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University of Iowa News Release

Aug. 30, 2004

UI Election Forecast Shows Slow Economic Growth Could Doom Bush Re-election Bid

New economic figures showing slower-than-expected economic growth in the second quarter are bad news for President George W. Bush in his bid for re-election, says University of Iowa political economist Michael Lewis-Beck.

Lewis-Beck and his colleague Charles Tien of Hunter College have updated their 2004 Presidential Election Forecast with final economic data from the second quarter of 2004. Across the first two quarters, GNP growth has had an annualized rate of 2.6 percent. Based on that rate, the forecast calls for Bush to win only 49.9 percent of the two-party popular vote in the November election, which would mean his defeat, Lewis-Beck said.

"We learned from the 2000 election that it is not enough for the incumbent party to win a simple majority of the popular vote," he said. "The incumbent must win at least 51 percent of the two-party popular vote or he will most likely lose in the Electoral College."

Lewis-Beck said Bush is teetering on the edge of defeat headed into the Republican National Convention in New York City. With only 49.9 percent of this popular vote, the prediction is that he would garner just 241 Electoral College votes, short of the 270 needed to win.

However, given the model's margin of error of 1.5 percentage points, Bush may be able to pull it off after all. For example, if he managed 51 percent of the popular vote, he would be expected to win. These signs point to how close the race really is, Lewis-Beck said.

Lewis-Beck's and Tien's forecasting model, known as the Jobs Model, is based on a statistical analysis of political and economic trends associated with presidential elections over the post-World War II period. The final data are based on measures taken or available during summer of the election year.

The Jobs Model has an expected prediction error of about 1.5 percentage points, when used to forecast the incumbent share of two-party popular vote. It is a slight modification of Lewis-Beck's and Tien's Growth Model, which they used in 2000. That model did correctly forecast that Gore would win the majority of the popular vote, but exaggerated his final vote share. The Jobs Model attempts to adjust for mistakes made in the 2000 forecast.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Mary Geraghty Kenyon, 319-384-0011, mary-kenyon@uiowa.edu.