Researchers use polls to accurately predict winner of elections - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Researchers use polls to accurately predict winner of elections

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When Dr. Wes Colley looks at president Obama and presidential-hopeful Mitt Romney, he sees numbers. When Dr. Wes Colley looks at president Obama and presidential-hopeful Mitt Romney, he sees numbers.
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -

Thursday night's vice presidential debate could have an impact on voters, especially in swing states.

The latest polls show the gap is closing between president Obama and Mitt Romney, after last week's presidential debate.

Researchers at UAH have found these polls to be pretty accurate.

This is the third election for which they are using poll data and a special math formula to predict who will win each state and the overall election.

With the exception of a few electoral votes, they haven't gotten it wrong yet.

When Dr. Wes Colley, a senior research scientist at UA-Huntsville, looks at president Obama and presidential-hopeful Mitt Romney, he sees numbers. That's because he spends a good part of each day using numbers to calculate who's going to win the race.

He downloads the poll data for every state over the past month, and then determines the median value.

"I report the median as the results. If Romney is ahead in the median poll, Romney gets the state," said Colley.

So far his self-proclaimed "simple" method has worked.

In 2004, he was wrong only about Hawaii, and in 2008 he missed the mark on North Dakota.

"We went into this thinking we would prove some polls were not accurate, but guess what? They are accurate. Unless there is something unusual this year, if something has changed since 2008 or 2004, we tend to say trust the polls," he said.

So with Election Day just three weeks away, what are the polls predicting now?

Colley said if you asked him two weeks ago, he would have told you Romney didn't stand a chance, but after last week's presidential debate, that's no longer the case.

"Romney has won two of the last three polls in Ohio. He has won four of the last five in Colorado," said Colley. "Probably the story that's interesting to me today is that suddenly Colorado may be a swing state, whereas a couple of weeks ago it looked like no hope."

Despite Romney's gains, Colley is still leaning heavily toward president Obama clinching re-election.

This week, his method places the President with 348 electoral votes, and his opponent with just 190.

"If Romney can move the needle just three percent, this thing could swing pretty quickly," he said.

That's if Romney holds on to his upward trend. Otherwise, he said President Obama's got it in the bag.

Colley's predictions primarily focus on swing states.

For states like Alabama, where no polls have been taken, he chooses the winner based on which party won in the last election.

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