Prof. Franz on Forecasting 2012 Presidential Election

Story posted November 03, 2011

Associate Professor of Government Michael Franz presented a talk boldly titled, "Who Will Win the Presidential Election in 2012? A Forecast of the Outcome," during lunch at a faculty seminar Tuesday in Moulton Union.

Mike Franz256.jpg
Michael Franz

Franz spoke of the fundamental factors involved in making such a prediction.

"The most important factor, generally, is the nature of the economy, and probably the best way to measure that is the change in GDP, or the change in votersí perceptions of how the economy is doing," says Franz.

"Both are related, but pick up different things, and theyíre strongly related to previous election outcomes, so if voters perceive the economy as contracting next year, then the president will suffer from that, and if voters perceive the economy as improving next year, then Obama will benefit."

Franz says the other key factor is the context of an election. Is the president running for a second term? Is the president a member of a party whoís held office for a long time?

"Obamaís in a situation now where heís got the conditions that are right. Heís an incumbent running for re-election, but not in a party thatís been in power a long time, so that is a countervailing force to the negative economy thatís going on."

Given these factors, what does Franz forecast?

"The prediction is a little wishy-washy because we donít necessarily know what those factors will be next year, but if we estimate the results of the election based on whatís happening in the economy now, the popularity of the president now, and leveraging previous elections as evidence, the presidentís got a toss-up race ahead of him."†Hence Franz's alternate title, "How Being Bold with Titles is a Bad Idea."

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