In national statistics contest, 97% of students predicted Hillary Clinton will win the election
Clinton and Trump each won separate mock elections involving thousands of students
Editor’s Note: Kelly Wallace is CNN’s digital correspondent and editor-at-large covering family, career and life. Read her other columns and follow her reports at CNN Parents and on Twitter @kellywallacetv.
It may be one week until Election Day, but students across the country have already cast their ballots in mock elections and predicted a winner in the presidential campaign.
The results of three separate national programs – two mock elections and a statistics competition – gave both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump supporters something to smile about.
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 Clinton would win the presidency, according to the results announced Tuesday.
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 Trump, and the students predicted that she would win 332 votes in the Electoral College, compared with 204 for Trump.
The prediction breakdown
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 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, After School, which bills itself as the country’s largest teen-focused social network, conducted a mock election in which more than 100,000 teens between the ages of 13 to 19 from high schools in all 50 states participated.
After the voting, which took place October 14-21, Trump was the winner with 47.1% of the vote, significantly ahead of Clinton with 32.6%. More than 20% of the vote went to third-party candidates Gary Johnson or Jill Stein.
“I think the main reasons are one, teens at this time prefer outsiders, so they don’t like the establishment, the status quo,” said Jeffrey Collins, a vice president of After School. “I think a corollary to that is that they see Hillary as more of the status quo than the others.”
Collins believes that if they ran a poll with Democrat Bernie Sanders against Trump and Clinton, Sanders would have won. “Young people who liked Bernie for whatever reasons … they voted for Trump when they would have voted for Bernie.”
In another mock election, this one carried out by Channel One News, which is seen in elementary, middle and high schools across the United States, nearly 300,000 students in more than 7,000 schools from all 50 states voted between October 17 and 21. 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,” Hunter said, adding that some schools told her it was actually the students who pushed to hold the mock election this time because they 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.
Join the conversation
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,” Hunter said. “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.”
If you have kids, are they optimistic or pessimistic about the future following the presidential campaign? Share your thoughts with Kelly Wallace on Twitter @kellywallacetv.