The Keys to the White House

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The Keys to the White House is a prediction system for determining the outcome of presidential elections in the United States. It was developed by American historian Allan Lichtman and Russian geophysicist Vladimir Keilis-Borok in 1981, adapting prediction methods that Keilis-Borok designed for earthquake prediction.

The system is a thirteen-point checklist that assesses the situation of the country and political system ahead of a presidential election: when five or fewer items on the checklist are false, the incumbent party nominee is predicted to win the election, but when six or more items on the checklist are false, the challenging party nominee is predicted to defeat the incumbent party nominee in the election.

Some of the items on the checklist involve qualitative judgment, and therefore this system relies heavily on the knowledge and analytical skill of whoever attempts to apply it. Using the system, Lichtman has correctly predicted the outcomes of nine presidential elections from 1984 to 2020, with the sole exception of the 2000 election.

From the content of the system, Lichtman says voters select the next president mainly on how they feel the incumbent president has governed the country. If the voters are satisfied with the condition of the country, they will re-elect the incumbent president or the nominee of the incumbent party, but if they are dissatisfied, they will transfer the presidency to the challenging party. Lichtman has said that election campaigns have little if any meaningful effect on voters, who are pragmatic and are not swayed by the spectacle of campaigning, voting retrospectively rather than prospectively.

Development[edit]

While attending a dinner party at Caltech in 1981, Allan Lichtman met Vladimir Keilis-Borok, a leading Russian geophysicist. Both men were Fairchild Scholars at Caltech.[1] Keilis-Borok was interested in applying his prediction techniques to democratic political systems. This was not possible for him to do within the Soviet Union, which was a single-party autocracy, and a guest at the party referred him to Lichtman. Lichtman attracted Keilis-Borok's interest because he was a quantitative historian who mathematically analyzed trends in American history. Lichtman agreed to help Keilis-Borok apply his prediction techniques to American presidential elections.[2]

Lichtman and Keilis-Borok examined data collated from every presidential election from 1860 to 1980 to identify factors that seemed predictive of election outcomes. From his own studies of American presidential elections, Lichtman had come to the conclusion that voters, are in fact, not much swayed by election campaigns and instead vote according to how well the incumbent president has performed in office. Lichtman also noticed that even if a president did not seek re-election, his successes and failures would help or hinder the prospects of the nominee of his party: these insights shaped how he and Keilis-Borok conducted their research.[3]

Lichtman and Keilis-Borok published their prediction model in a 1981 paper: at this stage, their system had 12 keys, including keys that considered the number of terms the incumbent party had held the presidency, and if the incumbent party had won a popular vote majority in the previous election. Another four keys were ultimately cut that considered political ideology, the dominant party of the era, if there was a serious contest for the challenging party nomination, and if the country was in wartime or peacetime.[4][5]

The system was later modified to 13 keys, with the tenure key and the popular vote majority key both replaced by the party mandate key and the foreign/military failure and success keys being added.

Some of the keys are objective, such as economic growth, while some are subjective, such as candidate charisma.[6]

In April 1982, Lichtman published his first prediction, that Ronald Reagan would be re-elected in 1984.[7]

The thirteen keys[edit]

The Keys to the White House is a checklist of thirteen true/false statements that pertain to the circumstances surrounding a presidential election. When five or fewer of the following statements are false, the incumbent party is predicted to win the election. When six or more are false, the incumbent party is predicted to lose.[8]

  1. Party mandate: After the midterm elections, the incumbent party holds more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives than after the previous midterm elections.
  2. No primary contest: There is no serious contest for the incumbent party nomination.
  3. Incumbent seeking re-election: The incumbent party candidate is the sitting president.
  4. No third party: There is no significant third party or independent campaign.
  5. Strong short-term economy: The economy is not in recession during the election campaign.
  6. Strong long-term economy: Real per capita economic growth during the term equals or exceeds mean growth during the previous two terms.
  7. Major policy change: The incumbent administration effects major changes in national policy.
  8. No social unrest: There is no sustained social unrest during the term.
  9. No scandal: The incumbent administration is untainted by major scandal.
  10. No foreign/military failure: The incumbent administration suffers no major failure in foreign or military affairs.
  11. Major foreign/military success: The incumbent administration achieves a major success in foreign or military affairs.
  12. Charismatic incumbent: The incumbent party candidate is charismatic or a national hero.
  13. Uncharismatic challenger: The challenging party candidate is not charismatic or a national hero.

Key 1: Party mandate[edit]

Key 1 (party mandate) turns true if the incumbent party has achieved a net gain of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives after the term's midterm elections compared to the previous midterm elections. For example, Lichtman refers to the 1982 U.S. House elections in the middle of Ronald Reagan's first term when the Republicans lost 27 seats. However, the Republicans had gained 35 seats in 1980, leaving them with a net gain of eight seats and turning the key true.

Lichtman says that midterm elections reflect the performance of the incumbent party and are an indicator of nationwide electoral trends. Additionally, if the incumbent party performs poorly, a large loss of House seats can also affect the president's ability to enact policy, which can result in other keys turning false.

As of the 2020 election, the incumbent party has won re-election on 12 of the 14 occasions when it achieved a net gain of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives compared to the previous midterm elections (the exceptions were in 1860 and 1952).[9]

Key 2: No primary contest[edit]

Key 2 (no primary contest) turns true if the incumbent party nominee wins at least two-thirds of the total delegate vote on the first ballot at the nominating convention, and there are no deep and vocal party divisions (such as those with incumbent Vice President Hubert Humphrey's nomination by the Democrats in 1968).

Lichtman says the incumbent party's ability to unite behind a consensus nominee in the absence of a sitting president is reflective of successful governance, whereas a contested nomination is indicative of internal party strife caused by weak governance.

As of the 2020 election, the incumbent party was re-elected on 23 of the 28 occasions when the key was true (the exceptions were in 1932, 1960, 1992, 2008 and 2020), while 11 of the 13 occasions when the key was false (the exceptions were in 1876 and 1880) saw the incumbent party defeated. Of the 13 keys, Lichtman has said that this key is the single best predictor of an election outcome.

Conversely, a serious contest for the challenging party's nomination does not necessarily harm its nominee's election prospects, as a weak incumbent party often results in a crowded challenging party primary in anticipation of a winnable general election.[10][11]

For example, in 1920, the challenging Republicans required 10 ballots to nominate Warren G. Harding as their presidential candidate.[12] In the general election, Harding defeated the Democratic incumbent nominee James M. Cox by 26.17 points, the largest popular vote margin in history.[13] Another example was in 1932, when the challenging Democrats required four ballots to nominate Franklin D. Roosevelt as their presidential candidate: this actually helped the Democrats' election prospects, as the nomination of Roosevelt turned key 13 false for the incumbent Republicans. In the general election, Roosevelt defeated incumbent president Herbert Hoover by 17.76 points in a landslide.

Key 3: Incumbent seeking re-election[edit]

Lichtman says an incumbent president seeking re-election has several advantages such as the ability to set the national agenda, and often attracts far more media attention than a non-incumbent. An incumbent president can also benefit from the rally 'round the flag effect in times of crisis.

Lichtman also says that incumbent presidents rarely face the strongest candidates from the challenging party, who typically refrain from running unless the president is seen as very vulnerable.

The incumbency key also correlates with the no primary contest key: as of the 2020 election, when an incumbent president was running for re-election and faced no serious contest for their party's nomination, thus turning key 2 true, the president won re-election on 18 of 21 occasions (the exceptions were in 1932, 1992 and 2020). On all four occasions when an incumbent president was running for re-election and key 2 was false (in 1892, 1912, 1976 and 1980), the president was defeated.[9]

Key 4: No third party[edit]

Key 4 (no third party) turns false when there is a major candidate other than the nominees of the Democratic Party and Republican Party. Most American presidential elections since 1860 have been de facto binary contests between Democrats and Republicans, as no third party candidate has come close to winning.[14]

Retrospectively, the key was turned false when a single third party candidate won more than 5% of the national popular vote or there was a significant split in the incumbent party. For example, in 1948, the key was false for incumbent President Harry S. Truman, despite no third party candidate winning 5% of the popular vote, because Henry A. Wallace and Strom Thurmond both split from the Democratic Party and ran notable insurgent campaigns, with Thurmond carrying four states.

For upcoming elections, key 4 turns false when a single third party candidate consistently polls above 10%, indicating they are likely to receive 5% or more of the national popular vote: third party candidates typically underperform their polling by around half (Lichtman says they tend to fade in the voting booth as voters focus on the major party candidates).[15] Key 4 is the only key that concerns any polling of candidates.[16]

Lichtman notes that if a third party candidate is unusually popular, it signals major discontent with the performance of the incumbent party and counts against them. Lichtman defines third parties as either "perennial", having small and loyal constituencies, or "insurgent", rising in response to particular circumstances.[14]

As of the 2020 election, the incumbent party has been defeated on six of the nine occasions when there has been a significant third party candidate (the exceptions were in 1924, 1948 and 1996). [9]

Keys 5 and 6: Strong long-term and short-term economy[edit]

Key 5 (strong short-term economy) is turned false when the economy is, or is widely perceived to be, in recession during the election campaign.

Lichtman cites the early 1990s recession as an example: this ended in March 1991, but a Gallup poll in September 1992 found that 79% of respondents believed the economy was still in recession, which turned the key false for George H. W. Bush.

As of the 2020 election, the incumbent party has won re-election on 24 of the 31 occasions when key 5 was true (the exceptions were in 1860, 1892, 1912, 1952, 1968, 1976 and 2016). The incumbent party has been defeated on nine of the ten occasions when the key was false (the only exception being the disputed 1876 election).

Key 6 (strong long-term economy) is turned true when the real per capita economic growth during the term equals or exceeds the mean growth during the previous two terms: Lichtman states that slow economic growth is indicative of an administration's lack of strength.

As of the 2020 election, the incumbent party has won re-election on 16 of the 22 occasions when key 6 was true (the exceptions were in 1860, 1892, 1912, 1968, 1980 and 2016).

The incumbent party has won re-election on 16 of the 21 occasions when both economic keys were true (the exceptions being in 1860, 1892, 1912, 1968 and 2016); on eight of the nine occasions when both keys were false, the incumbent party was defeated (the exception being in 1876). [9]

Key 7: Major policy change[edit]

Key 7 (major policy change) is turned true if the incumbent administration redirects the course of government or enacts a major policy change that has broad effects on the country's commerce, welfare or outlook: it does not matter whether the change is popular with the public, nor does it matter what ideological mold it was cast from. Abraham Lincoln abolishing slavery and Franklin D. Roosevelt enacting the New Deal were policy changes that turned the key true.[8]

As of the 2020 election, the incumbent party has won re-election on 15 of the 19 occasions that key 7 was true (the exceptions were in 1892, 1920, 1968 and 2020), while the incumbent party has been defeated on 15 of the 22 occasions that key 7 was false (the exceptions were in 1872, 1928, 1956, 1972, 1988, 1996 and 2004).

This key often correlates with other keys. A president who fails to take vigorous action during a time of national crisis might prolong an economic recession, which in turn could lead to his party having a large loss of House seats in the midterm elections, sustained social unrest, and the nomination of a charismatic challenging party candidate: one case in point is Herbert Hoover and his handling of the Great Depression.[17]

Key 8: No social unrest[edit]

Key 8 (no social unrest) is turned false when there is widespread violent unrest that is either sustained or leaves critical issues unresolved by the time of the election campaign, which makes the voters worry that the fabric of the nation is coming apart.

The American Civil War, the racial and anti-Vietnam War riots of 1968, and the protests of 2020 triggered by the murder of George Floyd were incidents of unrest that were sufficiently serious and widespread to turn the key false. By contrast, the 1980 Miami race riots and the 1992 Los Angeles riots were too localized to turn the key false.[17]

As of the 2020 election, the incumbent party has been defeated on eight of the 11 occasions that there was sustained social unrest during the term (the exceptions were in 1864, 1868 and 1872).

Key 9: No scandal[edit]

Key 9 (no scandal) is turned false when there is bipartisan recognition of serious impropriety that is linked to the president, such as widespread corruption in the Cabinet and/or officials of an incumbent administration or presidential misconduct resulting in a bipartisan impeachment.

For example, the Watergate scandal began during Richard Nixon's first term, but it did not affect his re-election bid in 1972; at the time, the voting public believed this was political point-scoring by the Democrats (Nixon was a Republican). After Nixon's re-election, new information about his involvement in the scandal emerged that also raised concerns among Republicans, turning the key false: the resulting full-blown scandal also contributed to the Republicans' defeat in 1976.[18]

By contrast, the voting public ignores allegations of wrongdoing that appear to be the product of partisan politicking or are not linked to the president. For example, Andrew Johnson's impeachment in 1868 and the Iran-Contra affair during Ronald Reagan's second term did not turn the key false.

As of the 2020 election, the incumbent party has been defeated on four of the six occasions that the incumbent administration was tainted by major scandal (the exceptions being in 1876 and 1924).

Keys 10 and 11: Foreign/military failure and success[edit]

Key 10 (no foreign/military failure) is turned false when a failure occurs that is perceived to undermine the standing of the United States and/or erode trust in the president's leadership. Lichtman cites the botched Bay of Pigs invasion, North Vietnamese victory in the Vietnam War, and the 1979-1980 Iran hostage crisis as failures that turned the key false. By contrast, failed diplomatic initiatives, such as Dwight D. Eisenhower's failure to negotiate a nuclear test ban treaty with the Soviet Union, will not turn the key false.

As of the 2020 election, the incumbent party has been defeated on seven of the 11 occasions that the incumbent administration suffered a major failure in foreign or military affairs (the exceptions were in 1944, 1948, 1964 and 2004).

Key 11 (major foreign/military success) is turned true when an achievement is seen as improving the prestige and interests of the United States. Lichtman cites the formation of NATO, Dwight D. Eisenhower negotiating an armistice to the Korean War, and John F. Kennedy's handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis as successes that turned the key true.[9]

As of the 2020 election, the incumbent party has won re-election on 17 of the 21 occasions when it achieved a foreign or military success (the exceptions were in 1920, 1952, 1980 and 1992), while the incumbent party has been defeated on 15 of the 20 occasions when the key was false (the exceptions were in 1880, 1936, 1940, 1984 and 1996).

The incumbent party has won re-election on 13 of the 14 occasions when keys 10 and 11 were both true (the exception was in 1992); on all four occasions when both keys were false (in 1960, 1968, 1976 and 2008), the incumbent party was defeated.

Keys 12 and 13: Candidate charisma[edit]

Key 12 (charismatic incumbent) is turned true if the incumbent party candidate is charismatic or a national hero, while key 13 (uncharismatic challenger) is turned false if the challenging party candidate is charismatic or a national hero. Key 13 is the only key that pertains to the challenging party.

Lichtman defines a charismatic candidate as a candidate with an extraordinarily persuasive or dynamic personality that gives him or her very broad appeal. Having studied the political careers of all historical presidential candidates, Lichtman found that James G. Blaine, William Jennings Bryan, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama had charisma that was exceptional enough to make a measurable difference in their political fortunes. By contrast, Lichtman found that while Donald Trump had an intense appeal, it was with only a narrow slice of the electorate.[19]

It is also possible for candidates to lose their charismatic status: Lichtman mentions that William Jennings Bryan was seen as charismatic in 1896 and 1900 but failed to have the same success in connecting with the public in 1908, while Barack Obama exuded charisma in 2008 but failed to have the same success in connecting with the public in 2012.

Lichtman defines a candidate as a national hero if they are seen by the public as having played a critical role in the success of a national endeavour. He found that Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight D. Eisenhower were seen as national heroes, as both were wartime leaders instrumental to major American victories.[20] Lichtman believes that John Glenn, the third American in space and first to complete an orbit around the Earth, would have qualified as a national hero had he run for president shortly after his spaceflight in 1962.[21] By contrast, he said that while many Americans admired John McCain for his military service, he was not seen as a national hero because he had not led the country to a major wartime victory.[22]

As of the 2020 election, the incumbent party has won re-election on eight of the ten occasions when its candidate was charismatic or a national hero and key 12 was turned true (the exceptions being in 1884 and 1896), while the incumbent party has been defeated on five of the six occasions when the challenging party candidate was charismatic or a national hero and key 13 was turned false (the exception being in 1900).

Lichtman's prediction record[edit]

Using the 13 keys, Lichtman has correctly predicted the winner of every American presidential election since 1984 with the exception of the election of 2000.

In 2000, Lichtman predicted that Al Gore would be elected president.[23] Gore won the national popular vote but lost the Electoral College and did not become president. Lichtman argued that in 2000 he specifically predicted the winner of the national popular vote, which Gore won.[24] In his 1988 book The Thirteen Keys to the Presidency, Lichtman had defined his model as predicting the outcome of the popular vote,[25] but he did not remind readers of this nuance in his journal articles wherein he made his prediction for 2000.[26][23] He simply predicted that Gore would win. Lichtman further argues that Gore was the rightful winner of the 2000 election, and lost because of improper ballot counting in Florida. Had Gore won Florida, he would have received the additional electoral votes he needed to win the election.[27]

In 2016, Lichtman predicted that Donald Trump would win the election. Donald Trump won the election but lost the popular vote. Lichtman says that after the 2000 election, he stopped predicting the outcome of the popular vote and simply predicted who would be elected president, explaining that discrepancies between the Electoral College and the popular vote had dramatically increased, with Democrats holding a significant advantage in winning the popular vote but having no such advantage in the Electoral College.[28][29][30]

Predictions of United States presidential election outcomes by Allan Lichtman[31][32][33][34]
Election Incumbent party nominee Challenger party nominee Party mandate No primary contest Incumbent seeking re-election No third party Strong short-term economy Strong long-term economy Major policy change No social unrest No scandal No foreign/military failure Major foreign/military success Charismatic incumbent Uncharismatic challenger False keys Predicted winner Actual winner
1984 Ronald Reagan

(Republican)

Walter Mondale

(Democrat)

True True True True True False True[a] True True True False True True 2 Ronald Reagan
1988 George H. W. Bush

(Republican)

Michael Dukakis

(Democrat)

True True False True True True False True True[b] True True[c] False True 3 George H. W. Bush
1992 George H. W. Bush

(Republican)

Bill Clinton

(Democrat)

False True True False[d] False[e] False False True True True True[f] False True 6 Bill Clinton
1996 Bill Clinton

(Democrat)

Bob Dole

(Republican)

False True True False[g] True True False True True True False False True 5 Bill Clinton
2000 Al Gore

(Democrat)

George W. Bush

(Republican)

True True False True True True False True False[h] True False False True 5 Al Gore George W. Bush
2004 George W. Bush

(Republican)

John Kerry

(Democrat)

True True True True True False False True True False[i] True[j] False True 4 George W. Bush
2008 John McCain

(Republican)

Barack Obama

(Democrat)

False True False True False[k] False False True True False[l] False False False 9 Barack Obama
2012 Barack Obama

(Democrat)

Mitt Romney

(Republican)

False True True True True False True[m] True True True True[n] False[o] True 3 Barack Obama
2016 Hillary Clinton

(Democrat)

Donald Trump

(Republican)

False False[p] False True[q] True True False True True True False False True 6 Donald Trump
2020 Donald Trump

(Republican)

Joe Biden

(Democrat)

False True True True False[r] False True[s] False[t] False[u] True False False True 7 Joe Biden
2024 Joe Biden

(Democrat)

Donald Trump

(Republican)

False True True Leans False[39] Leans True[39] Leans True[39] True[v] Leans True[39] Leans True[39] Leans False[39] Leans False[39] False True 2-5[w] TBD TBD

Reception[edit]

Media coverage[edit]

Lichtman's model received significant media coverage in July 2010 after he released his forecast for the 2012 election, predicting that Barack Obama would win re-election.[40][41]

Lichtman again received considerable media attention for being one of the few forecasters to correctly predict Donald Trump's victory in the 2016 election.[42][43] Following the election, Trump sent Lichtman a framed copy of his prediction in The Washington Post signed with the message, "Professor - congrats, good call."[44]

Criticism[edit]

Silver statistical analysis[edit]

Statistician Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight criticized the subjectivity of several keys, particularly candidate charisma, and said several more keys chosen for the system, such as long term economic growth, could be seen as data dredging and overfitting. Silver said "It’s less that he has discovered the right set of keys than that he’s a locksmith and can keep minting new keys until he happens to open all 38 doors."

Silver also stated that while the system has accurately predicted the winner, the margin of victory or defeat for parties that had the same number of false keys has varied widely. For example, the elections of 1880, 1924, 1972 and 2004 all had four false keys against the incumbent party, giving a predicted winning margin of 6.43 points, but these elections were won by respective margins of 0.09 points (1880), 25.22 points (1924), 23.15 points (1972), and 2.46 points (2004).

Conversely, the 1960 election had an equal-record nine false keys against the incumbent Republicans, giving a predicted losing margin of 11.02 points - a landslide loss - whereas Republican incumbent Vice-President Richard Nixon lost by 0.17 points to Democratic candidate John F. Kennedy in a very close election.[45] Also mentioned by Silver was the 1932 election, which had eight false keys against the incumbent Republicans, giving a predicted losing margin of 7.53 points, but Republican incumbent President Herbert Hoover lost by 17.76 points in a landslide defeat to Democratic candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Silver also criticized only two of the keys being based on economic factors, despite the economy being a main concern of a majority of voters.[46]

As of the 2020 election, using the popular vote margin gives a mean error for the system of ±5.94 points, with the 95% confidence interval for the popular vote margin for the system being a very wide ±15.45 points, which was exceeded in the 1924 and 1972 elections mentioned above (with errors of 18.79 points and 16.72 points respectively). For the elections of 1984-2020, where Lichtman used the system to predict the election result, the mean error for the popular vote margin for the system is ±3.68 points, with the 95% confidence interval for the popular vote margin for the system being ±8.61 points (which has not been exceeded for any election Lichtman has predicted).

Lichtman responded to Silver, saying the system is based on a theoretical model and avoids random data-mining. He also stated that the system is not designed to predict the margin of victory, and that it flattens for landslide victories such as those in 1924, 1932 and 1972. With this limitation in mind, the R-squared value as of the 2020 election for the relationship between the number of false keys and the popular vote margin is 56.67% (that is, 56.67% of the popular vote margin is explained by the system): for the elections of 1984-2020, the R-squared value is 70.56%.

Lichtman also stated that, purely as a by-product of the system, it was possible to use it to predict the two-party vote for the incumbent party.[47]

Using the two-party vote, the elections of 1880, 1924, 1972 and 2004 (with four false keys) give a predicted two-party vote of 53.2%, while these elections were won with a two-party vote of 50.05% (1880), 65.22% (1924), 61.79% (1972), and 51.24% (2004) respectively.

For 1960 (with nine false keys), the system gives a predicted two-party vote of 44% - also a landslide loss - whereas Richard Nixon received 49.91% of the two-party vote.[48] For 1932 (with eight false keys), the system gives a predicted two-party vote of 45.84%, whereas Herbert Hoover received 40.85% of the two-party vote in his landslide defeat.

Using the two-party vote, as of the 2020 election, the mean error for the system is ±3.29 points, with the 95% confidence interval for the system being ±9 points, which was exceeded in 1924 (with an error of 12.02 points) but not in 1972 (with an error of 8.59 points). For the elections of 1984-2020, where Lichtman used the system to predict the election result, the mean error for the two-party vote for the system is ±1.95 points, with the 95% confidence interval for the two-party vote for the system being ±4.56 points (which has not been exceeded for any election Lichtman has predicted). The R-squared value as of the 2020 election for the relationship between the number of false keys and the two-party vote is 51.71% (that is, 51.71% of the two-party vote is explained by the system): for the elections of 1984-2020, the R-squared value is 68.72%.

Retrospective perception[edit]

In 2011, following Lichtman's call that President Barack Obama would win re-election in 2012, Megan McArdle of The Atlantic criticized Lichtman's subjectivity in applying the keys and their reliance on retrospective perception, applying them to Herbert Hoover in 1932, writing, "Unlike the economic models that rely on external metrics, perception is doing a lot of the work here. Do we count Obama's stimulus but not Hoover's?"

Despite her criticism, McArdle had Hoover, based on her analysis, finishing with six to eight false keys, sufficient to predict his defeat in any case: in the event, Lichtman had Hoover finish with eight false keys, and Hoover was defeated in a landslide by Democratic candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt. [49]

Theoretical conclusions[edit]

Lichtman says that the lesson of the 13 keys is that it is governance, not campaigning, that determines who will win a presidential election.

If voters feel that the country has been governed well for the preceding four years, then they will re-elect the incumbent president or the nominee from the incumbent party; otherwise, they will elect the nominee from the challenging party. Given this insight, Lichtman says that candidates should invest less time, money and resources in their election campaigns, since these have minimal or no effect on the outcome of the election.

Observers should also ignore polls, pundits, political analysts, and media strategists whose careers revolve around the campaign and its marketing: Lichtman refers to such people as "hucksters".

Further to this, sitting presidents should not be afraid to propose and implement new policy ideas: the keys show that voters do not care about specific policies, only the broad results of policies.

As demonstrated by key 2, the incumbent party should also unite early and clearly behind a consensus nominee; conversely, it is not necessary for the challenging party to do this.[50]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Reagan enacted major cuts in taxes and social spending.
  2. ^ The Iran–Contra affair was not linked directly to Reagan, and the scandal had fizzled out by the time of the election.
  3. ^ Detente with the Soviet Union, and a bilateral nuclear disarmament treaty.
  4. ^ Ross Perot managed to poll more than 10% in many polls.
  5. ^ The early 1990s recession.
  6. ^ Coalition victory in the Gulf War.
  7. ^ Ross Perot again ran for president.
  8. ^ Bill Clinton was impeached for lying about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.
  9. ^ The September 11 attacks and mounting U.S. casualties in Iraq.
  10. ^ The defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
  11. ^ The Great Recession.
  12. ^ The unresolved military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not applied to 2012, 2016 or 2020.
  13. ^ The Affordable Care Act.
  14. ^ The killing of Osama bin Laden.
  15. ^ Obama did not have the same success he had in connecting with the voters as he did in 2008.
  16. ^ Allan Lichtman marked key 2 as "undetermined" in his 2016 book, which was published before the Democratic National Convention had nominated Hillary Clinton. As it transpired, Clinton won 59.67% of the vote at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, well below the two-thirds threshold required to turn the key true. Despite this, Lichtman did not include it among his false keys in interviews given after the DNC had voted.[35][36][37]
  17. ^ Lichtman marked key 4 as true in the 2016 edition of his book, then stated in September 2016 that he believed it had turned false because Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson was polling at 12-14%, indicating that he was likely to win 6-7% of the vote because third parties typically underperform their polling.[15] In October 2016, he stated the key could flip if Johnson's polling dropped; by this point, six of the keys were false, meaning he could predict a Clinton loss in any case.[38] By Election Day, Johnson was polling at or below 5% in aggregate nationwide polling, well below the 10% needed to turn the key false, and ultimately won 3.3% of the vote. While third party candidates earned more than 5% cumulatively, Lichtman notes in his description of the keys that it does not turn false when several of the perennial third parties together have garnered more than 5 percent of the vote.[9]
  18. ^ The COVID-19 recession.
  19. ^ Major tax reforms.
  20. ^ Various incidents of social unrest, including the 2017 protests in Charlottesville and the 2020 nationwide protests sparked by George Floyd's murder.
  21. ^ Trump was impeached for pressuring the government of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden.
  22. ^ Build Back Better programs, and other substantative social legislation.
  23. ^ Two keys are false, with three other keys leaning false.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Moscato & De Vries (2019), p. 53
  2. ^ Kashina (2014), Vladimir Keilis-Borok: A Biography, p. 105
  3. ^ Kashina (2014), Vladimir Keilis-Borok: A Biography, p. 107
  4. ^ A. J. Lichtman; V. I. Keilis-Borok (November 1981). "Pattern recognition applied to presidential elections in the United States, 1860-1980: Role of integral social, economic, and political traits". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 78 (11): 7230–7234. Bibcode:1981PNAS...78.7230L. doi:10.1073/pnas.78.11.7230. PMC 349231. PMID 16593125.
  5. ^ BREAKING DOWN NEW HAMPSHIRE PRIMARY | Lichtman Live #32, retrieved March 24, 2024
  6. ^ Lichtman (2020), Predicting the Next President, chpt. 2, p. 14
  7. ^ Allan J. Lichtman (April 1982). "How to Bet in '84". Washingtonian.
  8. ^ a b Lichtman (2020), Predicting the Next President, chpt. 2
  9. ^ a b c d e f Lichtman (2020), Predicting the Next President, chpt. 2
  10. ^ Lichtman (2020), Predicting the Next President, chpt. 2, p. 26
  11. ^ SCOTUS WILL DECIDE TRUMP'S IMMUNITY! | Lichtman Live #37. Retrieved April 20, 2024.
  12. ^ "Harding Nominated for President on the Tenth Ballot at Chicago; Coolidge Chosen for Vice President". archive.nytimes.com. Retrieved March 16, 2024.
  13. ^ Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Elections (compare national data by year)
  14. ^ a b Lichtman (2020), Predicting the Next President, chpt. 2, p. 31
  15. ^ a b Stevenson, Peter W. (November 25, 2021). "Trump is headed for a win, says professor who has predicted 30 years of presidential outcomes correctly". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved September 23, 2023. In his highest polling, Gary Johnson is at about 12 to 14 percent. My rule is that you cut it in half. That would mean that he gets six to seven, and that would be the sixth and final key against the Democrats.
  16. ^ Lichtman (2020), Predicting the Next President, chpt. 9
  17. ^ a b Lichtman (2020), Predicting the Next President, chpt. 2, p. 38
  18. ^ Lichtman (2020), Predicting the Next President, chpt. 2, p. 41
  19. ^ Lichtman (2020), Predicting the Next President, chpt. 12: "Trump is a consummate showman who commands media attention but appeals only to a narrow slice of the electorate rather than achieving broad appeal like Ronald Reagan."
  20. ^ Lichtman (2020), Predicting the Next President, chpt. 2, p. 46
  21. ^ Lichtman (2020), Predicting the Next President, chpt. 2, p. 48
  22. ^ Lichtman (2020), Predicting the Next President, chpt. 10: "Although many Americans admired his service during the Vietnam War, including his imprisonment by the North Vietnamese for five and a half years, he had not led the nation through war like Ulysses S. Grant or Dwight D. Eisenhower."
  23. ^ a b Allan J. Lichtman (2000). "ELECTION 2000: The Keys Point to Gore". Social Education. 64 (6): 376–377.
    "Thus, on balance, barring a most improbable turn of events, the American people will ratify the record of the current Democratic administration this year and elect Al Gore president of the United States."
  24. ^ Joseph Jaffe, Allan Lichtman (November 18, 2020). The Keys to the White House - Distinguished Professor, Allan Lichtman (YouTube streaming video). Event occurs at 32m03s.
  25. ^ Lichtman (1990), The Thirteen Keys to the Presidency, p. 6: "When five or fewer keys are false, the incumbent party wins the popular vote"
  26. ^ Allan J. Lichtman (1999). "The Keys to Election 2000". Social Education. 63 (7): 422.
  27. ^ Allan J. Lichtman (2001). "Supplemental Report on the Racial Impact of the Rejection of Ballots Cast in Florida’s 2000 Presidential Election and in Response to the Statement of the Dissenting Commissioners and Report by Dr. John Lott Submitted to the United States Senate Committee on Rules in July 2001" in Voting Irregularities in Florida during the 2000 Presidential Election (US Commission of Civil Rights, 2001)
  28. ^ Lichtman, Featuring Allan. "Video: Opinion | He Predicted Trump's Win in 2016. Now He's Ready to Call 2020". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 15, 2021.
  29. ^ "The Keys to the White House - Distinguished Professor, Allan Lichtman - YouTube". www.youtube.com. Retrieved February 15, 2021.
  30. ^ In The Thirteen Keys to the Presidency (1990), Lichtman wrote: "When five or fewer keys are false, the incumbent party wins the popular vote". By contrast, in The Keys to the White House (2005), he wrote: "When five or fewer of these propositions are false, or turned against the party holding the White House, that party wins another term in office."
  31. ^ Lichtman (2020), Predicting the Next President
  32. ^ He Predicted a Trump Win in 2016. What's His Forecast For 2020? (streaming video). New York Times. August 5, 2020. Archived from the original on December 21, 2021.
  33. ^ Lichtman (2012)
  34. ^ "Historian's Prediction: Donald J. Trump to Win 2016 Election". American University.
  35. ^ Professor outlines why he thinks Trump is headed for a win, retrieved September 23, 2023
  36. ^ Stevenson, Peter W. (November 25, 2021). "Trump is headed for a win, says professor who has predicted 30 years of presidential outcomes correctly". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved September 23, 2023.
  37. ^ Presidential Scholar Predicts Donald Trump Victory | Power Lunch | CNBC, retrieved September 23, 2023
  38. ^ Stevenson, Peter W. (November 25, 2021). "Professor who predicted 30 years of presidential elections correctly called a Trump win in September". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved September 23, 2023.
  39. ^ a b c d e f g https://www.socialstudies.org/system/files/2024-02/se-8801006.pdf
  40. ^ Csellar |, Maralee (July 12, 2010). "Obama Wins Re-Election in 2012 | American University Washington DC". American University. Retrieved September 25, 2023.
  41. ^ "Never-Wrong Pundit Picks Obama to Win in 2012". US News.
  42. ^ Schuessler, Jennifer (November 9, 2016). "Yes, He Thought Trump Would Win. No, He Didn't Use Hard Data". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 25, 2023.
  43. ^ Stevenson, Peter W. (November 25, 2021). "Professor who predicted 30 years of presidential elections correctly called a Trump win in September". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved September 25, 2023.
  44. ^ Combs, Cody (August 16, 2023). "Will Joe Biden be re-elected in the 2024 presidential election?". The National. Retrieved September 25, 2023.
  45. ^ Due to discrepancies with how Alabama's unpledged electors are counted, Congressional Quarterly and other sources report that Nixon won the popular vote by 0.09 points, but lost to Kennedy in the Electoral College by 303-219.
  46. ^ Silver, Nate (August 31, 2011). "Despite Keys, Obama Is No Lock". FiveThirtyEight. Retrieved September 25, 2023.
  47. ^ Silver, Nate (September 12, 2011). "'Keys to the White House' Historian Responds". FiveThirtyEight. Retrieved September 25, 2023.
  48. ^ Due to discrepancies with how Alabama's unpledged electors are counted, Congressional Quarterly and other sources report that Nixon received 50.05% of the two-party vote, but lost in the Electoral College.
  49. ^ McArdle, Megan (August 30, 2011). "How Do Obama's Re-Election Chances Stack Up to Hoover's?". The Atlantic. Retrieved January 27, 2024.
  50. ^ Lichtman (2020), Predicting the Next President, chpt. 13

Bibliography[edit]