Friday, October 31, 2008

As Maine Kids Go, So Goes Maine

Students from 300 Maine schools have participated in a mock election, and the results are in. According to the Secretary of State's office, Maine students chose Sen. Barack Obama over Sen. John McCain in the presidential race; Sen. Susan Collins over Rep. Tom Allen in the U.S. Senate race; Charlie Summers over Chellie Pingree in the U.S. House, 1st district race; and Rep. Michael Michaud over John Frary in the U.S. House, 2nd district race. As for the referenda questions, the students voted 'Yes' on question 1 (the beverage tax), 'No' on question 2 (the casino in Oxford County), and 'Yes' on the bond question concerning drinking water and wastewater.

Historically, Maine students do a decent job forecasting Maine's actual results in gubernatorial, presidential, congressional, and senate races. In fact, the students have picked the winners in 12 of 14 of those races since 1998, a track record that means they've picked the eventual winner in 86% of the races. (They were wrong in the 2000 presidential election, voting for then-Gov. George W. Bush to win Maine instead of then-Vice President Al Gore; and in 2002, when they picked Kevin Raye to beat Michael Michaud in the U.S. House, 2nd district race.)

The students' voting preferences are not only decent predictors of the winners of each of the races; they are also pretty good at hinting at the eventual winners' winning percentage. In fact, of the twelve races the students picked correctly, they were within 5% of the eventual winners' winning percentage nine times, a success rate of 75%. The three races in which they were off the mark were the 2002 Senate race between Sen. Susan Collins and Chellie Pingree (72.2% of students picked Collins, but only 58.4% of actual Maine voters picked her); the 2004 presidential election between President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry (45.9% of students picked Kerry, but 53.6% of Maine voters picked him); and the 2004 U.S. House, 2nd district race (only 49.7% of Maine students voted for Rep. Michael Michaud, but 58% of actual voters picked him).

However, as good as the students are at predicting the winners of contested races, they're not that accurate at predicting the results in referenda since 1998. Indeed, their success rate in picking referenda winners is only 54% (7 of 13 questions) and they've been within 5% of the winning answers' winning percentage in only two out of those 7 correct forecasts (an accuracy percentage of 29%).

- John C.L. Morgan

P.S. The Press Herald has a write-up about this year's student mock election, but it incorrectly identifies Chellie Pingree as the winner of the U.S. House, 1st district race. According to the Secretary of State's figures, Summers won 50.6% of the vote to Pingree's 48.6%.

No comments: