Episode 51: What Happened? — Study Guide for Middle School Pollsters across the ideological spectrum predicted Hillary Clinton would win the 2016 presidential election. They got it wrong. But one man did not: historian Allan Lichtman.

Episode 51: What Happened? — Study Guide for Middle School

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The election of Donald Trump came as a shock to many Americans, but perhaps most of all to those in the business of calling elections. Pollsters on both the left and the right had confidently predicted Hillary Clinton would walk away with the race. They got it wrong. But one man did not: Allan Lichtman.

Donald Trump's win in the 2016 presidential election came as a shock to many journalists and pollsters. John Locher/AP hide caption

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John Locher/AP

Donald Trump's win in the 2016 presidential election came as a shock to many journalists and pollsters.

John Locher/AP

In September 2016, Lichtman, a historian at American University, declared that Trump would win, and he stuck by that call through the tumultuous final weeks of the campaign.

Lichtman's predictions are based on what he calls "keys." These are a series of 13 true-or-false questions designed, in his words, "to gauge the strength and performance of the party holding the White House."

Lichtman says elections are basically a judgment on how well the government has governed. The rest of the election season process he dismisses as practically meaningless. "All the twists and turns of the campaign, the ads, the speeches the campaign tricks, the debates...count for little or nothing on Election Day," he says.

"The media makes money by covering the election as an exciting horse race, who's had a good day and a bad day. The pollsters make money by keeping score in the horse race — who's ahead and who's behind. All of that is misleading or worse."

 

Study Guide Questions

1. In what field does Allan Lichtman study?

2. In Allan Lichtman's method for predicting elections, what are keys?

3. How many keys does his model have?

4. How many of the questions (or keys) have to be "false" for Allan Lictmantman to predict that the party in power will lose?

5. How many keys are about the specific candidates themselves?

6. When did Allan Lichtman call the 2016 election for Donald Trump?

7. Before 2000, when was the last time the Electoral College vote and the popular vote didn't match?

8. Why was his call in 2016 so hard to make and stick to?

TED Ed produced a video about the electoral college that could be helpful!

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