Commentary

Why Trump's Conviction Doesn't Turn Any Prediction Keys

The keys I'm talking about here are the 13 that have been proven to win the White House, according to presidential predictions expert Allan Lichtman, who has accurately picked nine of the last ten elections.

A challenger candidate's scandal isn't one of them.

For example, look at impact of the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape of Donald Trump making lascivious remarks about women, which surfaced just before the 2016 election.

When the recording was released, political experts thought it was going to be devastating to Trump’s campaign. As it turned out, it was merely a blip in FiveThirtyEight’s polling average for Trump, and it barely moved the needle in Cambridge Analytica’s proprietary polling data in battleground states.

Trump’s supporters didn’t care -- or they didn’t care enough -- to change their minds about voting for Trump. He still went on to win the presidency that year (though he did lose the popular vote).

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In fact, Lichtman’s keys are more accurate than the last ten elections would suggest. He ran them against elections data going back to 1860 and they produced the correct result for the popular vote in every case.

The popular and the electoral college votes have aligned in all but four U.S. presidential elections, most recently diverging in 2016. That means there is a one-in-12 chance it could happen again in 2024, although it’s unlikely.

When you dig into them, these keys indicate the vast majority of what we talk about in political races is meaningless.

My former colleagues who still work in political consulting will hate me for saying this, but according to Lichtman’s research, little of what we did made a difference.

“Nothing either party has said or done during the Fall campaign has ever changed its prospects at the polls," Lichtman writes in "Predicting the Next President: They Keys to the White House," noting, "Debates, television appearances, fund-raising, advertising, news coverage, and campaign strategies – the usual grist for the punditry mills – count for virtually nothing on Election Day. The only issues that matter are the ones for which the results are already in."

According to Lichtman, the fate of an incumbent candidate is mostly attributable to the administration's performance. There is little that a challenger can do – good or bad – to affect the outcome of an election.

Looking at prediction market data Friday morning -- the morning after the Trump verdict was first announced -- shows the markets have actually been ticking up for Trump. That said, the markets probably haven't had enough time to respond materially to the news.

The University of Iowa's IEM (Iowa Electronic Markets) still favors a Democratic presidential election win, but the party's lead went down.

In IEM’s Winner-Take-All (WTA) market, the last price was 0.748 for the Democrats vs. 0.270 for Republicans. Last month, the IEM WTA numbers were 0.92 and 0.18, respectively.

PredictIt, another prediction market I'm tracking, now has Trump leading by a small margin vs. Biden. Last month, the opposite was true. Although, its generic market -- "Which party wins the presidency in 2024?" -- still favors a Democratic win (51 cents for Democrats vs. 49 cents for Republicans). The PredictIt markets are so close they sometimes contradict themselves.

The polls also probably haven’t had enough time to respond to the news.

Fivethirtyeight's polling average still has Trump ahead by a small amount – 41.3% Trump vs. 39.3% for Biden. In my last writing, the numbers were 41.6% for Trump and 40.9% for Biden.

As it relates to the keys, waning support for a third-party candidate (in this case RFK Jr., and possibly just-announced Joe Manchin), the absence of a Biden-related scandal, no foreign military failures and a foreign military success would be more likely to improve Biden’s chances of winning than Trump’s recent conviction.

2 comments about "Why Trump's Conviction Doesn't Turn Any Prediction Keys".
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  1. Ben B from Retired, June 3, 2024 at 8:26 p.m.

    I thought wasn't going to move the needle those who are going to vote for Trump no matter what and those who will vote for Biden no matter what since it seems that most in this country become tribes for the parties and that it is the party over the country which is sad. I'm voting 3RD party as I don't vote for the 2 evils ever again and I voted 3RD party in 2020 for president one less vote for both Biden & Trump. I'll be glad when this election is over.  

  2. J W from Unknown Universe, June 4, 2024 at 10:31 a.m.

    If anything, TRUMP has a better chance of winning now as his supporters support him MORE THAN EVER. Watch out socialists we're coming for you. 

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