Predicting and Understanding the 2012 Election


Microsoft Research New England will occasionally host academic lectures of broad interest. We welcome those interested to attend.

Predicting and Understanding the 2012 Election

David Rothschild, Microsoft Research New York City 


For over 75 years forecasting of elections has been static; ask a random sample of representative group of voters who they would vote for if the election were held today and report the poll result. First, I demonstrate that the same samples could be addressed with other questions to produce a more accurate standard forecast (i.e., binary winner and/or expected vote share). Second, I challenge the standard forecast; what most stakeholders really want and need are more innovative forecasts like probability of victory or even probability distributions. Third, I show how both standard and innovative forecasts can be made more efficient with the new methods that utilize more cost effective non-representative samples and, in time, passively generated social media data. Fourth, I show how Microsoft is going to be a leader in this new innovation. Finally, I will tell you who is going to win the election.


David Rothschild is an economist at Microsoft Research in New York City. He has a Ph.D. in applied economics from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. He has written extensively, in both the academic and popular press, on polling, prediction markets, and predictions of upcoming events; most of his popular work has focused on predicting elections and an economist take on public policy. He has academic papers that cover the following interest areas: political economy, behavior economics/public opinion, public economics/public policy, industrial organization, and experimental economics. After joining Microsoft in May he has been busy building prediction and sentiment models, and organizing novel/experimental polling and prediction games.