Bayesian Combination of State Polls and Election Forecasts

Lock, Kari; Gelman, Andrew E.

A wide range of potentially useful data are available for election forecasting: the results of previous elections, a multitude of pre-election polls, and predictors such as measures of national and statewide economic performance. How accurate are different forecasts? We estimate predictive uncertainty via analysis of data collected from past elections (actual outcomes, pre-election polls, and model estimates). With these estimated uncertainties, we use Bayesian inference to integrate the various sources of data to form posterior distributions for the state and national two-party Democratic vote shares for the 2008 election. Our key idea is to separately forecast the national popular vote shares and the relative positions of the states. More generally, such an approach could be applied to study changes in public opinion and other phenomena with wide national swings and fairly stable spatial distributions relative to the national average.


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March 12, 2010


Political Analysis, vol. 18, no. 3 (Summer 2010), pp. 337-348.