Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Alternatives to the Polling Frenzy

The U.S. airwaves are filled with the latest polling numbers: Obama is up, Obama is down. Romney is behind, Romney is catching up. As many polls there are, as many differing results. For example, according to polling firm Rasmussen, Obama and Romney are even both at 48%; IDB/TIPP say Barack is ahead 47% to 45%; and according Gallup, Romney is ahead 51% to 45%.

Although, I'd wish the mainstream media spend more (or any) time on the important issues, and what the candidates'  campaigns actually stand for. I guess that's too much to expect in this time of media hype, and it's easier and more exciting to show the viewers and readers a horse race is going on than discuss a candidate's views on something more complex as climate change and how that might affect this country in the years to come.

Still, there are other and better ways of forecasting the outcome of the elections, than being distracted by the polling frenzy. One option is offered by Intrade, “the world’s leading prediction market": individual wagers can make a bet on who will be the next U.S. President.  A few weeks ago Obama was given a 79% chance for re-election and Romney 21% for an upset. After the first debate the numbers moved towards Romney, although the chances are still favorable  for a Obama win, now at 60%.  Intrade's track record has been pretty good: it predicted George W. Bush' win and the outcome of the electoral votes in 2004, and Obama's win in 2008.

Another alternative source of forecasting is...............

..........the ancient art of astrology: last May, the United Astrology Conference gathered in New Orleans, at a conference of over 1,500 world's top astrologers.
At their presidential panel five astrologers offered their predictions and concluded unanimously that President Obama would win re-election.  They stated:

"To summarize, it looks like both candidates will come out of their respective conventions over the summer in very good shape, with each entering into very strong periods astrologically in both of their respective charts. However, Romney switches into a difficult period starting in mid-October, and this seems to reflect that his campaign will encounter some problems at that time.  This difficult period for Romney lasts all the way until early December, and so it appears to reflect that he will lose the election, since Obama encounters nothing comparably difficult during the same time frame."

They did express concerns about the Election Day itself:

"We have some concerns that the Mercury retrograde on election day could reflect some problems or controversy with the election itself, as it did in 2000, but ultimately based on the considerations outlined above, as well as some that we did not include in this writeup, it is our opinion that Obama will be elected to a second term."

Two of the panelists also participated in this panel four years ago, when they successfully predicted unanimously an Obama win. As I wanted to experience for myself how a political astrologer would approach the upcoming election, I attended last week a talk by political astrologer Nancy Sommers  at the Quest Bookshop in New York. Nancy Sommers, a licensed social worker, has been practicing astrology over 35 years and runs the successful Starlight News Blog, that focuses on American politics and world affairs. In her fascinating talk - even for a astrology novice- she delved into the presidential elections and based on her astrological calculations, she too forecasts an Obama win - although in a tight race and facing some unexpected challenges on Election Day and beyond. In her April 22, 2012 forecast she stated:

"....the second half of October through November 2 has the potential to bring some significant stress to President Obama (.........)This is no doubt when the well-funded Republicans will bring out their biggest and most scurrilous attacks, and the polls are likely to tighten.(................) As for the election itself, it seems that some of the results will hang in suspended animation for a matter of days due to the Mercury station on November 6. By around November 12, there is likely to be some shift in favor of the Democrats.  President Obama’s chart suggests that he will be far more contented, satisfied, and beloved than Governor Romney as the year 2012 winds down and 2013 begins. This would seem to indicate his success in the election."

If the above alternative forecasts are too speculative for you, then there is a more statistical forecast method which has been consistent without being subject to all the vagaries of the daily barrage of regular pollsters, and that's FiveThirtyEight: Nate Silver's Political Calculus, Nate Silver,   a statistician, who made his name during the 2008 elections. He then correctly predicted the winner of 49 of the 50 states in the presidential elections, and the winner of all 35 Senate races that year. He currently predicts 289 (for Obama) vs. 249 (for Romney) electoral votes, and  resp. 72% vs. 28% for the general vote.

As usual, major external events or revelations could happen between now and election day, from sudden foreign policy crises to weather disasters, but short of that Obama appears to be in a winning position. In any case, rather than being distracted by the daily polls, the best thing to do is to cast your vote and convince your friends and family to do so as well,  and if you are so inclined why not place a bet with Intrade and cash in your chips on Election Day.

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