2012 isn’t 2008, but an Estimate Two Months Out isn’t an Election Either

Aug 30 '12

Simon Jackman posted the following graphic on his blog, which earned a rave review from Lynn Vavrek on Twitter and a lengthy discussion by Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post.

I admit the graphic is a great – sums up a lot of information incredibly concisely to present a quite coherent story – but I wonder if we aren’t comparing apples to oranges a bit here. Don’t we really want to know what the “estimates” that Jackman has for 2012 looked like in these states at this point in time in 2008? For example, I don’t think an estimate of the type Jackman is calculating would have predicted in August 2008 that Obama wins Indiana either. Maybe Obama does a little better than his estimates in some states and a little worse in others? Or maybe he tends to catch fire after the convention? (arguably, an N of 1 in this instance is not that useful). Or maybe, as Wleizen and Erikson have argued, polls that are closer to the election are better predictors of the outcomes than those that are taken earlier. Either way, it would be interesting to see what the estimates in August 2008 would look like compared to the estimates in August 2012.

[Of course, September and October of 2008 were far from ordinary months, but who’s to say what is going to happen in September and October of 2012…?]