Professor Allan Lichtman Discusses 2016 Election


During the 2016 presidential election season, Distinguished Professor Allan J. Lichtman was interviewed twice in the Washington Post to discuss his system for predicting the outcome of U.S. presidential elections. Back in May, Lichtman was not yet ready to reveal his prediction for the 2016 contest, citing the complicating factors of deep divisions within the Republican Party wrought by the Trump candidacy. “It’s looking shaky for the party in power,” Lichtman said at the time, “but the prediction is not yet set because there are still two uncertain keys, and there is also a third possibility, which is not strictly a key but I talk about it in my book, and that is the challenging party dividing itself.” According to Lichtman, the two “uncertain keys” are “the contest key” and the “foreign policy success key.” But in September, Lichtman, having correctly predicted every election since 1984, was ready to make his prediction: the Republican Party will win the White House in a narrow victory. He was quick to add, however, that the “unprecedented nature of the Trump candidacy” still meant that “he could defy all odds and lose even though the verdict of history is in his favor.”

Lichtman emphasized that his thirteen predictive “keys to the White House” ultimately represent more of a referendum on the two parties rather than their respective candidates. Confidence in his model, which is based upon a retroactive analysis of every presidential election since 1860, leads Lichtman to put little stock in media polls, which “are often wrong.” As he puts it, the election “will not be decided by the debates, the speeches, the ads, the tricks of the campaign.” The real key, on which an “ultimately pragmatic” American electorate will base their vote, is “the performance of the party holding the White House.”

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