Students Come within 1 Electoral Vote of Predicting Presidential Election
Posted on Sunday, November 11, 2012 [5:57 PM]
Brandon Girdley, left, Rachel Carr and Kendall Sewell hold the map
the John B. Begley
Scholars created for their study of the Electoral
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
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
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
The other 31 states and District of Columbia were assumed to
be solidly in the Obama or Romney camp based on polling
"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
"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
"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
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