The U.S. presidential election is just over five months away. Between now and then, thousands of hours of television and thousands of news pages will be devoted to analysis and predictions.
Here’s a prediction: none of what is presented will be similar to the analysis done by John McLean, the Canadian-based publisher of American County Review, a publication, updated every three months that combines social, economic and environmental data to rank the 3,141 counties across the U.S.
McLean, a quant whose focus before starting American County Review (acredata.com) was on developing bond indexes, used the information contained in the publication to shine a light on Ohio, a state with 18 electoral college votes that is often viewed as an election omen.
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“I used the data to show how voting patterns may change based on an analysis of the votes in the 2012 presidential election and in the 2016 primaries. I have taken the emotion out of the analysis,” said McLean, who after 15 pages of analysis concludes Trump will most likely win the state.
“All I am doing is using past voting data and marrying that with all the social and economic data I have,” said McLean who is working on a similar exercise for two other swing states, Florida and Pennsylvania. He used voting data because his research couldn’t generate “a strong correlation” between jobs, income and health care and party support.
“Ohio has become more diversified but it still has fairly high unemployment and crime rates,” he added.
Like all forecasts McLean’s research comes with a series of assumptions: he focused on nine counties out of 88 he has ranked in Ohio.
But those nine counties account for about 40 per cent of the population of Ohio. They include the major cities of Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Akron. In the 2012 presidential election, Obama won all nine. The nine counties represented about 60 per cent of the Democrat votes in Ohio. In all Obama won 17 counties in the 2012 election. Overall he won the state by about 115,000 votes — or about two per cent of those that voted — but by 541,658 in the nine counties. (McLean expects the Democrats to win the chosen nine counties by 413,191 votes.)
Other key assumptions included: voter participation for 2016, “is the same as that for the 2012 Presidential election,” that Trump will “see support from [John] Kasich primary supporters,” that the primary voters for each party as a percentage of the voting population, can be used “as an anchor” for determining forecasted votes in the 2016 presidential election, and that, in the nine counties, Trump will achieve at a minimum the same “voting turnout” Romney received in 2012.
One key to McLean’s conclusion was the large increase (63 per cent) in Republican voters in the primaries — or 760,000 new Republican Party voters with many of them coming from the rural areas. “Trump could still loose the urban areas that are traditionally Democratic [but] could lose those areas by a small enough margin to win the state, by continuing to dominate the rural populous,” concludes McLean. In effect, the sharp rise in Republican support in the primaries, which McLean translates into a much smaller increase into new votes in November, is enough to get Trump over the line.
We will know in a few months.