo predicted a gain of 50 to 52 seats for the Republicans, using a model that combines assessments of the number of "seats in peril" by the Cook Political Report with the recent job approval rating of president Barack Obama.

Two more models offered a less pessimistic outlook for the Democrats:

  • Alfred Cuzan forecast a Republican gain of 27 to 30 seats based on a model, developed with University of West Florida colleague Charles Bundrick, that relies mostly on measures of economic growth and inflation rather than voter preference polling.
  • Michael Lewis Beck of the University of Iowa predicted a Republic gain of just 22 seats. He collaborated with Charles Tien of CUNY Hunter College on a more than 30-year-old "referendum" model based on measurements earlier this year. Their model was the only one to exclude measurements of the current seat division between Democrats and Republicans.

Why so much variation in the forecasts? Another speaker, Gary Jacobson of the University of California San Diego, pointed out that the number of previous elections typically used by forecasters (typically between 16 and 32) is "not a very big number," while a great many "plausible" predictive measures exist. Moreover, the national polling numbers used by the modelers are often "really, really noisy."

Jacobson also noted the differences between the "fundamentalist" models of Cuzan/Bundrick and Lewis-Beck/Tien that assume that views of the the economy and the Obama administration drive voting, and the others that use vote preference questions which, as he put it, "add in the information that's already the product of these fundamentals" as well as "the other stuff that's going on" with voter preferences.

Lewis-Beck argued that the "the best models are based on theory ... things that we know [or] that we're pretty certain we know," which in this case means the belief that "people vote about the main direction of the economy, and they vote about big macro political issues," especially in midterm elections.

At least one of the academics noted the apparent gap between what the fundamentals alone predict and what the polls are picking up. "Republicans are polling a lot better than they should be," Bob Erikson argued, "by [the] fundamentals."

[Cross-posted to the Huffington Post]./p>

 

Comments
Dave:

And you thought Glenn Beck was the crazy one.

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StatyPolly:

At least one of the academics noted the apparent gap between what the fundamentals alone predict and what the polls are picking up. "Republicans are polling a lot better than they should be," Bob Erikson argued, "by [the] fundamentals."

Simple answer to that mystery. The fundamentals based models are not picking up all fundamentals that are in play this cycle. Such things as the number of times the president and the party in power in Congress poked the electorate in the eye. I bet none of the fundamental models accounted for that variable. Once they add that, they will come close to the models that rely on generic polling.

As I've been saying for a while (along with a few others) - there is more than just the economy in play this cycle.

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AmazingThings:

At least one of the academics noted the apparent gap between what the fundamentals alone predict and what the polls are picking up. "Republicans are polling a lot better than they should be," Bob Erikson argued, "by [the] fundamentals."

This is what I've been saying for awhile now. The polls are grossly overstating Republican support. I think a lot of people are going to be surprised at how well the Democrats do in November, compared to all the doom and gloom predictions out there right now.

Also, I think the fact that the convention wisdom now seems to be that the Republicans will take over the House actually works to the Democrats' advantage. Up until now, people could say they're voting for the Republican as a sign of protest. Now that people are beginning to realize that that vote could actually put the GOP back in charge, I think you're going to see a lot of "buyers remorse" towards the Republicans between now and election day, and people will end up sticking with the Democrats.

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Paleo:

Republicans are polling better than they should be because Democrats have adopted the "roll over and play dead" strategy. Timid, defensive and spooked. If Democrats, led by the white house, would actually go on the attack, they could bring out many of these "unenthusiastic voters," and cut their losses significantly.

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Farleftandproud:

Amazing THings: I admire your optimism, but I think the Democrats will have a tough 8 weeks, and that Obama is going in the wrong direction to try to win back Independent voters. I mean, his new bill regarding the infrastructure is a good plan to build roads and put money into transportation, but I think just a simple jobs bill would be better right now. The right wing media and attack dogs like Karl Rove are just going to make it sound like this is another stimulus bailout, and will further get our country in debt. Of course I know that these candidates challening Democratic incumbents in blue states, are wrong, and I hope the people will ultamately see it as wrong, but from the average white voter, their spin sounds pretty good.

I think Obama needs to focus on the economy, but also focus more on foreign policy and immigration reform. I think he could run on a strong immigration platform, as well as ailing schools and our drop out rate. Education always is a winner for Democrats, especially in white moderate suburban areas. I think his labor day speech migh be the political kiss of death for the 2010 election.

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s.b.:

Well Gee if voters were all informed and only voted on issues, experience for the job, economic indicators, and platforms, wouldn't life be grand.That's my fantasy world.

So why is it that politicians kiss babies then, or get a foster kitten during a campaign?

The election of Obama in the last cycle was for the most part a purely emotional decision. btw I don't live in the US and I am not American, although I grew up there.

I can tell you as a disinvested outsider, that election had nothing to do with who was most qualified for the job, or who had a proven track record. It was pure fantasy and emotion. When the mainstream media in the US repeatedly attacked a woman's disabled baby and called it news because they think she might pose a threat to their golden calf, that election had nothing to do with issues. (that was a shame and a disgrace the likes of which I have never seen that all Americans should hang their heads about and that Trig Palin should have been given a defamation settlement for)

I have been noticing that the presidential approval lines have very consistently sloped, much more so than for other Presidents. It's like when voters in the US wake up, and the fuzzy fantasy Obama sold them blows away, they just don't support him anymore.

It also looks like he just isn't up for the job, neither are his people. He hires academics, not people who know what they are doing or have experience. I'm sorry a Supreme Court justice who has never been a judge?????

And I am a left-leaning liberal politically by the way, from a country where that means I'm probably in the socialist pinko, commie category in the US.

Obama was an emotional choice. He's done a terrible job because he wasn't qualified. Hillary was qualified. They villified her and called her racist after decades of dedicated work against racism.

People are reacting emotionally now, because their emotions were played last time and he didn't deliver on the fantasy he sold them.

I'd go with the likely voter models.

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AlanSnipes:

sb: For a so-called left-laening liberal, you sort of sound like a typical right winger.
I did not and never have voted on emotion and I voted for Obama after supporting Hillary because it was a rational choice based on McCain and his erratic campaign, which made a decision to put an extremely unqualified person as his running mate. Rational people don't vote for people who make judgements like that.
Irrational people in 2008, when I asked them why they are voting for McCain, counld not give an answer. The reason: their decision was motivated by factors that would not sound very nice if they expressed them, so they didn't.
More people on the right certainly vote on emotion. I constantly heard in 2008 that we can't let "them" over.

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sjt22:

When the mainstream media in the US repeatedly attacked a woman's disabled baby and called it news because they think she might pose a threat to their golden calf, that election had nothing to do with issues.that was a shame and a disgrace the likes of which I have never seen that all Americans should hang their heads about and that Trig Palin should have been given a defamation settlement for

When was Trig attacked? When? Who in the MSM ever attacked Palin's baby? What the hell are you talking about?

I have been noticing that the presidential approval lines have very consistently sloped, much more so than for other Presidents.

Ever heard of George W? Go look at his numbers sometime.

I'm sorry a Supreme Court justice who has never been a judge?????

Ever heard of William Rehnquist?

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Aaron_in_TX:

"And I am a left-leaning liberal politically by the way, from a country where that means I'm probably in the socialist pinko, commie category in the US."

Suggesting that the liberal media conspiracy was responsible for McCain's meltdown and your general interest in Palin does not make you sound liberal.

What exactly was the "golden calf" you refer to? Obama himself?

"They villified her and called her racist after decades of dedicated work against racism."

Hillary lost because her team was arrogant and massively miscalculated, not to mention underestimating Obama's team. So they were flailing & frustrated by the SC primary and Bill flew off the handle a little bit.

If she had had a plan for the caucus states and had anticipated a post-super Tuesday race she would have had enough money to contest the following 11 races she lost that cemented her delegate deficit. Instead, her fundraising dried up and Obama's soared for an entire month.

She also ignored Iowa until late in the game. Terrible move. Without Iowa there would have been no Obama.

Also, if she hadn't double-talked the driver's licenses for illegals question at that October 2007 debate that Edwards hammered her for, there probably would never have been an opening for Obama in Iowa.

Claiming reverse racism is something conservatives, not liberals do. Hillary's nomination loss had nothing to do with her being perceived as a racist (she wasn't).

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AmazingThings:

Sorry, but McCain was not qualified to be President. I think it's unbelievable that the man was ever elected to anything.

First, he himself said he didn't understand economic issues, and claimed that the economy was not that bad. Epic fail.

Second, the man was a POW in Vietnam for an extended period of time. Who knows what kind of brainwashing he underwent. He could have been the real-life Manchurian Candidate. I would never have trusted him in the White House.

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s.b.:

Hey I told you I'm not from the US. Elsewhere people are not so pigeonholed into left or right. We try not to call each other names and can actually discuss an issue without being rabidly partisan, at least some of the time. I live somewhere where a gay vegetarian who fully supports public health care and choice is the attack dog of the Conservative Party aka RIGHT WING Sometimes, we just have fiscal Conservatives here.

The US is possibly the most polarized nation on the face of the planet and vitriole is spewed at those who disagree in a way that is totally unacceptable in other countries.

I can't even actually watch your news on TV because it's too much like an insult fight all the time.(and I mean all the news)I only read what's on the internet and that's bad enough.

Watch the political panel on the CBC or the BBC sometime and you'll see how people can have a rational intelligent discussion about political practice and views that does not degenerate into a brawl of personal insult. And BTW you can't generally tell the political leanings of political commentators in other countries.

Yeah Trig's parentage, and parenting was questioned by your entire MSM. It was the most vile and disgusting attack on a politician that I have ever seen, started by Andrew Sullivan and Journolist, and it continues aka Vanity Fair. Look it up if you missed it. Attacking babies for political points-go Dems.

You know all I see right now is a liberal academic, elite in the NE and part of the west coast in America calling the majority of Americans racist and stupid. I really don't see that winning them another election. Everytime some other jouralist calls Sarah Palin stupid, or attack her family, (and it's still happening)the Republicans gain votes.

I don't need to call people racist or stupid to disagree with them politically.

As far as I can tell, it's liberal educated elites who seem a little foolish right now, and I'm not in your country and I'm not a Republican. I'm too socially and fiscally liberal to be a Democrat, (in my country liberals reduce deficits and debt) but I can see a political train wreck, and call it like I see it.

Obama has been a terrible President, for the US and the rest of the World. He was not qualified for the job.

Emotions were what won Obama his election as well as a completely negligent MSM and emotions are what is going to lose this one, and possibly the next, not issues, except possibly the economy, which his administration and the Dem congress has for the most part ignored.

60-80 seats lost if the Dems are lucky, and they deserve it.

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John:

@ s.b.

I am slightly curious, if you do not mind me asking, who do you normally vote for in the UK?

Did the entire MSM really question Trig's parentage?, As far as I knew they stayed away from the rumours like the plague.

To be fair, I think Sullivan is actually a conservative, (he wrote a book called 'The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How to Get It Back' and look at his coverage of the UK elections), although I did think he did go to far in terms of Palin's child. While some of the coverage of Palin has been somewhat unfair, especially initially after being picked, she does seem to have frequent problems with 'terminological inexactitudes'.

Why exactly do you think Obama has been a 'terrible President'?, especially for the rest of the world. He is still pretty popular in most countries.

"Emotions were what won Obama his election as well as a completely negligent MSM and emotions are what is going to lose this one"

Actually, the economy was the key factor behind Obama victory in 08, and it will be, at the very least, a very significant factor in democrat losses this November.

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melvin:

The gop is not going to gain those many seats,because this is not 1994.

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Robert:

Ha..Obama is focused on the economy..only thing is he doesn't have a clue as to how to fix the problem he created. Short term solutions for a shortsighted man..throw more money at it. Create quick short term jobs instead of promoting long term growth by the natural process of the Free Market. Democrats will never see past the racist, prejudicial and bias opinions they nurture.

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Be Heard

Across the country and in Fairfield County, most Americans opposed the healthcare bill. But Jim Himes didn’t hear us and voted yes.

The stimulus? Most of us didn’t want it. Himes didn’t listen. He voted yes.

Cap and trade? In Connecticut, most voters said no. In Washington, Jim Himes voted yes.

End the secret ballot in union elections? Again, his constituents said no. Jim Himes voted yes.

If Jim Himes does not listen to you, then you should know that you are not alone. By a wide margin, voters across the country and in Fairfield County oppose the Nancy Pelosi and Jim Himes’ position on the issues. If you want to send Jim Himes a message that he can hear, you can support his opponent, Dan Debicella, here: https://debicella.blue-swarm.com/donate.

Jim Himes can’t hear us. On November 2nd, let’s turn up the volume.

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StatyPolly:

Very astute posting, S.B.! I appreciate your honestly. The current ruling class bunch on the left is so far away from where the current national ideological center is, that they feel they have to lie about their positions and demonize opposition in order to hold power. And it's a coordinated propaganda campaign to a large degree, as evidenced by things like Journolist and closed door White House meetings with the leading leftist TV and print reporters.

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Aaron_in_TX:

"And it's a coordinated propaganda campaign to a large degree, as evidenced by things like Journolist and closed door White House meetings with the leading leftist TV and print reporters."

Conservatives and their conspiracies. There's always a power elite against you poor besieged people. Those evil media and academic liberals have the power to hold back the most powerful bloc in America.

Conservatives run this country and they have for 30+ years. IMO, since mid-way through Carter presidency. What Fox News says drives all the TV news narratives. They all respond to it when they should ignore them.

No professor can influence more people in his/her career than Rush Limbaugh or Glen Beck can influence in one day. Same goes for individual journalists, who are writing 80% non-political articles about the latest cancer treatment or Lindsey Lohan's arrest record.

Notice how every newspaper has a business section? Now, how many newspapers have a labor section? Oh yeah, none. Very liberal, those newspapers. Very poor Marxists are they.

Martin Luther King toward the end of his life (the part when he became more marxist which conservatives would like us to forget) talked about how America wrt to Vietnam acted like a "bully who THINKS he's a victim." That is exactly how conservatives behave. They have been claiming they are the victims for years, when they are the ones that drive the narrative.

That is not to say there are not liberal elites. But IF the liberal elites were as powerful as conservatives claim, then conservatives would be marginalized. They are not.

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