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Predicting Presidential Elections and Other Things

This course is no longer being offered.

Course Description

Presidential elections, marathon times, wine quality, extramarital affairs, interest rates. What all of these topics have in common is that they can all be explained and analyzed using the tools of Econometrics and Statistics. Did you ever wonder how Nate Silver reaches his election predictions? Did you watch Moneyball and wonder how it was possible for an economist to take the Oakland Athletics to a 20 game winning streak?

These are some of the topics we will be discussing in this course. Essentially, this class is an introduction to quantitative research in the social sciences. We will generally start by proposing a theory, followed by gathering data, and then using this data to test our theory. We will then address potential pitfalls and critically evaluate our results. Finally, we will discuss implications of and predictions from our results. In other words, we will be moving from a general idea of how something works to a specific prediction of what it will be like in the future.

Given the nature of this subject, this class is somewhat mathematically involved, and the introduction to some basic statistical techniques is inevitable; however, this will be kept to a minimum and the main focus will be on its applications.

By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • Conduct some basic data analyses
  • Judge the conclusions and predictions drawn from the analysis of data and recognize potential pitfalls
  • Critically evaluate the quality of data analyses


This class does not require any formal prerequisites. However, some affinity with mathematics will be helpful and/or expected.