Dickinson Finds Election Too Close to Call

By Emilie Munson

During his lecture “Who Will Win the 2012 Election?” on Oct. 31, Professor of Political Science Matt Dickinson tentatively predicted that Barack Obama will win the 2012 presidential election. However, Obama’s lead in the polls falls within the margin of error, pointing to a presidential race that Dickinson says is “too close to call.”

Dickinson models his predictions based on the median forecast of various political scientists. His model predicts that Obama will win 50.6 percent of the popular vote, but maintains that the winner is not evident given the margin of error of 1.5 percentage points.

According to Dickinson, it appears that Obama will most likely win the electoral college; however, Romney could still secure the popular vote, creating conflicting signals about the outcome of the presidency.

As of Oct. 31, Obama led by roughly 1 to 2 percentage points in swing state polls. In his lecture, Dickinson cited Drew Linzer, an assistant professor of political science at Emory University, who attributes seven to eight of the eleven swing states to Obama — an outcome which would lead to a certain Democratic victory.

Anna Esten ’13, research assistant to Professor Dickinson, asserts an electoral college win for Obama.

“In my opinion, Obama will be able to pull out a win in Ohio, which should propel him to an electoral college victory,” said Esten.

Many political scientists predicting this election believe that the national tracking polls indicate that Romney will win the popular vote because of his lead with independent voters and overall GOP enthusiasm.

Mitchell Young Perry ’16, cohost of WRMC’s “No More MN Nice,” a radio talk show that discusses politics, is convinced of Dickinson’s prediction that Obama will win.

“Romney needs to pull a lot more upsets [than Obama] it seems,” says Perry.

“The key — and as yet unanswered — question is whether Mitt can, through a combination of winning over undecided voters and gaining a turnout advantage, rope in the one to two percent more support he needs to flip Ohio, or some other combination of swing states, ” wrote Dickinson in a blog post on Oct. 19.

Dickinson explained in his lecture that although low war casualties and Obama’s status as a first term incumbent favor a Democratic victory,  these factors are counterbalanced by mediocre approval ratings and the floundering economy.

Dickinson points to the economy as the central issue to this year’s presidential race.

“Obama’s strongest point is to say ‘I have inherited a mess, a fiscal crisis, and I’ve begun to turn it around,’” said Dickinson. “[Romney] will look at that (…) and say it’s not good enough. Yes, Obama inherited a mess but it’s still a mess.”

Perry echoed Dickinson’s observations.

“Republicans had such a great chance with the economy the way it is,” says Perry.

Regardless of campaign tactics and policies, Dickinson stressed that the majority of voters will vote according to their partisanship. This increases the importance of undecided voters who, in this close election, could make the difference in the popular vote.

Dickinson said undecided voters, about five percent of registered voters and those who are generally uneducated about or uninterested in politics are most likely to be influenced by “Get Out the Vote” campaigns.

“Whoever is better at knocking on more doors and getting these people to the polls may determine who wins the race more than a gaff, more than a campaign advertisement, more than anything,” he added.

Both candidates have been running comparable “Get Out the Vote” efforts.

Hurricane Sandy may also be an influential factor for undecided voters in the days leading up to the election. Many pundits believe that Sandy provides Obama the opportunity to show himself in a positive presidential light by correctly motivating governmental organizations like FEMA and appearing above politics.

Hurricane Sandy could also affect voter turnout. Voters in snow-blasted states like West Virginia or flooded regions like Long Island could be prevented from making it to the polls because of the conditions. Additionally, studies have shown that Democrats are less likely to vote in a storm than Republicans, although this generally applied to less-contested elections.

Dickinson said of the closely contested election, “I’ve made these predictions before and they are usually pretty easy. This election literally is too close to call.”

“[Political scientists] think he’s right on the knife edge,” said Dickinson of Obama’s chances of victory.

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