Professor Ray Fair Discusses the Economy's Impact on the Vote
Ray Fair, the John M. Musser Professor of Economics, shared his 2012 presidential vote predictions with a Yale SOM audience on October 3, the day of the first debate between President Barack Obama and his opponent, Governor Mitt Romney.
Fair spoke as part of Convening Yale, a monthly series of seminars that brings scholars from across the University to share their research with the SOM community. For decades, Fair has studied the economy's impact in determining presidential elections, using economic and other variables to predict the incumbent's share of the two-party vote. Fair's findings have received frequent attention in the media.
During his talk, Fair displayed the data he has used to analyze vote share in every presidential election from 1916 to 2008. He briefly explained his methodology and the economic variables he uses, which include per-capita GDP in the first three-quarters of an election year; the average inflation rate over the first 15 quarters of the incumbent's term in office; and the number of strong growth quarters during the incumbent's term. The use of these variables leads to a standard error of about 2.5 percentage points of the vote share.
As for 2012, Fair said that a weak recovery is leading his model to predict a very tight presidential race. For the past year, it has suggested that President Obama will receive roughly a 50% voter share.
Fair answered questions from students about how he selects the economic variables in his model and its track record. He encouraged students to tinker with his equation. "Over the years people have tried many variables," he said. "I could be missing something. Maybe researchers can find some clever thing to add that will make this even more reliable."
Yale SOM students, faculty, and administrators were among the audience members at Fair's talk. Min Feng '13 said that he came to gain some perspective on the presidential race. His classmate Nate Hundt '13 did the same. "With the debate tonight, it's a great way to get your mind on the issues," Hundt said.
Upcoming speakers in the Convening Yale series include Yale School of Architecture Dean Robert Stern, journalists Chuck Todd and Margaret Warner, Egyptologist John Darnell, Yale Law School Dean Robert Post, and Phyllis Granoff, the Lex Hixon Professor of World Religions.