CAS professor correctly predicts 2020 presidential election

Allan Lichtman helped create a “13 keys” system to forecast elections

CAS professor correctly predicts 2020 presidential election

Allan Lichtman is a professor in American University's College of Arts and Sciences.

After correctly predicting Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election, American University professor Allan Lichtman is celebrating his 10th correct prediction of the outcomes of the presidential races since 1984. 

Although Lichtman predicted that former Vice President Al Gore would win the presidential election in 2000, he stands by his prediction. He notes that Gore won the popular vote while Bush won the electoral college in a contentious Supreme Court battle. 

Lichtman has said that he believes the results of Florida make the 2000 election stolen, as there was a large portion of the Black community whose votes were suppressed. After this election, Lichtman changed his evaluation to account for the electoral college. 

Three years before his first prediction, Lichtman met Vladimir Keilis-Borok, a Russian seismologist who would later go on to become his “Odd Couple” pairing in correctly predicting presidential elections. Each brought something to the table to create a unique predicting method.

Keilis-Borok wanted to pair his knowledge of earthquake behaviors with Lichtman’s vast understanding of the American presidency to establish what we now know as the “13 Keys to the White House.” 

“The key to our collaboration was to reconceptualize presidential elections in geophysical terms,” Lichtman said. “Not as Republicans versus Democrats…but as ‘Stability,’ when the White House party keeps the presidency and ‘Earthquake’ when the White House party loses.” 

The 13 keys are all true or false, where true favors the re-election of the party holding the White House, and false favors the opposition party. Six or more false answers result in an “Earthquake.” 

The keys include whether there is a significant third-party candidate, how the short- and long-term economy is doing, and whether the incumbent is charismatic.

As Lichtman is a lifelong Democrat, being objective has major impacts on accuracy and success, he said. 

“The secret to being a successful forecaster is putting aside your own political preferences,” Lichtman said. “If you let your prediction be tainted by your preferences, then you would be useless as a forecaster.” 

In 2016, Lichtman received backlash for his prediction that then-Republican candidate Donald Trump would win, as polls showed Democrat Hillary Clinton up double digits in several battleground states. He did note that his prediction was not impacted by Trump specifically, but because the keys swayed against the incumbent Democratic party. No matter who the Republican nominee was, according to his system, they would have won. 

Lichtman said that he believes the coronavirus pandemic has had a monumental impact on Biden’s victory. 

“The COVID pandemic was pivotal in turning this election against Trump,” Lichtman said. “However, it wasn’t just the pandemic, it was the failed response to it.”

With more than 14 million cases of COVID-19, over 280,000 deaths and millions of people filing for government assistance, the pandemic has put a strain on almost every U.S. citizen. 

The professor was very critical of Trump’s reaction to this November’s election results. 

“What we are seeing from Trump and his enablers since the election represents the worst moment in the history of the U.S. presidency,” Lichtman said.

Lichtman said there is no way to tell if these keys will stay useful in the coming presidential elections, but for now, he maintains his streak.

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