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How Did This Elections Expert Know It Would Be Trump All Along?

When he called the election in September for Donald Trump, the pundits trashed American University professor Allan Lichtman. After the Republican president-elect’s upset over Hillary Clinton, he wants the country to heed a message — do not trust polls.

“Everybody told me I was absolutely wrong this time because all of the polls were telling otherwise,” the political science expert told National Public Radio on Wednesday. “Polls are not predictions, and they are abused and misused as though they were predictions ‘cause they’re easy to cover.”

Back in the early ‘80’s, Lichtman developed a system for predicting the outcome of presidential races along with Russian mathematician Vladimir Keilis-Borok. Eschewing polls, his model relies on developing true or false answers to a set of 13 questions about the state of the county’s politics, economy and foreign relations in the run-up to the election. If five or more of the questions, or “keys,” are false, then the challenger party will capture the presidency.

He has called presidential contests right ever since 1984, when then-President Ronald Reagan crushed Walter Mondale in a landslide.

According to Lichtman, the race was slanted against the Democrats in this cycle due to their heavy losses in the midterm elections two years ago, the fact that President Barack Obama was leaving after two terms and that the party had not managed any major accomplishments over that second term.

He told NPR that the outcome of elections are determined by factors like this, rather than ‘October surprise’ scandals.

“And his had nothing to do with the campaign, had nothing to do with a dozen women claiming that Donald Trump had harassed or assaulted them, had nothing to do with the Comey letter,” he said on the radio. “Because I issued my first prediction before all of that and then doubled down on that prediction just a couple of weeks ago.”

The political scientist repeated his caution about polls toward the end of his NPR interview.

“My prediction system is based on a huge amount of data, you know,” he said. “But I do object to poll-and-pundit-driven analysis, which is not meaningful because it’s not based on any kind of systematic assessment of how elections work.”

Contact Daniel J. Solomon at solomon@forward.com or on Twitter @DanielJSolomon

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