Customers shopping for masks this Halloween may think they are simply deciding what to wear to celebrate in spooky style. Little do they know, they might also be selecting the next President of the United States.
Spirit Halloween — a pop up Halloween store with 966 locations nationwide, including one in Iowa City — says the number of masks sold in the likeness of the presidential candidates will predict the outcome of the election.
They have the stats to prove it.
In every election since 1996, Spirit Halloween has tracked the sales of its presidential candidate masks.
Every four years for the past four elections, the candidate that has sold the most masks has gone on to win.
That means, more Mitt Romney mask sold will equal a win for the Republican candidate. Similarly, more Obama masks sold will tip the scales in favor of another four years in the White House for the President.
As of mid-October, President Obama had a comfortable 65 percent to 35 percent lead over Mitt Romney nationally. In Iowa, Crystal Baxter, the manager of marketing and licensing for Spirit Halloween, says Romney was outselling Obama 71 percent to 29 percent.
Jacob Cowger, owner of Balloons, Etc. & The Costume Emporium in downtown Cedar Rapids, says he is having trouble keeping either mask in stock.
“Right now, I have Batman and The Incredible Hulk and all of the Avengers, I thought those would have been the first things out the door, but here lately it has been presidential,” Cowger says. “I am actually kind of shocked we have had to reorder several times.”
At the Iowa City Spirit Halloween store, an employee said by mid-October they had not sold many of either mask. They had been shipped more Obama masks than Romney, though, in anticipating of the last-minute costume rush.
Spirit’s sales numbers don’t do anything to indicate why the masks are purchased, though. That fact is important, says Kevin Leicht, the chair of the University of Iowa’s department of Sociology.
“I find it interesting the winner has the higher volume of mask sales because you think about Halloween, we are generally trying to portray something scary that we don’t like,” said Kevin Leicht, the chair of the University of Iowa’s department of Sociology. “So you would think the candidate that was most disfavored would have the most mask sales.”
This year, Spirit Halloween has partnered with Rock the Vote, a non-partisan organization focused on promoting the youth vote. Customers scan a QR code on the store’s mask display to access the Spirit Rock the Vote registration site on their smart phones.
Nationwide, nearly 500 people have registered using the widget.
Of course it will be a few weeks until Spirit Halloween discovers whether its index will be five for five. In the meantime, Leicht reminds us to take the index with a grain of salt.
“It is another limited piece of information, he said. “It is an interesting piece of information, but I wouldn’t bet the ranch on it.”