GW’s Graduate School of Political Management Launches 2020 Election Prediction Model

The model predicts former Vice President Joe Biden will win the Iowa caucuses.

January 30, 2020

WASHINGTON - The Graduate School of Political Management at the George Washington University (GSPM) launched a new prediction model project that aims to forecast the results of numerous presidential primary elections as well as the 2020 national presidential and congressional elections.

The Iowa caucus model projects former Vice President Joe Biden will achieve a narrow victory with 24.1% of the vote share. Senator Bernie Sanders is expected to land in second place with 22.1% of the vote, followed by Senator Elizabeth Warren (16.3%), and Mayor Pete Buttigieg (13.6%).

"This groundbreaking prediction model that incorporates the conversational echoes on Twitter offers researchers a promising new approach towards understanding the dynamics of presidential nominations,” said GSPM director Dr. Lara Brown. “We are encouraged by our initial findings and look forward to updating our models as we move through the first four contests in February."

The model’s unique formula considers three factors: Twitter mentions, cash on hand, and endorsements. The amount of Twitter mentions reflects the attention a candidate is garnering among the wider electorate as well as the effect important opinion leaders have on the online political discussion. Cash on hand quantifies the financial position of a candidate and demonstrates the level of donor commitment. The number of endorsements is a relative indication of a candidate’s strength within the party. A complete description of the model’s methodology can be found here.

This election prediction project is the first of its kind that takes into account the number of times a candidate’s name is mentioned on Twitter. The inclusion of quantifiable Twitter activity provides a more holistic measurement of public opinion about the 2020 presidential campaign.

"Although multiple models demonstrated a good fit with the campaign data, the final model displayed exceptional parsimony and low error when predicting polls for 2020, while still retaining a high ability to model the 2016 and 2012 caucus vote,” said Meagan O’Neill, lead research scientist for the new model. “Twitter mentions were particularly able to provide improved predictions not captured by the fundamental factors."

The 2020 election prediction model project is an initiative of GSPM’s Public Echoes of Rhetoric in America (PEORIA) Project, which strives to quantify how voters react to campaign messages. Model projections will be published periodically throughout the 2020 campaign.

The Graduate School of Political Management at the George Washington University is the first and foremost school of applied politics, advocacy, and communications. For more information, visit Connect with GSPM on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @GSPMgwu.