Elliott Averett ’15, political science major and campus politics watcher took to his blog, sagebrushscot.blogspot.com, to put his academic and campus knowledge to the test and make some predictions for the upcoming MCSG presidential election. Too see full predictions, visit his blog.
TMW: You have created a set of predictions for the coming MCSG Presidential election why did you do this?
EA: Because I am a political science major for one, and I’ve been in a lot of classes talking about who votes, including cyber politics with Adrienne Christiansen. So I thought it would be a good opportunity to put some of what I have learned into practice and to see if I can make an accurate prediction. I haven’t figured out if that’s what’s going to happen yet. Hopefully it’ll be accurate.
If you could briefly review what methodology you used–
Right. So I used a lot of different factors, but the factors that I looked at are designed to measure three things. One is a person’s social connections on campus, the second is the effort that they’re making in persuading people to vote for them, and then third is their get out the vote efforts. So each candidate has sort of, I think, inherent qualities that they start with as a candidate. And then where they go from there, I think, is going to depend largely on their campaigns. They all start with a baseline, but then other things can adjust that.
On your prediction page, it’s clear you know a lot of information about each candidate. How did you go about finding that? Was it all your observation, or did you talk to any of the candidates?
For the first round of predictions it was compiled based off of my knowledge of campus politics, which I follow very closely. But a lot of it came from social media data, which is probably in the place of any sort of polling data or, say, campaign finance records. That’s probably the best measure of those things. And yeah, my personal knowledge of the people involved and their connections. For the second round of predictions, which will hopefully come out Thursday or Friday, I’ve been getting information from the candidates or their campaign managers who have been saying “well, I’m involved in this and this so you should factor in this.” So I will have more information to factor in from the candidates themselves, hopefully before the election. So I’ll make a second round of predictions and make them even more accurate.
Is your second round of predictions still going to have Rick Beckel winning? Do you know yet?
You know, I think that’s going to depend. Based off of what I’ve heard I think that he’s still definitely a front-runner. I would probably — and I haven’t gone through and looked at everything, I haven’t written my second round of predictions yet — but I would definitely pick Rick and Rothin as the top two right now going into Saturday. And, depending on what happens on Friday and Saturday, things may change. But that’s who I would put as the top two right now.
Were you at the debates last night?
I was not, no. In my experience, the debates — I went to them last year —I guess my experience with the debates, and maybe this was different last night in which case I made a mistake in not going, but my experience is that they’re typically attended exclusively by partisans, or the MCSG equivalent of partisans. So, people who are already committed to one candidate or the other. If there’s significant news coverage or social media activity from those I think that can make a difference, but the vast majority of people who attend the MCSG debates I think have already made up their minds by the time they go and are there to sort of cheer on their guy. So, I don’t think that the content of the debates is necessarily that important.
What is your hope in creating these predictions — and I’ve seen it picking up some traction — but what was your goal in posting it and getting it out to the Mac community?
I guess I have two goals. The first is just my personal satisfaction. If I can make an accurate prediction, that tells me I have been learning something and can do so even with the very limited data we have. But secondly, I wish that people would pay more attention to MCSG elections. I think that when people look at the way I’m making predictions, a lot of the measures I’m using are in many ways just measures of popularity. You can argue the extent to whether national elections are also popularity contests, but I wish that MCSG campaigns had more substance and reflected real campaigns and were more reflective of what the actual election process looks like. So I hope that people will look at my predictions and think “why is it that these are the factors that impact MCSG elections versus the real world, where there are very different factors that impact them?” I hope people will ask “Why are our elections not reflective at all of the real world?” But that’s, you know, a secondary goal and I don’t think people have done that as much as I would like. And that’s why I was inspired by Danny’s [Surman ’14] post in The Mac Weekly last week about turnout and the various issues that affect that. Because I think he’s 100 percent right.
What do you say to Mac students who don’t vote? Do you vote? Should more students be involved and vote?
I always vote in elections, yeah. I think the bottom line is that, whether you like it or not, $221 of everyone’s money is going to MCSG. So, if for no other reason than pure self-interest, make sure that you are getting something out of that.
What feedback have you gotten so far about your post?
I think people found it fun, but beyond that I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from candidates. I worry that people are going to see it as Elliot taking sides. I’m not trying to do that, to hurt people’s feelings, but I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from people who have pointed out “I think you’re missing this, I think you’re missing this.” And I’ve gotten more useful data from that. A lot of it has been feedback from campaigns saying, “Here’s some points you should consider when you’re formulating their next round of predictions.”