McDonough School of Business
McDonough School of Business
Person standing atop a tilted ballot box
News Story

The Edge: Predicting the Next POTUS

David Walker, professor emeritus, breaks down his research and methodology behind predicting the outcomes of U.S. presidential elections.

How did you become interested in forecasting presidential elections?

I attended a lecture at Georgetown by Ray Fair, a professor at Yale University, who presented his model to predict the popular vote in presidential elections. When I introduced his model into my teaching, I noticed things I believed needed to be corrected to obtain the most accurate results.

Fair’s equation considers the following metrics: the state of the economy; current political standing of the two-party system; and an understanding of historical election trends. I revised this model to include other variables, such as a statistical adjustment between election years, the inclusion of critical war years, and an emphasis on which party controls the House of Representatives—all of which influence political outlook. After those adjustments, I tested the model first for the 2020 election and eventually looked ahead at 2024.

What are the considerations that go into predicting presidential elections?

Every U.S. election has immeasurable and unpredictable events. The economy remains uncertain, and the Federal Reserve will continue to adjust policies as we near 2024. Social issues, such as the overturning of Roe v. Wade and other Supreme Court decisions, also are factors.

When predicting elections, I do not concentrate on candidates. I have never presumed to know any party’s nomination. There is a lot of time left before the 2024 election, and media attention will have an impact on outcomes as well.

It also is important to consider the measure of unity within a party that is not the incumbent. Through examining previous elections, it has become clear that if the party was unified at the political convention, it had a better chance of winning.

What does your research suggest will be the 2024 presidential outcome?

According to the model, the democratic candidate will win the presidency with 272 electoral votes, including Nevada’s six votes and most of the large states they won in 2020. Democrats are predicted to win 53.7% of the popular vote.

While some important variables are still unknown regarding the presidential election, there already are known factors that could influence the outcome of the race.

This story was originally featured in the Georgetown Business Fall 2023 Magazine.

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