Brandeis Alumni, Family and Friends

This Historian Has a Fool-Proof System for Predicting the Next President

October 7, 2020

Historian Allan Lichtman ’67 has devised a system that has enabled him to predict the winner of every U.S. presidential election going back to 1984.

His prediction for the 2020 election? Look forward to President Joe Biden in 2021.

“Donald Trump will become the first sitting president since Bill Clinton beat George H.W. Bush in 1992 to lose in a reelection bid,” Lichtman, distinguished professor of history at American University, told a virtual Brandeis audience on Sept. 22.

More than 800 alumni and friends who tuned in to the virtual event heard Lichtman describe the method he calls the “13 Keys to the White House,” which he has used to correctly call each presidential election for the past four decades. 

Lichtman said the Keys to the White House work in “geophysical earthquake terms.” When there is “stability, the party holding the White House keeps the White House,” and when there is an “earthquake, the party holding the White House loses.” 

Each key represents a category on which the candidates are assessed, and when six or more keys go against an incumbent candidate, the rival is favored to win.

How the system was created is a story in itself. In a chance encounter at the California Institute of Technology in 1981, Lichtman met Vladimir Keilis-Borok, the world's leading authority in earthquake prediction and head of the Institute of Pattern Recognition and Earthquake Prediction in Moscow. 

The two came up with a revolutionary idea to try predicting political outcomes with earthquake prediction theories. The system has correctly called the past nine presidential elections.

The keys themselves range from an assessment of the country’s overall economic welfare and policy changes, to social perception of the current president and the country itself. Lichtman said he strives to keep his own political views out of the process, and defers to the theoretical method of the keys

In the wake of economic and social upheaval, the keys have turned against Donald Trump’s bid for reelection, Lichtman said.

“As of late 2019, less than a year to go before the election, President Donald Trump was down only four keys,” he said. “That's two key short of predicting his defeat. But then, as we know, everything changed in America in 2020...We were hit with the worst pandemic in 100 years, by far, one that's still going on,” as well as continued “cries for social and racial justice.”

Citing a famous quote by Herbert Hoover, he said, “‘As President, you get credit for the sunshine, and blame for the rain.’ Well, it's raining really hard in America.”

Lichtman closed his remarks by recalling the words attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “The best way to predict your future is to choose.” He continued: “And how do you choose this year? Overcome all the barriers, all the rhetoric, all the bombast, and vote. That’s your future.” 

Brandeis Trustee Monique Nelson chaired the event hosted by the Brandeis Alumni Association. A recording is available online. For more information on Lichtman and the 13 Keys to the White House, you can purchase his book, or watch a recent video from the New York Times.

—Lauren Medeiros 

Predicting the Next President with Allan Lichtman 67” is just one of more than 40 event recordings you can watch through the Brandeis Alumni Association’s On-Demand Events Library