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Electoral Map Begley Scholars November 2012
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Students Come within 1 Electoral Vote of Predicting Presidential Election

Posted on Sunday, November 11, 2012 [5:57 PM]

Begley Scholars Electoral Map November 2012
Brandon Girdley, left, Rachel Carr and Kendall Sewell hold the map the John B. Begley
Scholars created for their study of the Electoral College.

COLUMBIA, Ky. -- A group of 12 Lindsey Wilson College students came within one electoral vote of predicting the correct outcome of this year's presidential election.

The students, who are members of the LWC John B. Begley Scholars Program, were assigned to predict the vote in 19 states. Each student, who voted in their first presidential election, was given one or two states to study and then predict which way they thought the state would swing on Nov. 6.

As a group, the dozen students correctly predicted all of the states' outcomes -- with the exception of Maine, who they thought would give one of its four electoral votes to Romney. (Maine and Nebraska allocate two electoral votes each to the popular vote winner and one each to the popular vote winner in each state's Congressional district.)

So instead of forecasting a 332-206 electoral win for President Obama as it turned out, the Begley Scholars predicted at a Nov. 1 meeting a 331-207 electoral vote victory for Obama over challenger Gov. Mitt Romney.

LWC student Rachel Carr of Danville, Ky., who studied Maine's electorate, said she thought a combination of Obama's economic policy and heavy last-minute campaign expenditures by the Romney campaign would turn Maine's Second Congressional District red for Romney on election day.

"That area makes most of their money off lumber, so I thought with Obama's economic policy and the Romney campaign had almost doubled their spending in the days before the election, I thought that would be effective," Carr said.

In addition to studying the nine swing states most political analysts thought would ultimately determine the presidential election's outcome (Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin), the students examined 10 other states they believed could influence the election's outcome: Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon and Pennsylvania.

The other 31 states and District of Columbia were assumed to be solidly in the Obama or Romney camp based on polling data.

"With the election predicted to be so close, we wanted the project to focus on other states that could also have an impact on the outcome," said LWC President William T. Luckey Jr., who directed the students' project. "After all, the Electoral College only has 2.25 quadrillion possible outcomes, so we thought it was important to broaden our study beyond just nine states."

The students based their predictions on newspaper editorials, polling data and dozens of blogs.

By studying only a couple states instead of all 19, the students said they came to understand as a group that the presidential election was not nearly as close in the Electoral College as it was in the national popular vote.

"I had studied the Electoral College a lot, but I think this project helped me see that the race really wasn't as close as close as everyone was saying it was -- even though the popular vote was very close," Carr said. "When we looked at the numbers for the Electoral College, Romney almost didn't have a chance. And that's exactly what happened in the election."

The students said that a group project also helped make for a more accurate overall prediction of the Electoral College's results.

"I didn't think as many states that we said would go for Obama would, especially Florida and Virginia," said LWC student Brandon Girdley of Louisville, Ky.

LWC student Kendall Sewell of Somerset, Ky., said the project was also an example of crowdsourcing.

"When you focused on just one or two states instead of nine or 19, you didn't worry as much what the overall picture looked like. You were just focusing on your assignment," he said. "You didn't look at the map and worry that too many states were in the Romney or Obama column and then try to balance things out."

The students said the project also helped them better appreciate the overall mood of the U.S. electorate.

"This country is just incredibly divided," Sewell said. "You go from a rural county, where it's incredibly red, incredibly anti-Obama, to an urban center, where you can't find a Romney fan anywhere."

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