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Data Project Forecasts Zhang and Boucher as Likely UC Winners

UC Crimson Crossfire
The three UC Presidential tickets responded to questions from the student body at the Crimson's annual "Crimson Crossfire" debate on Sunday afternoon.
Catherine L. Zhang ’19 and Nicholas D. Boucher ’19 are the likely winners of this year’s UC presidential election, if the results of the Harvard Open Data Project’s election analysis are to be believed.

This is the second time the Open Data Project—a student and faculty initiative founded two years ago by UC Finance Committee Chair Neel Mehta ’18—has attempted to predict the results of the UC presidential election. Last year, the group successfully predicted that Yasmin Z. Sachee ’18 and running mate Cameron K. Khansarinia ’18 would win.

This year, three tickets are vying for the UC presidency and vice presidency: Zhang and Boucher are running against Victor C. Agbfafe ’19 and Michael K. Bervell ’19, as well as Conor Healy ’19 and Parth C. Thakker ’18-19.

This year, Stephen Moon ’20, who took a leading role in organizing the analysis, said he hoped to repeat last year’s correct prediction of the election results.

As part of their analysis, the Open Data Project polled students over the course of two days on their voting intentions, and received 373 responses with a roughly equal distribution of respondents from each class year.

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Of those who responded, 66.2 percent said they would vote for Zhang and Boucher, 20.6 percent said they would vote for Agbafe and Bervell, and 13.1 percent said they would vote for Healy and Thakker. The Open Data Project also conducted an analysis of each ticket’s social media presence by counting Facebook likes on the candidates’ official pages as well as posts made by their supporters. In this part of the analysis, Zhang and Boucher also took the lead.

However, some raised concerns about whether the Open Data Project releasing the results of their analysis on Wednesday—more than a day before polls close—might influence student voters’ decisions on who to support. In contrast, last year, the group didn’t release the results of their analysis until right after voting had ended.

“I fear that some people may read this and that would impact their vote and I don’t think that’s correct,” Khansarinia said. “I think the candidates should be out there trying to get every vote they can, as opposed to trying to just read this poll and say ‘this is what’s going to happen.’”

“So I think their goal is admirable and laudable, certainly, but they should stick, in my opinion, with how they went about it last year,” he added.

Moon recognized the concerns, but said that the group waited until most of the voting period had passed, and intentionally did not publicize the article after it was published.

Mehta also said the group consulted with a senior writer at polling website FiveThirtyEight before publishing its analysis.

“He said that the way the election works is with single-transferable voting, so there’s not potential for strategic voting,” Mehta said. “So if the poll somehow tells you that your candidate is losing, that doesn’t really affect your strategy at all, because you’ve ranked your candidates. So according to the political experts, the poll we do should have no impact on the outcome.”

In future elections, Moon said he would like to collect more demographic data in the group’s surveys.

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