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Keywords:

  • heuristics;
  • take-the-best;
  • election forecasting;
  • voting;
  • accuracy;
  • Search query data;
  • prediction markets;
  • econometric models

Abstract

We used the take-the-best heuristic to develop a model to forecast the popular two-party vote shares in U.S. presidential elections. The model draws upon information about how voters expect the candidates to deal with the most important issue facing the country. We used cross-validation to calculate a total of 1000 out-of-sample forecasts, one for each of the last 100 days of the ten U.S. presidential elections from 1972 to 2008. Ninety-seven per cent of forecasts correctly predicted the winner of the popular vote. The model forecasts were competitive compared to forecasts from methods that incorporate substantially more information (e.g., econometric models and the Iowa Electronic Markets). The purpose of the model is to provide fast advice on which issues candidates should stress in their campaign. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.