I know a number of readers have enjoyed my classic list of election predictors over the years, so here’s an updated version for 2016.

Basically, every four years all sorts of different experts throw around all sorts of folksy historical factoids and precedents that apparently have some super high rate of accuracy when it comes to predicting the outcome of a presidential election. These aren’t usually logical things, they’re simply weirdly stubborn coincidences.

Here are some of the most commonly-cited presidential predictors that have an unbroken track record of legitimacy. There are many others as well, but most of those have been wrong at least once. These ones have been 100% accurate up till now:

Poll / predictor:Since:2004:2008:2012:2016:
The Republican must win Ohio1861BushObamaObamaTrump
How Vigo County, Indiana votes1952BushObamaObamaTrump
How Ohio votes in general1964BushObamaObamaTrump
Yale Economist Ray Fair's formula of determining the winner through economic statistics1980BushObamabarely Obama
(but basically inconclusive)
Trump (link)
Halloween mask sales (as counted by
The Summer Olympics (if the most recent games were hosted by a city that's hosted before, incumbent party wins)1988BushObamaObamaTrump
Betting odds, as recorded by the Iowa Electronic Market (link)1988BushObamaRomney
(but basically tied)
(but basically tied)

Voided Predictions

The last two presidential elections voided a number of longstanding election-predictors:

Poll / predictor:Accurate since:Voided:
The Democratic candidate must win West Virginia1916McCain won West Virginia in 2008
Outcome of the Washington Redskins' final home game before the election (if they win, so does the incumbent party)1936The Redskins lost in 2004, but Bush was re-elected
How Missouri votes1956McCain won Missouri in 2008
The Democratic candidate must be from the South to be elected President1964Obama was elected in 2008 despite being from Hawaii/Illinois
How Tennessee votes1964McCain won Tennessee in 2008
How Arkansas votes1972McCain won Arkansas in 2008
How Nevada votes1974Clinton won Nevada in 2016
The President's approval rating must be above 50% to be re-elected.1956Bush was re-elected in 2004 despite having an approval rating around 48%
Nickelodeon's "Kids' Vote"1988favored Kerry in 2004
Weekly Reader's children's poll1992Magazine folded October, 2012

Prediction Sites

And here are the predictions of some of the big predictor sites, born from all their scientific poll-crunching and whatnot. Numbers are the predictions that were posted the night before voting day.

For reference:

  • the 2004 election was won by President Bush 286-251
  • the 2008 election was won by Senator Obama 365-173
  • the 2012 election was won by President Obama 332-206
electionprojection.comBush (289)Obama (353)Obama (303)Clinton (279)
electoral-vote.comKerry (306)Obama (353)Obama (294)Clinton (323)
election.princeton.eduKerry (311)Obama (352)Obama (309)Clinton (307) (Nate Silver)N/AObama (346)Obama (315)Clinton (302)
realclearpolitics.comN/AObama (338)Obama (303)Clinton (272)
Colleyrankings.comBush (290)Obama (367)Obama (304)Clinton (323)
Larry J. Sabato's Crystal Ball Link.Tie: both 269Obama (364)Obama (290)Clinton (322)

2016 Prediction Sites

These days, every major news outlet is on the prediction bandwagon. Let’s see how they all do.

New York TimesClinton (322) Link.
Washington PostClinton (290) Link.
Wall St. JournalClinton (278) Link.
LA TimesClinton (352) Link.
CNNToo close to call. Link.
ABC? Link.
NBCClinton (274) Link.
Fox NewsClinton (274) Link.
ReutersToo close to call. Link.
NPRClinton (274) Link.
Huffington PostClinton (323 or 373) Link.
SurveyMonkeyToo close to call. Link.
Cook Political ReportClinton (278) Link.
Talking Points MemoTo close to call. Link.
YouGovClinton (317) Link.
Daily KosClinton (323) Link.


  1. Kwyjor

    Ahh, I was waiting for this. I was concerned that relatively recent XKCD comic might have put you off.

  2. ThePsudo has been my favorite since 2004. They weren't right that year, but my predictions based on their analysis and data was.

    My prediction this time around is that the first African-American President will serve a full eight years. This is a description, not a prescription.

  3. J.J. McCullough

    I should probably add his last two predictors, though I'm not sure how true they are.

  4. Obat ISK

    Thank you very much for sharing this information
    this article very nice and very helpful for me