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How Accurate Were Presidential Predictions In The 2012 Election?

Joey Palacios

There were several notable predictions made leading up to the General Election on Nov. 6, and since the first debate the opinion polls were twisting the odds this way and that. Now that the results are in, we can see who had the right idea, and who was just guessing.

What did social media predict?

Josh Light is the founder of Politic It,the site that combines social media chatter, trends in newspaper and magazine articles, and how people feel about a candidate, to determine an "it" score, which then acts as a predictor for the race.

Obama’s “it” score was 49 on Election Day and  Republican challenger Mitt Romney had a 48. The "it" score is better likened to the popular vote across the country, since it does not take into account electoral votes.

"Obama has a slight edge in the race against Romney,” Light said on the day of the election. “Romney's gained a lot, but I think it's going to be an Obama victory today."

  • Obama won with 51 percent of the popular vote to Romney's 49 percent, exactly the close race that many people were predicting, even though the electoral votes showed a decisive victory for the president.

Notable Predictions (about the electoral vote)

Conservative Wall Street Journal opinion columnist Karl Rove took a good long look at how all the polls stacked up before he made his final prediction in his Oct. 31 column, "Rove: Sifting the Numbers for a Winner."

"My prediction: Sometime after the cock crows on the morning of Nov. 7, Mitt Romney will be declared America's 45th president. Let's call it 51%-48%, with Mr. Romney carrying at least 279 Electoral College votes, probably more." concluded the Rove article.

The most notable prediction from another well-respected news outlet came from the New York Time's Nate Silver, who writes the publication's now notorious FiveThirtyEight Blog.  Silver developed a system that takes a statistical look at many different polls to develop the probability of each candidates victory.

On Oct. 31, the same day of Karl Rove's prediction for Romney, Silver's numbers predicted Obama to win with 300 electoral votes - as of this writing Obama has 303 and the 29 electoral votes from Florida have yet to be decided.

Ryan Loyd was Texas Public Radio's city beat and political reporter. He left the organization in December, 2014.
My journalism journey began with an idea for a local art and music zine and the gumption to make it happen with no real plan or existing skill set.