© 2023 Boise State Public Radio
NPR in Idaho
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
A movie night with George Prentice event details
Check out which TWO local nonprofits are the 2023 Giving Tuesday underwriting recipients!
Special coverage from KBSX newsListen to KBSX and NPR for ongoing coverage of Election 2012. We'll have stories from across Idaho and the rest of the country on Morning Edition and All Things Considered. We'll also have specials from NPR throughout this election year.Democratic National ConventionRepublican National ConventionLatino Voters Series

Statistical Models Help Modern Day Campaigns Project Outcomes

Kevin Mooney

What if there was a crystal ball that could reveal the outcome of an election? Turns out modern day campaigns use forecast models to project the winner of a race long before a single vote is counted. 

In vote-by-mail states like Washington or Oregon, political parties and campaigns have an advantage. They can find out on a daily basis if you’ve returned your ballot.

Sophisticated campaigns punch that information into their predictive models along with demographic data about you the voter: what car you drive, what magazines you subscribe to. That information gets analyzed and a campaign can begin to predict the outcome of a race based on who’s turning out.

Political scientist Matt Barreto at the University of Washington explains how a campaign might use this information.

“If one of the parties noticed that they were seriously far behind in the early voting they might ramp up their efforts on a certain demographic or a certain region of the state in that final weekend," Barreto says. "And so it helps them better fine tune their practices.”

But Barreto cautions these estimates have margins of error just like a poll. And he adds in a nailbiter race, it’s the final vote tally, not the model that’s going to reveal the winner. 

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network

You make stories like this possible.

The biggest portion of Boise State Public Radio's funding comes from readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

Your donation today helps make our local reporting free for our entire community.