Ahead of Tuesday’s debate, David Sylvan weighs in on the importance of the event.
Today at the Institute Professor of International Relations/Political Science David Sylvan gave a lunchtime presentation on US presidential elections and how campaigns, debates and other factors influence their outcomes.
Basing his observations on 40 years of statistical research, he said that most American voters will vote for the candidate they are predisposed to vote for due to factors such as their age, race, sex, where they live, education as well as their influences and very few will be persuaded to vote for the opposite side due to the campaign or debates. “What campaigns and debates do is mobilise those who are already predisposed to vote for a certain party”, he said.
While Mitt Romney saw a surge in the polls after his performance in the last debate, Professor Sylvan predicts the polls will stabilise, and unless Barack Obama’s performance in tonight’s debate is miserable, the current president should be able to maintain a narrow lead up to the elections on 6 November.
Professor Sylvan discussed how studies of economic trajectory and elections have shown that if the situation is improving the incumbent president has a better chance of winning while the challenger has a better chance if the economy is deteriorating.
However there are numerous factors that make it anyone’s race, according to Professor Sylvan. “The US has an incredibly baroque 18th century voting system”, he said alluding to the country’s Electoral College, which makes it possible for a candidate to win the presidency even without winning the popular vote. Polling is also flawed because pollsters have relied until now on calling fixed phone numbers which large portions of the population do not use anymore, he said. In addition many groups of democratic leaning voters such as youth do not traditionally have a large turnout rate, he added.
“November 6th will be a very very long night”, he said in closing.
On this occasion, David Sylvan wrote an article entitled Election 2012: The Economy, Debates, or Both?. The French version is forthcoming in Le Temps.
David Sylvan has been a faculty member since 1991. He is the co-author of US Foreign Policy in Perspective (2009). His teaching and research focus on methodology and on US foreign policy, among other matters.
See the slides from the event here.