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.
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 voters’ perceptions of how the economy is doing,” says Franz.
“Both are related, but pick up different things, and they’re 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 who’s held office for a long time?
“Obama’s in a situation now where he’s got the conditions that are right. He’s an incumbent running for re-election, but not in a party that’s been in power a long time, so that is a countervailing force to the negative economy that’s going on.”
Given these factors, what does Franz forecast?
“The prediction is a little wishy-washy because we don’t necessarily know what those factors will be next year, but if we estimate the results of the election based on what’s happening in the economy now, the popularity of the president now, and leveraging previous elections as evidence, the president’s got a toss-up race ahead of him.” Hence Franz’s alternate title, “How Being Bold with Titles is a Bad Idea.”