Presidential election victory of Harry Truman...

THE 1948

October 19, 1992

THE 1948 presidential election victory of Harry Truman over the favorite Thomas Dewey is famous for being one no pollster predicted.

But one did, Louis H. Bean.

Bean described how he did it in his 1969 book "The Art of Forecasting":

"From the standpoint of forecasting, this election . . . presented severe tests for both pollsters and analysts. The pollsters discovered that their sampling and polling techniques were not tight enough and that voters change their minds late in the campaign. My analytical approach . . . made use of a number of elements and indications: there would be a more nearly normal turnout than in 1946; business conditions would remain prosperous; the long-time Democratic political tide had touched bottom in 1946, with 1947 polls indicating that it had already turned up; January 1948 Gallup polls in barometric states, which I translated into a national figure, gave the Democrats 53.8 percent in a presidential race. . . .

"And so I wrote [in 1948] 'all indications prior to the Democratic troubles of early 1948 nominating conventions could be taken as pointing to victory for the Democratic candidate in 1948 with a popular vote of 54-55 percent in a two-party contest. . . .

" 'In view of [third and fourth party candidacies by former Democrats] it is surprising that the final outcome gave 52.4 percent to Truman in the two-party vote. In the total vote the potential Democratic share, adding in the Democrats who joined the Progressive and States' Rights parties, was 54.6 percent.' "

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