Long-ball brutes and end-zone heroes are not usually the first place a politically minded individual would look for election analysis, but it might be the most accurate.
Since 1936, the Washington Redskins football team has predicted the presidential election correctly 16 out of the last 17 times. The theory went that if the Redskins won their last home game before the election, then the incumbent party would retain possession of the office.
This had been true until the 2004 football season when the Green Bay Packers defeated Washington 28-14 at home. It should have foretold a turnover in power from current President and Republican candidate George W. Bush to Democratic candidate Senator John Kerry, but that wasn’t the case. This was the first hiccup in the formula in over 64 years, still maintaining a very good average of over 94 percent now that the 2008 election prophesy has come true.
This statistical phenomenon is not restricted to football. In fact, some would consider it unpatriotic to not consider our national pastime.
Since 1952, the winner of the World Series has predicted the election correctly 12 out of the past 15 times. The conditions of this formula are that if the American League team wins, then the next president will be a Republican, and if the National League team wins then the Democrats will win as well.
The three occasions that this formula was wrong occurred in three consecutive election years, 1992, 1996 and 2000. Each of these series was completed in less than the seven games allotted, which some experts would interpret as the best teams not advancing, thus diluting the accuracy of the formula.
While the athletes come close to perfection, the kids maintain a flawless record. Nickelodeon has been giving youngsters a chance to voice their choice with their “Kids Pick the President” online vote every election season.
The Nick vote has been correct every time for 20 years now, proclaiming Barack Obama a 51-49 winner over John McCain days before the final count.
Even the holidays get in with a perfect score. According to General Manager Clay Simmons of Spirit Halloween, a seasonal costume store in Arkansas, the candidate who sells the most masks has won the election the past 25 years.
Although the numbers seem to support a winning system for picking presidential winners, Philosophy professor Kenneth Luke believes that it’s all in our heads.
“It seems to be accurate, but we don’t know why. Probably we are just trying to get a false sense of security so we feel we can control things,” said Luke. “Chance is always included in statistics.”
Whether it’s luck or chance, others think that it can be explained.
“Young kids get their political affiliations from their parents,” Geoffrey Willbanks, History and Government professor said, “and people want to poke fun at the [candidate] they don’t like.”
But who influences the baseball players and the Redskins? Average salary for MLB players is $3.15 million, and the Redskins average close to $5 million a player, so luck can only account for so much at this level.
“It would be interesting to study why these statistics are so right in a scholarly atmosphere,” said Luke.
While most are impressed with this information, both professors warn against a trip to Vegas in 2012 with a semester’s worth of cash in pocket, betting on who will win.
“Even the [election] polling is based on assumptions. They’re mainly just projections,” Willbanks said. “Part of that is science, but the polls have not always worked.”
Probably the most notable instance of failed polls was in 1948 when Harry S Truman won re-election despit all the polls having Thomas Dewey the victor. The Chicago Daily Tribune even ran the headline “Dewey Defeats Truman” in bold print.
If one candidate sells the most masks, is picked by the Nick vote, the appropriate league wins the World Series and the Redskins’ performance points to victory, then according to these statistics, that candidate would have over a 93 percent chance of winning the election.
Whether it’s scientific or just plain luck, it seems the numbers don’t lie.