ODU professors forecast election results

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2016 Election Panel
Old Dominion University political sciene and geography professors discussed forecasts for the upcoming election during a discussion panel Thursday. (Mariah Pohl/Southside Daily)

Days before the 2016 presidential election, Old Dominion University professors analyzed early voting results and gave some expert insights on the direction of the polls during a panel discussion sponsored by the Department of Political Science and Geography and political science national honor society Pi Sigma Alpha Thursday afternoon.

The panel was moderated by Glen Sussman, a political science professor, who gave each panelist five minutes to present recent academic findings on the upcoming election.

Joshua Zingher, assistant professor of political science and geography, opened by addressing the polling system.

“Early voting is well underway in many states, but the samples we get in the polls are often flawed,” he said. “Depending on which forecasting model you check, there is an extreme amount of divergence at both the national and state levels.”

“But based on aggregated polls, Clinton has anywhere between a two to four point lead,” he continued. “In order for Trump to win the election, he will have to win an unexpected state.”

Aggregated polls, Zingher explained, provide more accurate election predictions than standard polls by gathering and averaging all pre-election forecasts.

The gambling markets can also deliver effective election forecasts, according to Zinger who has extensively studied the subject.

“The betting markets have Clinton as 2-1 favorite,” he said. “But ultimately, the votes do matter. The story of the votes already cast paint a mixed picture.”

Professor Jonathan Leib presents findings on the upcoming election.
Professor Jonathan Leib explains how standard maps often used by election forecasters are misleading. (Mariah Pohl/Southside Daily)

Assistant professor of political science and geography Jonathan Leib took this point one step further by offering a deeper look at standard election forecasting maps, using an example from the 2012 election.

“The map is nothing, if not misleading,” he said. “If we look at it in terms of red and blue, there is a lot more red. And if that was really the case, Romney would be up for re-election.”

A cartogram, a map that substitutes population for land area, more accurately coveys the conveys election results, he says.

“As you’re looking at polls and watching the news, keep in mind they aren’t showing electoral votes, they are showing land,” said Leib. “But land doesn’t vote, people do.”

Jesse Richman, associate professor of political science and geography, took the panel in a different direction during his presentation.

“There are other elections going on besides the presidential election,” he said. “There’s also the congressional election — the ones the new president will have to negotiate with.”

According to Richman, evidence suggests that most members of the house and senate will be up for reelection.

“Odds predict at 90 percent that the Republicans will maintain control of the House. This means that a win by Hillary will result in gridlock and passing of fewer and fewer laws over the next four years,” he said.

“We also have an absence of a Supreme Court judge to fill,” he continued. “This appointment is likely to remain one of the big fights next year.”

Associate professor of political science and geography Benjamin Melusky explained how shifts in power could also have tremendous impacts at the state level.

“We have 6,000 elections at state level, from state legislatures to governors,” he said. “Why should we be concerned about this? We could see both expansion and dismantling of Medicaid, new redistricting, and additional abortion legislation.”

To learn where you can cast your vote on Nov. 8, visit https://www.vbgov.com/residents/voting.

Pohl may be reached at mariah@localvoicemedia.com