Would you like to try Prof. Lichtman’s method to predict whether the incumbent party stays or goes?
By Peter W. Stevenson May 12 2016
How to predict the 2016 election
Prof. Allan Lichtman has predicted the outcome of every presidential election since 1984. He’s still trying to figure out 2016. (Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)
Allan Lichtman says he can predict the outcome of any U.S. presidential election. He often does it months or even years ahead of time. Oh, and his predictions have been right in every presidential election since 1984.
But Lichtman, a distinguished professor of history at American University, doesn’t use polling, demographics or sophisticated analysis of swing states. He makes his predictions based on 13 true/false statements that he says indicate whether the incumbent party will retain the White House or lose it in a given election.
Lichtman and Russian scientist Volodia Keilis-Borok came up with the keys — a series of true/false statements — in the early 1980s. The idea is that if more than half of the keys are true, the incumbent party will stay in power, and if more than half are false, the challenging party will win the White House.
The keys, which are explained in depth in Lichtman’s book “Predicting the Next President: The Keys to the White House 2016” are:
So how does all of this apply to Donald Trump and the wholly unusual 2016 election? Lichtman is still trying to determine his prediction.
The Fix sat down with Lichtman at his Washington office this week to get his thoughts on the 2016 race and how it might play out. Our conversation has been edited only for length.
THE FIX: For folks who may not be familiar with the book or the keys, can you tell me how you began to approach this and where the idea that you might be able to predict presidential elections based on factors, like how the incumbent president is doing, come from? How did that whole idea coalesce into a measurement system that you can use to predict an election?
LICHTMAN: Well, we first developed the keys in 1981, and they have since predicted correctly the popular vote in all eight American presidential elections, from 1984 through 2012 — usually years ahead of time. I predicted the very-hard-to-call 2012 election in print in 2010.
When you think about it, predicting elections is much like predicting earthquakes. You’re predicting whether there is going to be stability — the party holding the White House keeps the White House — or an earthquake — the party holding the White House loses, and the challenging party wins.