Mathematical Models Allow Brandt to Predict Political Turmoil

By Joseph Wu, EPPS Freshman

Is it possible to predict political turmoil and trends in terrorism? According to Patrick T. Brandt, an associate professor of political science, the answer is affirmative.

Brandt says international terrorism and other databases on political conflict that contain entries on most known acts of terrorism in the past few decades, have facilitated his research, which enables him to predict the patterns most likely to occur in the future. Similar models make it possible to forecast civil wars and political turmoil, however Brandt points out that the recent slew of revolutions and civil wars in the Middle East could have an impact on the accuracy of the models.

These data also make it possible for him to identify trends. For example, Brandt has found that civilians are becoming more common targets of terrorist attacks as increased security measures make government officials and other important people more difficult to target. However, Brandt adds that the chances of a single person being unlucky enough to actually be caught in the attack are very small.

Brandt's research highlights the importance of mathematics in political science. Huge amounts of data plugged into the right mathematical models can give accurate results. For example, opinion polls conducted by professional pollsters accurately predicted Obama's recent victory, with the only uncertainties being the margin of error, regardless of how long the pundits would continue to debate the outcome.

Brandt points out that political science graduates with strong skills in statistics and calculus are likely to find jobs more easily. Analyzing and understanding patterns, then predicting and modeling them, is always in demand.