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Professor predicts Obama to receive 51.3 percent of popular vote

October 1, 2012

A forecast by an Indiana State University political science professor has President Barack Obama winning the White House again, but by a slimmer margin than before.

Carl Klarner, associate professor of political science, made his forecast on July 15 that Obama would receive 51.3 percent of the popular vote and have a 57 percent chance of winning the Electoral College against his opponent Mitt Romney. However, according to his forecast Obama could have a tough time accomplishing his agenda in his second term, with the Republicans retaining control of the House while taking two more seats. Also, Klarner predicted with a 62 percent chance that Republicans will take control of the Senate by picking up five seats.

"It's good to take a risk and go a little earlier," Klarner said about making his prediction in July.

Klarner and his model accurately predicted elections in 2006 and 2008. In 2008, Klarner predicted Obama would win with 53 percent of the vote. Obama won with 53.4 percent.

Using a statistical model gives more insight into why an election turns out the way it did than forecasting methods based on expert judgments, according to Klarner. His model varies from other political scientists in that he includes and considers state data while most others only incorporate national data.

"I'm trying to predict each of the 50 states and their outcomes so you can look at how votes are distributed throughout the country," he said.

To make his predictions, Klarner compiles each state's prior voting history, economic conditions and more. He also considers individual state races and voting records.

Klarner predicted that Florida and Ohio would be closely contested between Obama and Romney, with Obama receiving 49.7 percent of the votes in the Sunshine State and 50.3 percent of the votes in the Buckeye State. Other states Klarner predicts that will be close include Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina and Virginia. He has forecast that Obama will lose Indiana with 48.3 percent of the vote but will win Colorado with 51.6 percent of the vote.

Most states remain fairly consistent in the relative strength of the parties compared to each other, even when considering factors such as an incumbent president or the political party of the governor. Klarner compared it to an incoming tide.

"Imagine a collection of beaches that are near each other. Some waves will come further up the beaches, but some beaches have more sand than others," he said.

Klarner's predictions have been published in this month's edition of PS: Political Science and Politics, which is available for free download at

Photo: Klarner

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

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