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They did the math


February 19. 2013 3:15PM
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WILKES-BARRE – Using a simple yet highly accurate statistical system, two King's College professors offered their prediction on the outcome of Tuesday's presidential election: It's too close to call.


It's not us, it's the math, Mathematics Chair Daniel Ghezzi told a crowd of students and faculty Thursday. Ghezzi and dean of faculty Joe Evan explained their methodology in making state-by-state predictions that allow them to tally electoral votes and determine the expected winner.


They start with recent polls of likely voters culled from realclearpolitics.com, applying two systems: A mega poll and binomial analysis. If the first is inconclusive, they use the second.


Combining polls into one mega poll increases accuracy because the larger the polling sample, the smaller the margin of error, Ghezzi said. If one candidate ends up winning the mega poll with enough points to exceed the margin of error, he is the predicted winner in that state.


If neither candidate clears the margin of error hurdle, the binomial method is used: If a candidate won enough of recent polls, that candidate is predicted the winner, regardless of how close the polls were.


It's like tossing a coin, Ghezzi said. If it comes up heads only half the time, you believe it's a balanced coin. If it comes up heads eight or nine times in a row, you start to suspect it is unbalanced to favor heads.


These methods allowed the pair to predict the last two presidential elections with highly accurate results.


Crunching the math Thursday night, the two decided President Barack Obama has 201 electoral votes locked up and Governor Mitt Romney has 191 secured.


Eleven states are toss ups: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.


Ghezzi went down the list, showing polling results and pie charts, dubbing one after another as too close to call.


Don't start throwing tomatoes, he quipped.


In the end, the system predicted Obama will take Ohio and Wisconsin while Romney will get North Carolina. Evan said new polls that came out Thursday would add Nevada to Obama's side and possibly Iowa, all of which would make the Electoral College count 241 to 206, with 270 needed to win.


What's the point? Ghezzi asked. Polls work. Polls that are well conducted give good information. If you have enough good information, you can make a good prediction.


The two will re-crunch numbers Monday for one last prediction with the latest poll data. In the meantime, Ghezzi offered a forecast on the popular voted: Romney will get 49 percent to 51 percent of votes nationwide; Obama will net 48 percent to 50 percent.




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