Predicting the Presidential Election with Baseball

Can the Winner of the World Series Predict the Presidential Election?

George W Bush, Forty-Third President of the United States
George W Bush, Forty-Third President of the United States. Courtesy: National Park Service

Can the winner of the World Series predict who will become President of the United States? If the American League wins, will that mean a win for the Republican candidate? If the National League wins, does that mean a Democratic president for the next four years?

A 24-Year Hot Streak

Up until the 1980 presidential election, it appeared that the World Series was an accurate predictor of the presidential race.

From 1952 to 1976, whenever the American League won the World Series, the President to win in that year's election was a Republican. If the National League won, then the election went to the Democrat. However, the Series' hot streak ended with the 1980 election. That year, the Philadelphia Phillies, a National League team, won the Series and Ronald Reagan, a Republican, won the White House. Since then, the World Series has accurately predicted the presidential race 5 out of 9 times, giving is a batting average of 0.555 (or round it up to 0.556, if you must). That's a very good average for baseball but otherwise is not much better than flipping a coin.

Seven-Game Sage

The Series is a better predictor of presidents when it goes to seven games. In all of the following election years, the Series got it right. If an American League (AL) team won, so did the Republicans; if a National League (NL) team won, the next president was a Democrat.

And the winners were...

  • 1924: Washington Senators (AL) and Calvin Coolidge (R)
  • 1940: Cincinnati Reds (NL) and Franklin D. Roosevelt (D)
  • 1952 and 1956: New York Yankees (AL) and Dwight Eisenhower (R)
  • 1960: Pittsburgh Pirates (NL) and John F. Kennedy (D)
  • 1964: St. Louis Cardinals (NL) and Lyndon Johnson (D)
  • 1968 and 1972: Detroit Tigers (AL) and Richard Nixon (R)

Another (Brief) Streak

The Series got hot again in 2000 and accurately predicted the next four presidents, starting with George W. Bush. Actually, it was only two presidents--Bush and Obama, both of whom won reelection--but you can't fault the Series for that. In 2016, it was almost too close to call. The Cubs (National League) won, but so did Trump (Republican). Maybe the Series was banking on the popular vote, which was won by Democrat Hilary Clinton. Darn that electoral college!

Other Sure Things?

Many Americans swear by patterns and coincidences to help them predict presidential elections. Other examples of 'predictors' from past and present years include the following:

  • If the Washington Redskins win the week of the election, this means a win for the incumbent party. This has held true since 1936.
  • Whichever candidate's likeness is on the halloween mask that sells the most will be the next president. 
  • When companies produce 'competing' products, the one that sells the most is supposed to predict the winner. For example, if a company has cups with images of the Republican and Democratic candidates, the one that outsells the other would be a predictor.
  • If the Dow Jones Average goes up between August and October, this predicts a win for the incumbent.
  • If the Los Angeles Lakers win the the championship, then the Republican candidate will win.

Obviously some of these predictors have a greater basis in reality than others. While most people would say that the Lakers or the Redskins winning is more chance than anything else, the state of the economy does have a huge impact on the presidential election.

After all of these predictors, are we any closer to knowing who will win the next presidential election? The answer, of course, is no. However, one thing is fairly certain: to cover their bets, it is more than likely that the Republican candidate will be rooting for the American League team and the Democratic candidate will be cheering on the National League team when the first pitch is thrown in the 2020 World Series.