The Ultimate Election Forecast: More than 5,000 Pollsters Agree – The Next President of the U.S. is ….

By Joannis Kaliampos

The 2020 U.S. elec­tion has peo­ple around the world on the edge of their seats, won­der­ing who will become the next Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States. The two can­di­dates – for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden and the incum­bent Pres­i­dent, Don­ald Trump – would become the old­est men to ever have held this office. Anoth­er ‘first’ is Biden’s VP pick, Kamala Har­ris, junior sen­a­tor from Cal­i­for­nia, the first-ever woman of col­or run­ning on a pres­i­den­tial tick­et. In addi­tion, a glob­al pan­dem­ic, an eco­nom­ic cri­sis, and nation­wide demon­stra­tions protest­ing sys­temic racism make this elec­tion more excit­ing than ever.

Pho­to cred­it: U.S. Embassy Berlin. Stu­dents par­tic­i­pate in a Q and A ses­sion with U.S. elec­tion experts at the con­clud­ing event of the 2016 elec­tion project at the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Berlin.

While U.S. poll­sters, such as Lar­ry Saba­to or Nate Sil­ver, pre­dict a like­ly vic­to­ry for Demo­c­rat Biden, Trump’s 2016 sur­prise upset lead many poll­ster to ask how reli­able elec­tion polls real­ly are. And some­times, the best poll­sters are not those fea­tured in the news, but are those found in high school classrooms.

More than 5,000 stu­dents and teach­ers from Ger­many and the U.S. in over 300 class­rooms par­tic­i­pat­ed in the U.S. Embassy School Elec­tion Project to pre­dict the out­come of the 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. For the fourth time since 2008, this coop­er­a­tion of the U.S. Embassy Berlin, LIFE e.V., and Leuphana Uni­ver­si­ty Lüneb­urg asked a sim­ple, yet excit­ing ques­tion: Can high school stu­dents teach poll­sters a les­son and pre­dict the elec­tion out­come more accu­rate­ly than the professionals?

Facil­i­tat­ed by the ful­ly online teach­ing plat­form Teach About U.S., par­tic­i­pants were assigned one U.S. state whose vir­tu­al cit­i­zens they would be over the next cou­ple of weeks. Between the sum­mer hol­i­days and the week before Elec­tion Day, they enrolled in an online class­room, learned about the ins and outs of the elec­toral sys­tem, explored the cam­paign issues like­ly to decide the elec­tion, and fol­lowed the local, nation­al, and inter­na­tion­al news. Fact sheets of all 50 states pro­vid­ed sta­tis­tics about their state’s pop­u­la­tion, vot­ing his­to­ry, econ­o­my, lev­el of edu­ca­tion, and income inequality.

But that’s not all: With the help of the Transat­lantic Out­reach Pro­gram at the Goethe Insti­tute in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., we con­nect­ed class­rooms on both sides of the Atlantic direct­ly. In addi­tion to ded­i­cat­ed ‘tan­dem tasks’ in their joint Moo­dle course, they met via Zoom, used instant mes­sag­ing to text each oth­er, and cre­at­ed joint web­sites, blogs, or Padlets to doc­u­ment their col­lab­o­ra­tion. Amer­i­can learn­ers, most of whom had nev­er trav­eled abroad, received an inter­na­tion­al per­spec­tive on their coun­try and cul­ture, while Ger­man stu­dents could put their for­eign lan­guage skills to the test while gain­ing first-hand infor­ma­tion on the elec­tion cam­paign of their adopt­ed state. One Ger­man teacher high­lights how the exchange facil­i­tat­ed stu­dents in look­ing beyond their own polit­i­cal pref­er­ences and reach across the prover­bial aisle:

In April, we launched a blog amidst Covid-19 to learn how peo­ple in Arkansas and Bran­den­burg deal with Coro­na and to start our coop­er­a­tion while schools were closed due to the pan­dem­ic. What makes our coop­er­a­tion unique is that we bring togeth­er such a large num­ber of stu­dents and that our stu­dents have been coop­er­at­ing since April. At the begin­ning of the school year, all Ger­man stu­dents from grade 11 were matched with a tan­dem part­ner from Arkansas. … This has been par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ing, as (unlike most stu­dents from Bran­den­burg) the vast major­i­ty of stu­dents from Arkansas strong­ly sup­port Don­ald Trump. Stu­dents report that exchang­ing emails was extreme­ly help­ful to under­stand con­ser­v­a­tive views and U.S. val­ues. We began to under­stand how impor­tant the sec­ond amend­ment, pro-life, and the econ­o­my are to peo­ple in rur­al America. 

Based on their dili­gent research, stu­dents from 195 cours­es cast their state’s vote and pre­dict­ed a vic­to­ry for Joe Biden with 334 elec­toral votes vs. 204 votes for Don­ald Trump. Accord­ing to their pre­dic­tion, Biden would win back key swing states for Democ­rats, includ­ing Ari­zona as well as the elec­toral col­lege heavy­weights Flori­da and Pennsylvania.

Most impres­sive, how­ev­er, are the stu­dents’ cre­ative prod­ucts, which they sub­mit­ted to the project’s inter­na­tion­al school com­pe­ti­tion. Let me just share these two: A class from the Berufs­bil­dungszen­trum Schleswig cre­at­ed a web­site for the state of Vir­ginia, com­plete with an analy­sis of the cam­paign issues and vot­ing his­to­ry down to the coun­ty lev­el as well as the stu­dents’ cre­ative prod­ucts, such as comics and a song:

Pho­to cred­it: BBZ Schleswig. “Web­site Vir­ginia,” award “Best Explained Prediction”

A class at Land­schul­heim Schloss Ising took a dif­fer­ent approach and cre­at­ed a car­toon about Don­ald Trump’s elec­tion campaign.

pho­to cred­it: Land­schul­heim Schloss Ising. “4 more years – Kansas will vote for Trump”, award “Best Cartoon”

By the way, while our stu­dents’ pre­dic­tion in 2016 favored Hillary Clin­ton – as did almost every poll in the fall of 2016 – their pre­dic­tions in 2008 and 2012 were more accu­rate than most pub­lished polls!

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Joan­nis Kaliampos is a research asso­ciate at the Insti­tute of Eng­lish Stud­ies at Leuphana Uni­ver­si­ty Lüneb­urg. He is the edu­ca­tion­al project man­ag­er of Teach About U.S. and co-devel­oped the U.S. Embassy School Elec­tion Project, a coop­er­a­tion of the U.S. Embassy Berlin, LIFE e.V., and Leuphana Uni­ver­si­ty. The project was award­ed the renowned Hans-Eber­hard-Piepho Prize for Ideas in Com­mu­nica­tive Lan­guage Teach­ing in 2013. More infor­ma­tion about the project at: www.teachaboutus.org