It may be one week until Election Day, but students across the country have already cast their ballots in a mock election and predicted a winner in the presidential campaign.
The results of two separate national programs — one the mock election and the other a statistics competition — placed Hillary Clinton ahead of Donald Trump in the race for the White House.
In a first-of-its-kind contest sponsored by the American Statistical Association, more than 450 high school and college students from 19 states and more than 30 schools set out to predict the winner of this most unprecedented presidential campaign.
Ninety-seven percent of the participants predicted that Hillary Clinton would win the presidency, according to the results announced Tuesday.
The prediction breakdown
Taking a look at the median of the predictions, Clinton came out on top with 49.3% of the popular vote versus 43.3% for Donald Trump, and the students predicted she would win 332 votes in the Electoral College compared to 204 for Trump.
Of the battleground states, most students predicted that Clinton would win Nevada, Florida and North Carolina and that Ohio, Iowa and Arizona would go to Trump.
Students also predicted a historic turnout with 132 million voters casting ballots, which would be the largest voter turnout in terms of absolute numbers in United States history, according to the American Statistical Association.
To come up with their predictions, students analyzed national and statewide polls, and weighted them according to various factors, including how recently the polls were conducted. Students also analyzed voting trends in past elections and demographic data.
“I think what the students learned and through their hard work what they communicate to us is that success prediction in an election, and especially as complicated an election as this one, involves really hard work,” said Ron Wasserstein, executive director of the American Statistical Association.
“It involves thinking about a lot of things. It’s not just about polls, but which polls and how many polls and what the timing of the polls (is) and how you consider more recent events versus more distant events and I think the takeaway message is it’s just not that simple.”
Emily Moss, a sophomore at Wellesley College majoring in economics, entered the contest as part of an assignment given by her statistics professor to her and her classmates.
She analyzed close to 800 polls from across all states that were conducted between January 1 and October 28 of this year, and weighted those numbers with voter turnout data from the 2012 presidential election. She also factored in at what rate each candidate tended to gain or lose voters as Election Day approached.
In her overall results, Clinton won with 48% of the vote versus 38.3% for Trump and 13.7% for a third party candidate.
Moss, who is co-president of Wellesley Students for Hillary, said she tackled the assignment solely on the basis of statistics and not according to her personal hopes.
“This is kind of interesting for me to totally put all of my political opinions and the more social aspects of this election aside and really just look at the numbers, the hard numbers,” she said. “Obviously for me, I was very pleased with the outcome.”
Student mock election has perfect record
In a separate program, Channel One News, which is seen in elementary, middle and high schools across the United States, conducted a mock election between October 17-21. Nearly 300,000 students in more than 7,000 schools from all 50 states participated. This is Channel One’s sixth mock election since 1992.
After the votes were counted, Clinton won with 47% of the popular vote, above Trump with 41%. In all five of the previous elections, the winner of the student mock election won on Election Day.
“This is a way to get young people who don’t have a voice in the election, don’t have an official voice on the ballot, a way to get them engaged,” said Angela Hunter, senior vice president and executive producer at Channel One News.
Clinton won several swing states in these predictions, including Arizona, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. She also carried a few traditionally red states such as Missouri and Texas. Trump won in Georgia, Iowa, Michigan and Ohio.
After such a contentious election, Hunter said some schools were initially reluctant to conduct lessons about the campaign and hold a mock election.
“They were really sensitive to some of the rhetoric that was out there, especially in light of all the anti-bullying rules and policies in schools so they were very concerned,” said Hunter, adding that some schools told her it was actually the students that really pushed to hold the mock election this time because their students really wanted to be involved.
“They really wanted their voices heard and they wanted the country to know the issues that are important to them,” she said.
When students were asked what issue was most important to them in the Channel One mock election, 19% said terrorism, followed by 12% for education and 11% for gun control.
After the election, Channel One News plans to review exit poll results on the issues that were important to the general public to see how those issues compare with the issues the students cared most about.
“They have to live with the decision that is being made now,” said Hunter. “Many of them are in high school and they are going to be adults under this presidency so this is really important … I think that’s why they really wanted to have their voices heard here.”