Author Archives: MassPoliticsProfs

Facebook Forecasting and the Curious Case of Scott Brown

Today we welcome back UMassAmherst political science doctoral candidates Matthew MacWilliams, Edward Erikson and Nicole Luna Berns and their Facebook Forecast Model for an updated prediction on the Brown-Shaheen race and an important challenge Brown poses for their model.

This week’s forecast shows Senator Jeanne Shaheen still ahead of Scott Brown in New Hampshire, but Shaheen has dropped from 55% to 52%. The Scott Brown candidacy in New Hampshire presents an interesting outlier challenge to our Facebook Forecasting Model. In fact, there is no other candidate in the history of Senate campaigns quite like Brown. Why?

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Facebook US Senate Forecast, 9/17/2014 Edition

More from UMassAmherst political science doctoral candidates Matthew MacWilliams, Edward Erikson and Nicole Luna Berns and their Facebook Forecast Model, which predicts the outcome in US Senate races including the Senator Jeanne Shaheen-Scott Brown contest in New Hampshire. MacWilliams et al. have been busy with posts on The Hill and their own Hashtagdemocracy. Also, MacWilliams answers an important methodological question raised in response to last week’s post. See below.

From The Hill: “With eight weeks left before the 2014 midterm elections, our Facebook Campaign Forecasting Model predicts that Republicans will pickup five Senate seats in November. Three of these are from toss-up races we are presently tracking – see www.hashtagdemocracy.com for more details.”

From Hashtagdemocracy check out the tables covering the states being covered by the Facebook Forecasting project updated through September 10.

Here is the methodological question raised last week, and Matt’s answer:

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Facebook Forecast: Jeanne Shaheen to Defeat Scott Brown

Tuesday morning we brought you a posting from UMass Amherst political science doctoral candidates Matt MacWilliams, Edward Erikson and Nicole Luna Berns in which they used their Facebook Forecasting Model to predict a win for Scott Brown in the New Hampshire Republican primary for U.S. Senate – not an earth shattering prediction. They have just completed data analysis for the general election and have a daring prediction for the race. Read on for how they see the race, and how they did it.

Early this week, we used Scott Brown’s surging Facebook PTAT to predict that Brown would walk away with the Republican nomination for Senate in New Hampshire. With the primary behind us, we can now apply our full Facebook Forecasting Model to the Senator Jeanne Shaheen/Brown contest. The model produces a weekly two-candidate election forecast. Over time, the weekly prediction also provides a dynamic track of which way a race is moving. Our forecast for New Hampshire predicts that Senator Shaheen is on track to hold her seat with 56% of the vote.

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Facebook Metrics Predict Scott Brown Primary Win

We’ve posted from our friend UMass Amherst doctoral candidate Matt MacWilliams in the past with news of his Senate forecasting model using data from Facebook. Today we welcome another post from Matt and his UMass Amherst colleagues Edward Erikson and Nicole Luna Berns. Their Facebook model is strongly suggestive that Scott Brown will capture the Republican nomination for the US Senate in New Hampshire later today. Of even more interest, they are going to use Facebook to forecast the winner in the Scott Brown-Senator Jeanne Shaheen final. They’ll do this on their blog #hashtagdemocracy and have generously agreed to cross post here. Enjoy this new and interesting approach to forecasting senate elections.

Can publicly-available data from the Facebook pages of candidates for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire tell us anything about who will win come Election Day next Tuesday and in November? If what we learned during the 2012 elections is any guide, the answer may be a whole lot.

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Prof O’Brien breaks down the #mapoli primary on Callie Crossley’s “Under the Radar.” #WGBH #NPR

Take a listen: wgbhnews.org/post/massachusetts-primary-x-factors

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Some aren’t ready for Hillary

Professor O’Brien and Professor Ubertaccio are quoted in a piece by Scott Conroy in Real Clear Politics: Not Ready for Hillary: The Rationale for Elizabeth Warren

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ProfessorU discusses the Democratic Convention on Greater Boston

Professor Ubertaccio discusses the outcome of the Democratic Convention and the race for Massachusetts Governor with Adam Reilly of WGBH’s Greater Boston.

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Shenna Bellows, The Future of Maine Politics?

As election year heats up MassPoliticsProfs wants to bring insight into what is going on in other New England states and fortunately our colleagues at colleges throughout the region are the best possible resource. Today we are pleased to welcome a guest post on Maine politics from our friend Prof. Karl Trautman. He is the chairperson of the Social Science Department and an instructor of political science at Central Maine Community College. He does a weekly podcast at karltrautman.com/ Prof. Trautman’s latest book is The Underdog in American Politics: The Democratic Party and Liberal Values.

In her bones, she probably knows she will not win. She is a highly intelligent woman. But Shenna Bellows, the Democrat who is trying to deny Republican Susan Collins a fourth term in the US Senate, is doing something refreshing. She is strengthening the Maine Democratic Party at its roots by running an energetic and creative campaign.

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Endorsements That Matter: The Boston Mayor’s Race

One of the many blessings of the annual New England Political Science Association meeting is that it offers a chance for emerging scholars to present their work. Once again we are pleased to present a blog post based on the work of young scholars studying under the tutelage of the first-rate faculty at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, this time on the efficacy of endorsements in the Boston mayor’s race.

Cameron Roche is a PhD graduate student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  He is an Assistant Director of the Umass Poll and is a research assistant on the NSF Cooperative Congressional Election Survey (CCES), working under the direction of Professor Brian Schaffner.  His research interests include:  American Politics, Congressional Elections, and Political Psychology.  He can be reached at cjroche@polsci.umass.edu.

Keith Lema is a Fulbright Scholar and graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  He was a Political Science and Economics dual major and member of Phi Beta Kappa.  He was an undergraduate research assistant for Umass Poll.

The 2013 Boston mayoral election between Marty Walsh and John Connolly, provided politics-junkies with quite a close finish.  While Connolly led his opponent for most of the campaign, his good fortune faded by the end of October. On October 30th, UMass Poll became the first organization to predict a Walsh victory outside of the margin of error.  A few days later, Suffolk University released a poll confirming Walsh’s newly acquired lead.  Less than a week later, Connolly was congratulating Walsh over the phone and preparing his concession speech.  To further understand this outcome, we looked to media groups for their narrative surrounding the election.

Most media outlets issued similar accounts of the election. They consistently credited Walsh as the “union” candidate who beat Connolly because of his superior ground game.  Certainly, Walsh’s relationship with unions provided an influx of money, organization, as well as boots on the ground for his campaign.  However, UMass Poll data revealed evidence of a more nuanced narrative about Walsh’s win over Connolly: our analysis shows that endorsements also played a critical role in Walsh’s victory.

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Political Scientists Love Puzzles

At the recent New England Political Science Association annual meeting some of the most interesting work was presented by Matthew MacWilliams. Matthew was a Benjamin Franklin Scholar at The University of Pennsylvania where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa. He is a PhD candidate (ABD) at the University of Massachusetts. His current academic research interests include election forecasting using social media metrics, campaign communications, social media, political behavior, the Supreme Court, the politics of climate change, the politics of health care reform, interest group lobbying of the judiciary, campaign finance, and political campaigns. He was nominated in the fall of 2013 for a distinguished teaching award at the University of Massachusetts. We are pleased to have him guest today, with a provocative post questioning the new conventional wisdom about the lack of effectiveness of political television commercials – like those we’ve already seen in the Scott Brown-Jeanne Shaheen contest. Also keep an eye out for the launch later this month of Matt’s blog HashtagDemocracy.

Political scientists do love puzzles. They are the grist of our academic research mills. But sometimes puzzles that question academic orthodoxy, especially orthodoxy arrived at through seemingly airtight statistical analyses, are left unexamined.

Take for instance the orthodoxy that political commercials don’t matter. This scholarly assertion has grown over the ivy covered walls of academe and blossomed into a new conventional wisdom, voiced in a recent article by Sasha Issenberg in The New Republic, that Senate “Democrats should not be too worried about the inbound negative ads” attacking them this year.

That’s one puzzling whopper of a recommendation that may have taken the findings of academic studies a bit further than is warranted.

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