Town Square

Post a New Topic

Math Model Shows McCain Ahead By As Many As 27 Electoral College Votes

Original post made by Sharon, Midtown, on Sep 18, 2008

ScienceDaily (Sep. 17, 2008) — A new approach to determining which candidate will win the most electoral votes in the U.S. Presidential race factors in lessons learned from the 2004 election and uses sophisticated math modeling.

The research will be presented at the annual meeting of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS®).Web Link

Finally an evidence based scientific approach to the election in contrast to the hysteria we have hearing recently from the Email hackers

Comments (14)

Like this comment
Posted by undecided
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 18, 2008 at 7:49 pm

You use the title of the article, but that is a teaser. The full test of that prediction is:

"As of September 16, the margin in electoral votes could be as high as 282.8 votes for Senator John McCain against 255.2 for Senator Barack Obama, depending on the forecasting scenario."

The operative phrase being "depending on the forecasting scenario." The article ends up just confirming what everyone has been saying forever already: the undecideds will decide the election.

Finally, nothing. Just another fun little toy for him and his students to play with. But it doesn't account for human nature.

Like this comment
Posted by Samuel
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 18, 2008 at 7:58 pm

Great post in light of the unscientific melodramas going on.

This article presents very robust science, Decision Analysis and its derivatives have an excellent pedigree, I thought this quote was important, I look forward to reading the full article online after the conference, good rigorous work, well done!

"The results from the 2000 and 2004 presidential election suggested that it can be difficult to predict the winner of the presidential election based on popular vote," says Jacobson.
"In fact, it is possible that the popular vote and the Electoral College vote can lead to significantly different results."

Jacobson's model employs Bayesian estimators (which help scientists make decisions when conditions are uncertain) to determine the probability that a candidate will win each state.
He obtains state polling data from Rasmussen Reports, the Quinnipiac University Poll, and SurveyUSA. State-by-state probabilities are then used in a dynamic programming algorithm to determine a probability distribution for the number of Electoral College votes that each candidate will win in the 2008 presidential election.

Professor Jacobson believes that this model provides a more realistic method of predicting the results.
In 2004, when most other polls showed Kerry with a clear edge, his model consistently showed a Bush victory.


Like this comment
Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 18, 2008 at 8:01 pm

Ummm, the article doesn't show McCain ahead 282-255, it says that's the highest possible lead for McCain under a variety of scenarios. None of which account for the most recent switch in the polls.

It's just a way of analyzing the same old poll data. And that data changes.

Like this comment
Posted by phd
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 18, 2008 at 8:04 pm


It helps to have an education in math and probability-- no offense

but you are wrong

Like this comment
Posted by Thanks But No Thanks
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 18, 2008 at 9:10 pm

Uh, PhD, I don't think math and probability are much help when you're dealing with "lipstick on a pig" issues and "Wal-Mart Moms".

No offense, but your Super-de-Duper, Fancy Schmancy, Ivory Tower Math-e-matical Mo-del should stay in the Academic Lab which bore it, lest it meet cold reality in the form of an Alaskan Pit-Bull!

Like this comment
Posted by tj
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 18, 2008 at 9:17 pm

Thanks But No Thanks

Thanks for sharing, good to get an insight into the fundamentals from your view, not the sharpest knife in the ditch are you?

never mind

Like this comment
Posted by Financial Analyst
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 18, 2008 at 9:19 pm

So funny, you can see 'sharon' really just sitting home fuming because a hacker exposed to the world the fact that Palin was using Yahoo email instead of a government email account for government business, for the sole purpose of avoiding public disclosure of her government related communications. grrrr...

Oh by the way mister phd, a question... So under which undecided voter scenario did the model predict this 283 to 255 margin? Because the article says

"Jacobson's model also factors in undecided voters. It accounts for five different voting scenarios involving undecided voters, each considered individually. A "Neutral" scenario provides an unbiased handling of undecided voters. "Strong Republican" and "Strong Democratic" scenarios provide two extreme envelopes around which results can be judged and evaluated, while "Mild Republican" and "Mild Democratic" provide more realistic possibilities if late-breaking information surfaces that shift voter preferences."

The opening paragraph of this article which uses the exact term "as high as" to describe the 280-255 margin, which means that this is the highest version of margin coming from this model. So this is the highest republican scenario, meaning it used the "Strong Republican" scenario - aka the "extreme republican envelope around which results can be evaluated." (Because 'as high as' here means as high as it gets.)

So in other words, the writing in this article (not the mathematics in the model, but this article) is as misleading about the likelihood of the margin outcomes stated in the opening paragraph as the rest of the Mccain campaign nonsense. Thankfully the dumb 'ole soccer mom's out there are starting to see through the 'extreme republican envelope.'

Hey phd, it helps to have an education in English to go along with that math education.

Like this comment
Posted by Don't Be A Hatriot!
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 18, 2008 at 9:38 pm

Financial Analyst,

Why, you're no fun! - you're just supposed to take things at face value when it comes to "Repub World."

I bet you don't even watch Fox News. Maybe you even listen to NPR! Remember: "Country First" and "Drill, Baby, Drill"!

Like this comment
Posted by Financial Analyst
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 18, 2008 at 11:14 pm

Yes, those numbers quoted were for "Strong Republican" in the swing vote scenario (go to the link and test their interactive scenarios its fun! You can choose any scenario you like! Under the "strong democrat" scenario Obama wins 279-259. Under the Mild Democrat Obama wins 272-266.

Oh, also I noticed that the standard deviation here is about 20 in all these scenarios, so doesn't that mean about 96% chance of answer being +/-40 points? I'm no math phd - you can feel free to help us understand what std deviation of 20 implies. But uh, if that's sort of right, then this model sort of gives no answer at all. But go ahead and cling to it if it makes you feel better.

So in other words Sharon continues to hype more hysteria than anyone - as usual. This model doesn't predict anything unless the USER predicts which SWING VOTE SCENARIO they doggedly cling to (and then they need to tack on +/-40 to the answer).

Sharon, why don't you help us discuss the issues, like how McCain's strong position on deregulation (woops today its REGulation of the casino culture) is a moving target, about how he was at the heart of the casino culture as one of the Keating Five just a few short years ago (1989). (dejavu all over again? RTC ring a bell?)

Or maybe help us explain how a republican controlled legislative committee in Alaska voted to investigate Palin, which she agreed to cooperate with (I believe her words were something like Good, Hold Me Accountable), and now suddenly the investigation is too 'politicized' for her, her husband or any of her staff to cooperate with. By politicized I guess that means because she entered a POLITICAL CAMPAIGN for VP of the US, voluntarily, and now she's in a POLITICAL spotlight, so the heat is just a little too hot in her kitchen? Exactly what did the Mccain campaign think would happen here - her life gets politicized - she's politician, she volunteered her life story, (not to mention her pregnant teenagers) up for "politicization."

In other words she's a pitbull in lipstick that doesn't have any problem grabbing by the jugular, but cry's foul when she starts getting bitten back. The people have a right to know who they're electing, and I certainly think they've underestimated us little ole soccer moms.

Like this comment
Posted by down to the wire
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 18, 2008 at 11:29 pm


Likely Outcome of 2008 Presidential Election
Obama Landslide
Modest Obama Victory
Modest McCain Victory
McCain Landslide
Too Close to Call

Like this comment
Posted by Make My Job
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 19, 2008 at 12:01 am

You can't be speaking about this in public.

"The Bradley Effect" will beat Obama
what's up with that you say? It's hella cool way to mess with the tools of the media....

Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, an African-American Democrat, in 1982 unexpectedly lost his candidacy for governor of California. His defeat followed voters telling pollsters they prefer a black candidate and then voting the other way. In California's primary last Tuesday, Obama lost by a landslide 10 percentage points after a late survey showed him ahead by 13 points and other polls gave him a smaller lead.

My vote = McCain Landslide

funny post there down to the wire

Like this comment
Posted by My name is Bradley
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 19, 2008 at 5:59 am

The Bradley Effect may be simply what happened to me..I wanted ( I know, this is racist...) a black President. It would have been great to have a black president. I didn't like Hilary. Since Barack was an unknown ( actually, he was, it was just that the news agencies didn't bother vetting him, I figured he couldn't be any worse.

Ok, then I found out he was worse..much. Too late to change my vote.

Now, if you ask me IN PUBLIC who I want for president, to avoid hassles I will say "Barack". No courage? Maybe. Sense of self-preservation? Definitely. This is not an area where anyone voting Repub can feel safe.

So, I am probably a prime example of "Bradley Effect". Unfortunately, the REAL racism was in bringing Obama forward, not in voting against him now.

Like this comment
Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 19, 2008 at 10:42 am

Math model? Gotta remember: garbage in, garbage out; NOT garbage in, gospel out.

Like this comment
Posted by Peter
a resident of another community
on Sep 19, 2008 at 1:00 pm

I notice this organization uses only three polls. It seems to me that a site like should be more reliable. 538 uses many more polls, weights the polls on past accuracy, uses an algorithm that accounts for outliers, etc. The methodology is explained under the FAQ, and the authors offer explanations of the trends and perturbations.

Check it out.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Burger chain Shake Shack to open in Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 20 comments | 5,070 views

This time we're not lying. HONEST! No, really!
By Douglas Moran | 11 comments | 891 views

Couples: When Wrong Admit It; When Right; Shut Up
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 786 views

One-on-one time
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 586 views