Although professors at the University differ in their predictions for which Yalie will come out on top in today’s presidential election, they almost all agree on one thing — it will be a tight race to the finish.
Terrorism, the economy and the war in Iraq will be the decisive issues in today’s election, more than a dozen professors from Yale College, the School of Management and the Law School said Monday. But the professors had different conclusions as to whether President George W. Bush ’68 or Sen. John Kerry ’66 would prevail after the votes are counted.
Some professors have created their own formulas to predict today’s winner. According to economics professor Ray Fair’s equation, which predicts presidential races based on economic factors, Bush will win 57.7 percent of the vote when third-party candidates are excluded. Since he created the equation in the 1970s, Fair said it has predicted correctly the outcome of every presidential election and, when used retroactively, has accurately predicted elections dating as far back as 1916.
SOM professor Keith Chen used his research of economic factors and polling data to predict a Bush victory with about 55 percent of the popular vote. But he said polling data from early voters in Florida have swung in favor of Kerry and may change the outcome.
“What’s different about this election versus any other is there is so much predicted excess turnout that no one knows how to correctly poll,” Chen said.
Other professors predicted the outcome with less scientific methods. Associate political science chair Harry Blair said the Washington Redskins’ loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday signaled that Kerry will score a touchdown with voters and claim the White House for Democrats.
“Whenever the Redskins have lost the last home game before the election, the incumbent political party has lost the White House,” Blair said.
Yale Diplomat-in-Residence Charles Hill predicted cultural issues and the recent tape released by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden will matter more than any one football game, and will work in the president’s favor. Hill predicted Bush will win with 52.6 percent of the popular vote.
“The tape was clearly a call for Kerry to be elected and to accommodate al Qaeda,” Hill said.
But political science professor David Cameron said he thinks the Bin Laden tape will only influence a handful of voters who are still undecided and will work “both ways” politically.
“It helps Bush, because it raises the terrorism issue,” Cameron said. “On the other hand, seeing him there reminds voters he’s still around, which hurts Bush.”
Many professors agreed that terrorism and domestic issues will determine how voters cast their ballots today. They said the economy will be particularly important to voters in battleground states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania. Still, political science professor David Mayhew and law professor Susan Rose-Ackerman said foreign policy has emerged as the focal point of the election.
Law professor Anthony Kronman said the dispute in Florida after the 2000 election and the anticipated closeness of tonight’s returns highlight the important task of local election officials whose management of ballots in their cities, counties and states may affect the entire country. But he said he thinks either Bush or Kerry will emerge with a larger share of the vote than predicted by polls.
“My hunch is that the election will be determined more decisively than one would think,” said Kronman, a former dean of the Law School.
Several professors said they think voter turnout, especially among newly-registered voters, will have a crucial effect on the race. Law professor Robert Burt, a Kerry supporter, said he thinks an increase in voter turnout will benefit the Massachusetts senator.
“My smell is — I’m sure it’s colored by my — wish that this should be true — this new kind of voter is going to be concerned about the Iraq war, what Bush has done and job losses,” Burt said. “I tend to think it will go in Kerry’s favor.”
But other professors said they think voter turnout is too volatile to predict and could benefit either candidate, depending on the Democratic and Republican parties’ unprecedented get-out-the-vote efforts. Law professor Donald Elliott said while polls show voters between the ages of 18 and 25 favor Kerry, few may actually go to the polls today. But law professor Akhil Amar said he expects several other voter blocs to turn out in large numbers today, such as urban minorities and Christian conservatives.
“We’re going to have a big turnout,” Amar said. “I just wish I knew who [the voters] were.”