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May 22, 2008

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spring 2004 polls were reasonably predictive of the eventual outcome

I'm skeptical of that sort of analysis - especially for a single election. It's far too easy to find counter arguments like Michael Dukakis' double digit lead in the polls over George H.W. Bush in the summer of 1988.

General elections, by contrast, can be forecast with a high degree of accuracy.

And yet, they haven't been. Unless I'm misreading your earlier post, the Hibbs model is constantly updated based on the results of the last election and then is validated by "predicting" the outcomes of past elections.

At what point did the Hibbs model (or any other model) begin correctly predicting future races?

Looking at Hibbs plots again, even his current model dramatically mispredicts the 1996 and 2000 elections. Both by nearly 5%.

Presidents Dole and Gore are skeptical.

Two quick corrections re: Jinchi's comments:

(1) My criticism of a frequently updated model was about Ray Fair's model, not the Hibbs one.

(2) To be fair, the graphic (created by Lane Kenworthy) in my post is just a bivariate plot of his weighted per-capita income growth variable against the presidential vote, not the forecast of his model as such. It's true, though, that it didn't fit well in 1996 and 2000 -- here's Kenworthy's discussion:

You can see in the first chart above that 1996 and 2000 are not predicted very well by income growth, and unlike 1952 and 1968 they cannot be explained by war casualties. The model predicts 2004 accurately, but perhaps that is a fluke, due to fear of terrorism and the incumbent president’s at-that-time seemingly successful prosecution of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

Why might the model no longer work well? One hypothesis is that as a society gets richer, pocketbook issues recede in importance for voters.

A second consideration is that growth of per capita personal income is no longer a useful indicator of how voters have fared economically. In recent decades the bulk of income gains have gone to a small slice of the population — those at the top of the distribution. Measuring growth via an average misses this.

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