Destination 270

SMU Students Analyze the 2012 Presidential Election

Superstition Ain’t the Way

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Anyone who’s ever put a little extra length in their stride to avoid stepping on a crack in the sidewalk or thrown salt over their shoulder after spilling some on the table understands the seriousness of superstitions. Those of us who are superstitious regard our beliefs as totally legitimate, and arguing the matter is pointless. Some superstitions, however, beg to be challenged. Take superstitions about the presidential election, for instance. I would term these as correlation-based superstitions and, while they are certainly fun to pay attention to, they don’t necessarily hold water.

Here is a list of a few election-related superstitions and coincidental trends, a bit of history behind them, and whether they were accurate predictors of the outcome of this year’s presidential election:

1) The infamous “Redskin Rule”

  • If the Redskins win their last home game before election day, the incumbent party wins the election. If the Redskins lose, the challenger wins.
  • The rule has held true in 17 of the 18 elections since 1940. The exception was in 2004 when the Redskins lost the home game before the election, but George W. Bush (the incumbent) still won the election.
  • After that break in the trend, the rule was revised to state that, if the Redskins win, the party that won the last popular vote would win the election.
  • 2012 Trend Result: FALSE – The Redskins lost to the Carolina Panthers 21-13 on Sunday, falsely predicting a Romney win.


2) A Republican has won every November 6 election since 1860

  • This one needs little explanation.
  • 2012 Trend Result: FALSE – The century-and-a-half-old streak came to an end this year with Mitt Romney’s defeat on the 6th.


3) LSU vs. Alabama Conference Game

  • If the LSU Tigers beat the Alabama Crimson Tide in their football game, the Republican candidate wins the election and vice versa.
  • This trend has held true in every election since 1984.
  • 2012 Trend Result: TRUE – Alabama scored a last-minute touchdown to win Saturday’s game 21-17, correctly predicting a win for the Democratic Party.


4) The best-looking candidate always wins

  • Where beauty is in the eye of the beholder, election results are not.
  • 2012 Trend Result: You decide!


5) The World Series Theory

  • The theory states that if the National League team wins the World Series, the Democratic Party candidate will win the election. Likewise, the Republican Party candidate will win in the case an American League victory.
  • The MLB reports that about 59% of the time, an American League win is followed by a Republican win and 67% of the time the National League wins, the Democrat wins.
  • The theory has held true for the past three elections.
  • 2012 Trend Result: TRUE – The San Francisco Giants (NL) destroyed the Detroit Tigers (AL) in this year’s World Series, accurately predicting an Obama win.


6) The Lakers Predictor

  • If the Los Angeles Lakers make it to the NBA Championship game, the Republican candidate will be elected.
  • 8 of the past nine times the Lakers have made it to the Championship during an election year, the Republican candidate has won. The one exception was in 2004 when the Lakers went to (and lost) the Championship, and John McCain lost the election.
  • 2012 Trend Result: OUT OF PLAY – This year’s NBA Championship was between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat. However, if you look at the rule in the opposite way from which it is presented, the Lakers’ absence from the Championship may be taken as a predictor for an Obama win in which case it is TRUE.


This year the superstitions were confusing at best. While some common predictors came through for their believers, others failed and left many disappointed. It’s a great year to be a Democrat and a Giants fan, but hopefully the results of some of these other “predictors” have taught us to be careful what we put our faith in. Despite how fun and addicting subscribing to these superstitions can be, remember that correlation does not equal causation, and the only way to have a say in the outcome of any election is to go out and cast your vote!


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