AU Professor Explains How He Correctly Predicted Election Outcome

Originally published by The Eagle in November 2016. 

Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election last night marked a historic moment for the nation. It also confirmed another correct prediction for AU history professor Allan Lichtman, the man behind the famous “Keys to the White House” strategy. Lichtman received criticism from many in September when he predicted a win for Trump.

Lichtman has accurately predicted the winner of the popular vote in the eight elections since 1984. He doesn’t use polling data; instead, he uses a series of 13 true/false statements he created himself. If six or more of the “Keys to the White House,” are false, then the party in power will lose the next election, he told the audience at the AU event Presidential Predictions: No Polls, No Pundits in late October.

While Trump failed to capture the popular vote and instead secured the White House by winning key electoral votes, Lichtman said he was unsurprised to see that his keys held true yet again. He is currently out of the country and spoke with The Eagle by email.

“Other political experts went wrong because they relied on polls, rather than an analysis of the underlying structure of how elections really work,” he said via email to The Eagle the morning after election day. “Polls are not predictions, but they are misused as such.”

In the days leading up to the election, NPR, The New York Times, The Washington Post, 538 and several other sources used poll data to predict that Hillary Clinton would reign victorious on Nov. 8, even if only with a slim margin. But as Trump captured swing state after swing state on election night, it became clear that polling is not the end-all-be-all of predicting election outcomes, Lichtman said.

“I hope [this election] will wean addiction from the polls,” Lichtman said. “Even the so-called ‘scientific’ analysts like Nate Silver are simply compilers of polls. Polls also make for lazy journalism. You don’t have to do any work to read polls and cover elections as though they were horse races.”

But just because he predicted the winner of this heated race does not mean he is content with the outcome, Lichtman said. He said he is “worried for the future of our country” given Trump’s “unprecedented” candidacy and his position on climate change.

“The future of the country is much more important than whether I am right or wrong,” Lichtman said.

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