On June 16, 2015, Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination. His overwhelming win in Indiana on May 3, 2016, makes him the presumptive nominee.
So far as I know, as of May 3, 2016, not a single political scientist has stepped forward to claim that he or she correctly forecast that Trump could, or would, win the Republican nomination.
Indeed, the opposite is true. One after another wrote articles, blogged, tweeted, and presented slide shows incorporating rigorous statistical analyses based on past voting behavior, “proving” that Trump would fall out of the race. As his poll numbers rose, the predictions that he would lose grew in number and volume.
How did so many get it so wrong? (Although the economics profession largely missed the financial crisis of 2008 and the Great Recession, at least a handful got it right.) Political scientists are not likely to issue a mea culpa and tell you why.
Your friendly proprietor will give it a shot. Here are some reasons.
Ideology. About 80 percent or more of the profession favor “liberal” Democrats. They are hostile to Republicans in general and appalled that a “bombastic” businessman such as Trump could win his party’s nomination and, horror of horrors, the presidency.
The profession is resistant to change. Moreover, the industry is its own consumer. Most political scientists write for other political scientists. Only a small fraction writes in the popular media. It’s hard to take a position way outside the normal range of professional consensus on a subject and get promoted, attract offers from other universities, and enjoy cordial relations with colleagues. Those who present an extreme view are often ridiculed, called names and excluded from rewards and honors.
Poll analysts missed the lesson of the “Shy Tory Voter,” who told pollsters they would vote for Britain’s Labour Party, but then voted Conservative, giving David Cameron a big win. This phenomenon crossed the Atlantic Ocean and was duplicated by the shy Trump voter.
The only thing worse in political science, and in the academy more generally, than having predicted that Trump would win, is openly stating that Trump is one’s first choice (the subject of the next post)!