ISU professor's method predicts Obama will win election

September 8 2008

An Indiana State University professor who has developed a method for predicting elections has predicted that Barack Obama will win the presidency over John McCain.

Carl Klarner, assistant professor of political science, said his model, which he ran 99 days before the election, shows Obama has an 84 percent chance of winning the presidency. It also showed that he would obtain 53 percent of the popular vote and 346 electoral votes. The forecast also predicted an 11-seat gain for the Democrats in the House of Representatives and a three-seat gain in the Senate.

By looking at patterns in past elections, Klarner's model examines presidential elections since 1948 and House and Senate elections since 1954. Some of the factors include the economy, the incumbent president's approval rating, how people say they will vote in polls and a "two term penalty" variable.

"After a party has been in for two terms, you usually see a 4.5 percent penalty," he said explaining the variable. "The reasoning behind this is that the public wants to balance public policy."

Klarner's model differs from other election prediction models in that he looks at Congressional districts and states, not just the overall election outcome nationally.

"Most other people look at the election as a whole," he said. "I can say which states Obama will win according to my model. It also takes the electoral college into account."

The model shows that Obama will only receive 46.9 percent of the vote in Indiana, while in Ohio he will receive 52 percent of the vote.

Although the model was run before each candidate announced his running mates, Klarner said the impact of Obama's running mate, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, and McCain's running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, should be small. Usually, the pick of a vice presidential candidate helps to move that person's state in one party's favor.

"Alaska is safely Republican and Delaware is safely Democrat," Klarner said. "It seems like any effect from their selections is pretty small."

In 2006, Klarner and Stan Buchanan, an ISU associate professor of political science, accurately predicted a Democratic takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives. Months before the election in April 2006, they predicted a 22-seat gain for the Democrats. The party's net gain in the Nov. 7 election was 29 seats.


Contact: Carl Klarner, Indiana State University, assistant professor of political science, at 812-237-2436 or at  

Writer: Jennifer Sicking, Indiana State University, assistant director of media relations, at 812-237-7972 or at  

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Carl Klarner, an Indiana State University assistant professor who has developed a method for predicting elections, has predicted that Barack Obama will win the presidency over John McCain.

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