Economists Are Bad At Predicting Recessions

Every president’s election-year nightmare — a recession — is suddenly looming over the 2020 race. In a survey released earlier this week by the National Association of Business Economics, 38 percent of economists predicted that the country will slip into an economic downturn next year, and another recent poll of economists put the chances of a recession in the next 12 months at 1 in 3. Those predictions are getting a lot of attention, and it’s not hard to see why — an economic slowdown in the middle of the presidential election cycle could reshape the race, potentially changing the calculus of Democratic primary voters and undermining President Trump, who has made the strong economy a central selling point of his presidency.

We Fixed An Issue With How Our Primary Forecast Was Calculating Candidates’ Demographic Strengths

Welp, this is never fun. We discovered an issue with how our primary model was making state-by-state and district-by-district forecasts. Specifically, the model was not properly calculating the demographic regressions that we use as a complement to the polls.

You’ll Never Know Which Candidate Is Electable

In a beige reception hall in a Des Moines suburb, over paper plates piled with the remains of a Monday morning continental breakfast, Sen. Bernie Sanders urged a packed house of Iowans to manifest their dreams. Imagine an America where cancer only kills you, rather than also rifling through your wallet. Visualize a future where no American child has to pay off her grandmother’s student loans. Cynicism is high and more than a quarter of us believe the American Dream is unattainable, but Sanders’s stump speech offered hope. “Everything is impossible until it’s not,” he said. The crowd went wild.

Americans Were Already Primed To Distrust Elections. Then Came Iowa.

When the Iowa caucuses went to hell in a handbasket last week, they probably took some of Americans’ last morsels of trust in the political system down too. But when I asked political scientists and psychologists about the impact of the bungled caucuses on overall political cynicism, they, by and large, weren’t particularly concerned. The vast majority of voters probably won’t care all that much, they said; instead, these experts are more worried about the indirect effects. Long after the shoddy apps have been forgotten, mistrust and bitterness could still be trickling down from political elites to everyone else.

Democratic Activists Seem Out Of Step With Voters So Far

Just before the now-infamous Iowa caucuses began, I concluded the final wave of my recurring interviews with early-state Democratic activists. Thirty-one activists responded to my questionnaire, and the results were consistent with my findings from December that suggested that although a considerable portion of Democrats were still undecided, many were rallying behind — albeit reluctantly, in some cases — former Vice President Joe Biden.

Does Sanders Have A Ceiling? Maybe. Can He Win Anyway? Yes.

The Sen. Bernie Sanders rally that I attended on the evening before the New Hampshire primary drew a reported 7,500 people — about twice as many as his actual 3,867-vote margin of victory in the primary the next day. I say that not to endorse crowd sizes as an alternative to the polls. (Despite the large crowds, Sanders slightly underperformed his polls in New Hampshire, in fact.1) Nor do I mean to imply that Sanders won in New Hampshire because of the rally. (It was held before a largely student audience at the University of New Hampshire — people who were already likely to vote for Sanders.) But it does go to show how razor-thin the margins have been so far in the primaries. The voters who pushed Sanders past former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg in New Hampshire might only halfway fill a college hockey rink.

Election Update: We Got A Flurry Of New National Polls. Sanders Led Them All.

According to the FiveThirtyEight primary forecast, the single most likely outcome of the Democratic presidential primary is that no one wins a majority of pledged delegates (there is a 2 in 5, or 41 percent, chance of this). However, it is almost equally likely that Sen. Bernie Sanders will bag a majority (a 2 in 5 chance, or 37 percent). And a recent avalanche of national polls has been particularly good for Sanders.1

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