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“Obama will be re-elected at a canter”

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“The US presidential election is no contest”
New Scientist – 01 October 2012 by Jim Giles

Don’t believe the US presidential opinion polls. Barring a political earthquake, Barack Obama will be re-elected at a canter

FROM tabloids and broadsheets to left-leaning blogs and conservative talk shows, the US media has been united on one point in recent months: the presidential election is too tight to call. The difference between the candidates is “razor thin”, The New York Post said recently. The “race remains close”, agreed The Washington Post. According to The New York Times it is “widely expected to rest on a final blitz of advertising and furious campaigning”.

But it takes just a few clicks to go from that last article to one that tells a very different story – one much more in keeping with what science tells us about the election. The New York Times hosts FiveThirtyEight, a blog by statistician Nate Silver dedicated to crunching electoral numbers. It gives the Republican challenger Mitt Romney a 1-in-4 chance of victory. Over at PredictWise, another source of political forecasts, Romney’s odds are only a shade better. The race isn’t close or razor-thin or dependent on advertising. It is President Obama’s to lose – something that readers are rarely told.

…at websites like the Iowa Electronic Markets, where investors buy and sell futures in the two candidates. The return on these contracts is based on who wins and by how much, so prices reflect the traders’ collective confidence in each candidate. Obama’s shares have recently been trading at two to three times the price of Romney’s.

…If the models are robust, and their predictions strongly in favour of Obama, why are we being told that the race is a dead heat? I think it is partly a cultural issue. Earlier this year I wrote a story about election forecasting for a British publication. The science editor liked it, but a colleague on the politics desk vetoed the piece, in part because he simply didn’t believe the forecasts. I can see why. The hurly-burly of day-to-day politics is filled with dramatic events, like the recent leaked video of Romney talking in unvarnished terms about voters he cannot hope to win over. These events make the race feel like a roller-coaster ride.

The truth, as revealed by the science, is much more prosaic. Obama is way ahead and has been for ages. …The race is not tight, and the only honest approach is to say so. ”

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21528840.200-the-us-presidential-election-is-no-contest.html?full=true

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Written by Rich and Co.

October 1, 2012 at 7:11 pm

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