The American presidential race lives and dies by the polls. Tens of millions of dollars are spent to minutely track every imaginable category of voter tendency. Resulting “predictions” are used to not only inform us of the direction of the horse race but to nudge us to vote one way or the other. After the election is over, one of the very first things we do collectively is to look back and tally whose predictions were off by how much. This is a time honored American sport.
But why bother with all these costly and often inaccurate polls when, apparently, there are far more accurate and cost-free predictors:
- If the Washington Redskins win their last home game before the election, the incumbent party wins. This has been correct 100% in the last 17 elections, until the last one in 2004.
- Every time the Los Angeles Lakers play in the NBA finals in an election year (seven times since 1952) the Republican party wins. This year the Lakers were in the finals.
There are of course many other such predictors, from sales of party-color coffee cups at 7-Eleven to Halloween masks at BuyCostumes.com:
If you were modeling a financial or economic system whose outcome depended highly on the outcome of the presidential race, would you include one of these predictors as a strong variable?