By Reaghan Mulligan | Opinion Editor
October 30, 2020
American historian and professor at Washington D.C.’s American University, Allan Lichtman, has successfully predicted the results of every presidential election since 1984—even the unsuspected win of Donald Trump in 2016.
So is Lichtman some precognitive superhuman? Or is he just really good at guessing? He’s neither.
In 1981, Professor Lichtman teamed up with seismologist Vladimir Keilis-Borok. For context, a seismologist studies the science of earthquakes and monitors the Earth’s crust. Inspired by earthquake theories, the two decided to try their hand at predicting presidential election results the same way a scientist would predict an earthquake.
While developing these questions, Lichtman tested the previous elections, going all the way back to the 1800s. Everytime, his final questions proved to pinpoint the winning party. All but once—in 2000, he predicted Al Gore but due to the Supreme Court’s decision to stop the recount for Florida’s votes, George W. Bush won—Allan Lichtman’s results were accurate, leaving him with a hefty reputation as a man who is always right.
The series of thirteen questions, all answered by a simple true or false, address various situations and circumstances throughout the incumbent presidency. “Governing, not campaigning, counts in electing or reelecting the American president,” he writes in The Keys to the White House: Forecast for 2020.
While the simplicity of these statements may provide straightforward answers, it is also important to note that other forces, such as the Electoral College, can have a major impact on the results of elections.
Lichtman, to many’s surprise, accurately predicted the results of the 2016 election using these thirteen points. While most guessed that Clinton would win, and while she may have succeeded in winning the popular vote, the sneaky Electoral College proved to be her downfall, giving Trump the honor of leading this country for four years.
Now, with similar stats that predicted Clinton’s win leaning towards a win for the Democratic party, Lichtman announced that the results of his thirteen keys fell in favor of success for Biden. Before the pandemic, however, Lichtman predicted that Trump would be reelected, but hundreds of thousands of deaths, a plummeting economy and an immense wave of social unrest may turn the tables towards a Democratic win.
In order for the series of questions to favor Trump, five or less keys can be deemed false. In this case, Lichtman has evaluated that seven negative keys line up against Trump’s presidency, calculating a loss for him in the upcoming elections… oh no.
The answers for this year’s keys are:
- After the midterm election, the incumbent party holds more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives than it did after the preceding midterm election. (FALSE)
- The incumbent-party nominee gets at least two-thirds of the vote on the first ballot at the nominating convention. (TRUE)
- The incumbent party candidate is the sitting president. (TRUE)
- There is no third-party or independent candidacy that wins at least 5% of the vote. (TRUE)
- The economy is not in recession during the campaign. (FALSE)
- Real (constant-dollar) per capita economic growth during the term equals or exceeds mean growth for the preceding two terms. (FALSE)
- The administration achieves a major policy change during the term, on the order of the New Deal or the first-term Reagan “revolution.” (TRUE)
- There has been no major social unrest during the term, sufficient to cause deep concerns about the unraveling of society. (FALSE)
- There is no broad recognition of a scandal that directly touches the president. (FALSE)
- There has been no military or foreign policy failure during the term, substantial enough that it appears to undermine America’s national interests significantly or threaten its standing in the world. (TRUE)
- There has been a military or foreign policy success during the term substantial enough to advance America’s national interests or improve its standing in the world. (FALSE)
- The incumbent-party candidate is charismatic or is a national hero. (FALSE)
- The challenger is not charismatic and is not a national hero. (TRUE)
“I think Biden will win,” junior Tom Michailidis said, hoping that Lichtman’s second predictions will align with his consistent accuracy in the past. “There are more people voting this year than there were in 2016.”
While predictions, even highly educated ones like Lichtman’s, can make the eve of Election Day more exciting, one must take every forecast with a grain of salt. It is vital to go out and vote, despite even the most accurate of hypotheses on who will win.
“These predictions might be nice (or maybe not nice) to hear, but people’s rights and our democracy are at stake,” sophomore Kayla McLaughlin said. “Americans need to vote like never before.”
For those who can vote, use your voice for the people who can’t and exercise your rights for the people who have been fatally impacted by this pandemic or the wave of injustices plaguing our country. And most importantly, vote wisely.