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Engineering Professor Predicts Presidential Race

Oct. 30, 2012 | Updated Nov. 7, 2012

Nov. 7, 2012 Update: Cal State Fullerton’s Chandrasekhar Putcha accurately predicted that President Obama would win re-election to the White House.

He did it using math.

“I developed a correct mathematical model for presidential elections after making correct assumptions, which resulted in correct predictions,” Putcha said today, following the close race for president.

Putcha is two-for-two when it comes to predicting the outcome of the presidential race. In 2008, he used a similar mathematical model based on probability to correctly predict that Obama would be elected the nation's 44th president.

When news reports broke on election night about Obama’s second-term victory, the civil and environmental engineering professor couldn’t help but be excited: “It was a lot of fun to see my prediction come true after using the principles of probability and statistics. I’m happy with my results.”

During the two weeks before the election, he had spent time working on the arduous calculations on weekends and between teaching his engineering classes. His math model was based on state-by-state polling data, in which he predicted that Obama would garner 51.81 percent of the popular vote. Election tallies so far today show the president earning 50.1 percent of the popular vote.

Putcha’s pre-election forecast predicted Obama would win 286 electoral votes, yet when the final votes are tallied, Obama is now projected to garner more than 300 electoral votes.

He plans to write a research paper about his 2012 presidential forecast and present it at an appropriate political science conference next year.

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As originally posted Oct. 30, 2012: If Cal State Fullerton’s Chandrasekhar Putcha’s mathematical forecasting calculations are correct, President Obama will be re-elected next Tuesday with about 51.81 percent of the popular vote.

Republican contender Mitt Romney will get about 48.19 percent of the popular vote, predicts Putcha, professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Putcha’s 2012 presidential election forecasting model is based on his mathematical analysis of poll results. He used state poll data, including Rasmussen Reports, YouGov, Rocky Mountain Poll and Public Policy Polling for his analysis. “Using these polls, probabilities for winning for each candidate are calculated state by state,” he said.

The mathematical model also predicts that Obama will get re-elected by receiving 286 electoral votes compared to Romney receiving 252 electoral votes — with 270 electoral votes needed to win, Putcha noted.

So why would an engineer whose teaching and research focus on building bridges and other structures tackle trying to make a presidential election prediction?

“Because my research areas of interest are reliability, risk analysis and optimization, which are interdisciplinary in nature. In other words, these principles can be applied to any discipline — engineering and non-engineering as well,” said Putcha, whose work has resulted in more than 135 research papers in this area.

In the past, he has applied these principles to other disciplines, including political science, sociology, medicine and kinesiology. The 31-year CSUF faculty member also has authored two books focusing on reliability, risk analysis and optimization — one in political science and another in sociology — and is currently working on a book in his own area of expertise, civil engineering.

Putcha, Cal State Fullerton’s 2006-07 Outstanding Professor, the highest campus honor awarded to faculty members, conducted a similar mathematical analysis for the 2008 presidential election, predicting Obama as the winner. This election year, the Yorba Linda resident is again confident of his prediction.

“The mathematical analysis shows that the probability of winning for Obama is 86.6 percent, which is a high value. Hence, I am quite confident that President Obama will get re-elected.”

By: Debra Cano Ramos, 657-278-4027

Tags:  Academics & Research