A Republican will win the 2016 presidential election, according to predictions by a computer at the global news agency Reuters — a model that took into account data from not only the past 25 United States presidential elections, but from 450 elections in 35 countries. The computer model, according to the Reuters report on the new predictions issued Wednesday, is more reliable than polling data which at this early stage of a campaign can contain a margin of error up to eight percent.
The Reuters predictions, however, remain out of line with other major models for calling the 2016 presidential race, which see a Democratic candidate as a virtual lock to win next year and succeed outgoing two-term President Barack Obama.
The Reuters model, as well as the other computer predictions, simply call the 2016 race for one party or the other, rather than predicting which specific candidate will become the next president of the United States.
So, why does the Reuters computer predict that a GOP candidate will be sworn in as president on January 20, 2017? The news agency says that the data it collected from elections all over the world revealed two factors that almost always predicted which party would win an election.
The most important factor, according to Reuters — which describes itself as “confident” that its prediction will prove correct — is simply the party affiliation of the outgoing president.
Reuters found that, except when an incumbent is up for reelection, voters everywhere cast their ballots for change three times out of four.
“A Republican will win because voters typically shy away from the party currently in power when an incumbent isn’t running,” Reuters reporters Clifford Young and Julia Clark explained. “In fact, a successor candidate is three times less likely to win.”
The second major determining factor in the Reuters prediction, according to the news agency’s report, is the approval rating of the outgoing incumbent.
“In order for a successor candidate to have better than even chances of winning, the sitting president must have an approval rating of above 55 percent,” the Reuters report says. “Because Barack Obama’s average approval rating is now at 45 percent, a successor candidate (i.e. Democrat) is unlikely to win.”
When an incumbent’s approval rating sits at 45 percent, the Reuters data shows, a candidate from the same party wins a mere 17 percent of the time.
“In the coming months, Obama’s approval ratings may tick up. But they would have to pass the 55 point mark to give the Democrats even odds of keeping the White House,” Young and Clark wrote. “The Democrats have quite a mountain to summit to retain power past 2016.”
But do they? The Reuters predictions stand in stark contrast to the election model used by the economic analysis firm Moody’s Analytics, a model which has been used to predict presidential elections since 1980 and so far has a 100 percent success rate.
Using Moody’s model, the Democratic candidate will win in 2016 with an electoral college landslide, collecting 326 electoral votes — 56 more than the 270 required to win a United States presidential election.
For that matter, the U.S. electoral college system appears to be a factor ignored by the Reuters predictions. According to pollster John Zogby, in the current political alignment of the country, Democrats have safely locked up 251 electoral votes before a single vote is cast in the 2016 election, while only 106 can be confidently assigned to the Republican candidate.
Of the remaining 181 electoral votes in the “swing states,” Democrats have won the additional 19 required to reach 270 in four of the last six elections, coming up just one short in 2000 and 11 short in 2004. So mathematically, it appears that the Republican candidate will be the one with “quite a mountain to summit.”
The Microsoft Research election predictions model used in its PredictWise service — a model which takes in a wide variety of factors — also sees a Democrat in the White House following the 2016 vote, giving whoever happens to be the Democratic candidate a 57 percent chance of winning.
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