As the U.S. presidential campaigns gear up for their final drive toward election day, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at automobile sales by state to see if the growth rate within swing states might give an indication of the potential outcome of the presidential race.
The analysis itself is very straightforward — I compared current year-to-date personal automobile sales by state with sales from the same period a year ago and looked at the rate of change. States were sorted into three categories:
- Those that grew more than the national average
- Those that grew at about the same rate (within a percentage point either way)
- Those that grew less than the national average.
At this point, I went to the Real Clear Politics website to get a U.S. electoral map and the latest predictions of likely state electoral voting. To minimize the conjecture, I only focused on the states within the "toss-up" category; all other states were assumed to go in the direction they are leaning. The following states are in the toss-up category: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia. I deviated from the map a little by making a call for Wisconsin based on their home candidate (GOP - Paul Ryan) when push comes to shove.
If one assumes that states with a greater growth rate in automobile sales than the national average is an indicator of a good economy and would be more likely to vote with the current administration, then Colorado, Nevada and North Carolina fall into the Obama camp. States with a lower growth rate in automotive sales than the national average are assumed to be more likely dissatisfied with the current economy and were put into the Romney camp. They include Iowa, Ohio, Michigan and New Hampshire. At this point, the electoral tally for Team Obama including the states with higher automobile sales growth came to 251. The tally for Team Romney with the states showing lower automobile sales growth came to 235.
This leaves the race to the all important states that have about the same rate of auto sales growth as the national average: Florida (29 electoral votes), Missouri (10) and Virginia (13). For President Obama to win, he needs to win Florida or both Virginia and Missouri. For Mr. Romney to win, he must win Florida plus one other state. A close race is still anyone's game according to this calculation.
A surprisingly plausible scenario! Perhaps there is a relationship between automobile sales as an indicator of U.S. presidential politics. We'll have to wait and see.
We are about to be bombarded with messages about presidential politics, so it won't be a problem to track how the outcome of the campaigns track with this predicted scenario. Automobile sales growth may be added to the list of tracking indicators of who will occupy the White House next.
Posted by Mark Pauze, Sr. Solutions Consultant, Polk (08.29.2012)