Peter Johnson Jr.

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  • Fox News Misses Important Context On Economic-Based Election Predictions To Claim GOP Victory

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH

    Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. left out important context during a discussion of economic models that predict a GOP victory in the presidential election. Johnson seemed to be drawing his information from The Hill, which had reported on the models the day before, but he failed to mention the paper's point that the models "are being challenged like never before by the presence" of Republican front-runner Donald Trump.

    On the April 5 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Johnson discussed a story first reported by The Hill, which detailed how three economic models -- from Yale University economist Ray Fair, Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz, and Moody's Analytics -- can be used to predict election outcomes. Johnson, who did not credit The Hill for the story, said that "whether it's Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump ... or any of the other candidates that are now running, the Republicans win according to these models":

    AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): The numbers don't lie. A Republican in the White House, no matter the nominee, is a mathematical certainty--that's what two highly respected economic models are saying this morning. These models have picked the winner in nearly every presidential contest for decades, but what makes them so sure this time? Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. joins us now to weigh in on this.

    PETER JOHNSON JR.: Good morning. This is really fascinating. They're saying whether it's Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, whether it's any of the candidates that are now running, the Republicans win. So let's look at the models and why they're saying it, because you'll find it interesting. So, the first model is the Ray Fair election model. It says the GOP wins. The Alan Abramowitz election model -- he's from Emory University -- says the GOP wins. And then Moody's has a model; they say the Democrats win. Let's look at what they're saying here. The Fair election model, created by Yale professor Ray Fair, it's correctly forecast all but three presidential elections since 1916. And so, let's talk about the factors with regard to that. In his model, the per capita growth rate before the election of the GDP, inflation over the entire presidential term, and the number of quarters the per capita GDP grows. So it's all, Ainsley, economically based. Not based on individual personalities, not based on current poll numbers at all.

    EARHARDT: What about some of the other models? What are the factors?

    JOHNSON: There's another model, Professor Abramowitz's election model, he's an Emory professor. He's predicted every presidential election, since it launched in 1992, accurately. And his factors include an incumbent president's job approval rating, the economy's growth during the first half of the year, how long the incumbent party has been in the White House. And based on those factors, he says he's able to predict that the Republicans will win. Now, there's a lot of volatility obviously in this race. We have two of the highest negative presidential campaigns that we might see as nominees in the end, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. They both carry a lot of negatives. So what effect will that have on the economics?

    EARHARDT: And they don't predict which Republican candidate will win; they just say a Republican.

    JOHNSON: It's based on income. It's based on economic growth. It's based on voters being affected by the statistics in a visceral way. In a real way. The final look at it is Moody's. Moody's says they're going to judge it by electoral college votes, income growth by state, home gasoline prices by state, and presidential approval numbers currently. Their particular model says that the Democrat wins. So most of these models are pointing to the Republicans, but Moody's say it's a Democrat. So by the numbers, the Republicans win, according to these models.

    But The Hill notes that this year's unusual campaign is casting uncertainty on the economic models, saying that Trump's presence has "shaken up politics," and that his fights with his opponents "have electrified his supporters but have turned off other voters."

    Supporting that point, Ray Fair told The Hill, "If there's any time in which personalities would trump the economy it would be this election." The New York Times also recently reported on his prediction, noting that Fair "says his model may well be wrong about this election. 'Each election has weird things in it, yet the model usually works pretty well,' he said. 'This year, though, I don't know. This year really could be different.'"

    Regarding the Abramowitz model, The Hill pointed out that "the Democratic candidate can expect to receive 48.7 percent of the vote -- with Obama's approval rating at 50 percent," but it also mentioned that since Abramowitz's last prediction, President Obama's approval rating has gone up to 52 percent. The article even cited a recent quote from Abramowitz in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where he noted that the president's rising approval rating may be "significant for the general election."

    The Hill also quoted economist Dan White from Moody's, who explained that "there's a lot more uncertainty" in this election "that could upset the balance and the historical relationship of how marginal voters vote." The Moody's model predicts that "the Democratic nominee would take 332 electoral votes compared to 206 for the Republican nominee," The Hill explained -- the same Electoral College outcome witnessed in 2012. White told the paper that a factor in the prediction was the president's increased approval rating, which he said may have been boosted by "the unruly GOP."