Will Bush win? Ask Polly

If the presidential race has you in its thrall, you can keep tabs on who’s winning by tracking and comparing the national polls by Gallup, Fox, the Associated Press and others. Or, you can go to politicalforecasting.com, whose creators—including Wharton marketing professor J. Scott Armstrong—have done the job for you.

The web site, whose mascot is a colorful parrot called Polly, features the “Pollyvote”—an average of the results of several election polls and forecasting models. Currently, Polly predicts that George W. Bush will be re-elected by a slender margin.

What makes Polly’s forecasts worth paying attention to, says Alfred Cuzán, a political science professor at the University of West Florida and one of Armstrong’s collaborators, is that they’re based on not one but three different variables: national polls, econometric forecasts and the Iowa Electronic Market. “You can minimize error by forecasting across polls,” says Cuzán, who says that soon a fourth element—forecasts by an expert panel including former White House chief of staff Leon Panetta—will be added.

The “Polly Sez” section of the site offers comic relief with definitions of favorite “Pollyisms,” such as “Monopolly” (one candidate dominating the field), “Pollyamorous” (being in love with more than one candidate) and “Pollygon,” meaning, appropriately, “The end of the election. Polly has left the building.”

Originally published on July 8, 2004