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Professor Who Correctly Predicted Presidential Elections Since 1984, Says Biden Will Win

Professor Allan Lichtman uses 13 Keys to determine his prediction.

Image from D. Myles Cullen / Official White House Photos
Credit: D. Myles Cullen / Official White House Photos

American University Professor Allan Lichtman uses his system of 13 Keys to predict who will win each election. For 2020, it is a close call: seven keys favour Biden, while 6 favour Trump.

The 13 Keys System was developed in 1981: the result of collaboration between Lichtman and Russian seismologist Vladimir Keilis-Borok. They combined electoral statistics from 1860 to 1980 with the techniques Keilis-Borok used to predict earthquakes. The result was 13 statements: if 7 or more of the statements regarding a presidency are ‘false’, there is a “political Earthquake”, and the party in power loses.

Several of the keys are working in Trump’s favour as the sitting president. There is no third party challenger (despite Kanye West’s claims), and no Republicans have challenged Trump for his re-nomination. Biden is deemed an uncharismatic challenger by Lichtman, which also works out in Trump’s favour. Trump faced no major foreign or military failure. His big tax cut and other executive orders indicate major policy changes since the Obama era, giving Trump another key.

Despite all these things, Lichtman predicts Biden will win. Though Trump faced no failure abroad, he also brought no major successes. Recent circumstances have not worked in Trump’s favour either: social unrest in the form of the BLM movement and protests to abolish the police have caused enough violence to threaten social order, while the economy short-term has been pushed into recession due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Long-term economic growth was also not prominent in Trump’s term, giving another point to Biden.

Image from Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Lichtman describes Trump as a “great showman”, but one that only appeals to a limited number of Americans, deeming him uncharismatic. Scandal, which Lichtman described as his “favourite key”, also works against Trump.

None of the keys take into account the campaigning period, focusing instead on the larger picture. Lichtman tells the New York Times that historically speaking, “voters are not fooled by the tricks of the campaign”. Lichtman likened polls to “snapshots in time”, saying that ultimately, they have “[no] impact whatsoever on the outcome of a presidential election”.

The 13 Keys System has been accurate every time, with the exception of 2000, where Lichtman predicted Al Gore would win. Though he won the popular vote, he lost the presidency to Bush. Lichtman stands by the validity of his prediction.

Lichtman told CNN that regardless of something as unpredictable as the pandemic, he trusts the keys because “they’ve lasted through enormous changes in our politics, in our economy, in our democracy.”

Predictions aside, Lichtman urges everyone who is able to exercise their right to vote. He quotes Lincoln, saying “the best way to predict the future is to choose it”. Find out more about voting in the US presidential election here.

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