GOING BEYOND POLLING …
With the midterm elections less than a month away, forecasters are increasingly “bullish” on the GOP’s chances of taking control of the U.S. Senate for the first time in eight years.
Multiple sites are providing daily tracking of the Senate races – including The Election Lab (Washington Post), FiveThirtyEight.com (The New York Times), The Princeton Election Consortium and Pollster. But also worth exploring is the American Political Science Association’s official journal – PS – which released its midterm forecasts this week.
A majority of experts featured in the journal are projecting the GOP will take control of the Senate and pick up additional seats in the U.S. House. But rumors of a GOP “wave” year could be exaggerated.
The PS predictions are worth paying special attention to because – unlike the daily tracking sites – they incorporate more than just aggregated polling data. For example one model used by Emory University’s Alan I. Abramowitz focuses on impact of the national generic ballot on individual races – which he says produces “more accurate predictions of House and Senate seat swing than using other indicators of the national political mood.”
Abramowitz also notes that forecasting models should incorporate the number of seats being contested – and the ideological leanings of the states/ districts that are up for a vote.
“The party holding the White House almost always loses House seats in midterm elections,” Abramowitz explained. “However, the size of those losses varies considerably, and one key factor is how many seats the president’s party is defending. These results indicate that Democratic losses are likely to be limited in 2014 because Democrats are defending only 201 seats this year. In sharp contrast with the situation prior to the 2010 midterm election, very few House Democrats currently represent Republican-leaning districts. As a result, Republican pickup opportunities are likely to be few and far between.”
Given these factors, Abramowitz projects “minimal change in the current party balance of power.”
Obviously Abramowitz is just one of the experts published by PS. Most of the others are predicting bigger GOP gains – with median projections calling for a pickup of 14 Republican seats in the House and five or six Republican seats in the Senate.
“The value of the political science models is to assess how well we can predict the election, even significantly ahead of time, based on scientific theory,” PS co-editors Phillip Ardoin and Paul Gronke explained. “These models provide a baseline for how well a party ‘should’ do that we can then use to understand the results.”
The point? To predict not only “who will win, but to help us determine why they won.”