<html> <head><style type ="text/css">body { font-family: "Bloomberg Prop Unicode I", Verdana, sans-serif; font-size:125%; letter-spacing: -0.3pt; color: #FF9F0F; background-color: #000000; text-align: left; } p {line-height: 1.25em; max-width:900px; width:expression(document.body.clientWidth > 900? "900px": "auto" );} h1, h2, h3 { text-align: left; font-weight: normal; color: #FFFFFF; } h1 { font-size: 130%; } h2 { font-size: 115%; } h3 { font-size: 100%; } #bb-style { font-size: 90%; max-width:900px; width:expression(document.body.clientWidth > 900? "900px": "auto" ); } b, strong { font-weight: bold; } i, em { color: #FEC54A; } pre { font-family: "Andale Mono", "Monaco", "Lucida Console"; letter-spacing: -0.3pt; line-height: 1.25em; } table { border: 0; font-size: 90%; width: 100%; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; } td, tr { text-align: left; } td.numeric { text-align: right; } a:link { color:#53B2F5; text-decoration: none; } a:visited {color:#53B2F5} a:active {color:#53B2F5} a:hover {color:#53B2F5} </style> </head> <body> <p>By Justin Wolfers</p> <p>The nerd wars among different tribes of election prognosticators have been surprisingly vicious, given that they’re all basing their forecasts on the same thing: polls asking people whom they intend to vote for. But what if this is the wrong question?</p> <p>I think it is.</p> <p>In a <a href="http://users.nber.org/~jwolfers/Papers/VoterExpectations.pdf">recent academic research paper</a>,  <a href="http://researchdmr.com/">David Rothschild</a> and I examined the results of a different kind of poll, one that asks instead: “Who do you think will win?” We find convincing evidence that this alternative approach yields more accurate forecasts. In the 345 races we studied, determining a state's Electoral College vote, the consensus of the “who do you think will win?” poll picked the winner 81 percent of the time, compared with a hit rate of 69 percent for the standard polls of voter intentions. Roughly two-thirds of the time, we find that forecasts based on voter expectations are more accurate than those based on the usual polls of intentions.</p> <p>So, what does this alternative -- we think, better and more accurate -- approach say about today’s race?</p> <p>The latest <a href="http://big.assets.huffingtonpost.com/ipsos110512.pdf">Ipsos/Reuters Poll</a> says that 51 percent of respondents expect President Barack Obama to win, versus 32 percent who expect a Mitt Romney victory (the remaining folks don’t have an opinion). The latest <a href="http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2012/images/11/04/top16.pdf">CNN/ORC poll</a> scores it 57-36 for Obama; likewise it’s 55-35 in the <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/polls/postabcpoll_20121104.html">ABC News/Washington Post poll</a>; <a href="http://www.people-press.org/files/legacy-pdf/11-4-12%20Election%20Weekend%20Release.pdf">Pew</a> scores it 52-30; and <a href="http://images.politico.com/global/2012/11/politico_gwbgptracking_nov4_questionnaire.html">Politico/GWU/Battleground</a> sees it 53-38.</p> <p>There’s a clear consensus: A robust majority of the American electorate expects Obama to win re-election tonight. So that’s my tip, too.</p> <p>Among the five polls I cited, an average of 54 percent of respondents expect Obama to win, while only 34 percent anticipate a Romney victory, and the rest don't have an opinion. Narrowing to those who have a view about who will win, 61 percent expect Obama to win, versus 39 percent for Romney.</p> <p>What does this say about Obama’s likely winning margin? Here we need to be careful: Just because Obama has a 20-point lead in a voter-expectation poll doesn’t mean he’ll win the election by 20 points. Instead, we have to use a nifty formula we’ve developed for translating Obama’s lead in these polls of voter expectations into an expected winning margin.</p> <p>Bottom line: Surveys of voter expectations suggest that Obama will win by about five points tonight.</p> <p>This forecast is more aggressively pro-Obama than the conventional wisdom. Indeed, each of the five polls suggests a much closer race if one focuses on voting intentions. If you look at pre-Hurricane Sandy data from a sixth pollster, Gallup, they suggested that Romney had a five-point lead, while Gallup's contemporaneous voter-expectation polls implied that Obama was the one holding the <a href="http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/02/forecasting-based-on-expectations-not-intentions/">five-point lead</a>. Tonight we’ll see which question Gallup should have been relying on.</p> <p>There's another advantage of our approach: Although the consensus of standard voter intentions polls has started to <a href="http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2012/president/us/general_election_romney_vs_obama-1171.html">tip toward Obama</a> over the <a href="http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/06/nov-5-late-poll-gains-for-obama-leave-romney-with-longer-odds/">past few days</a>, polls asking voters who they think will win have consistently pointed to a robust Obama victory for <a href="http://www.people-press.org/files/legacy-pdf/11-4-12%20Election%20Weekend%20Release.pdf">the past few months</a>. We’re not suddenly hopping aboard the “Obama will win” meme. It has been evident in our data for a while.</p> <p>(Justin Wolfers is a Bloomberg View columnist. <a href="https://twitter.com/justinwolfers">Follow</a> him on Twitter.)</p> <p>Read more breaking commentary from Bloomberg View at <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/view/the-ticker/">the Ticker</a>.</p> </body> </html>