Friday, March 9, 2012

SU Elections Aftermath

Well that was fun!

On the off chance you don't already know, the winners of the 2012 SU Executive and Board of Governors Elections are as follows:

  • President: Colten Yamagishi
  • Vice President Operations and Finance: Andy Cheema
  • Vice President External: Petros KusmuLink
  • Vice President Academic: Dustin Chelen
  • Vice President Student Life: Saadiq Sumar
  • Undergraduate Board of Governors Representative: Brent Kelly
This is of course pending the results of a few DIE Board rulings, with one in particular against a candidate who won one of the races. Stay tuned!

That aside, I've found an interesting feature from this election. I was interested in how easily someone could actually predict the nature of an election, and what the effect of campaigning was on the outcome. So, naturally, I decided to look into it.

I picked a few parameters that are easily quantifiable and can be determined before the votes are all cast. My original list of parameters included amount of money spent on campaign, amount of money spent on penalties, number of years on council, and number of personal friends on Facebook. Naturally there are many other parameters that are important to a campaign that cannot be accurately quantified or known beforehand, such as number of hands shaken, classes visited, or babies kissed, but I thought these four parameters would be fairly important and were the easiest for me to find.

I then compared these four parameters to the percentage of vote obtained by each candidate on the first round (even though our system isn't first-past-the-post, every candidate in this election who was leading in the first round went on to win their election). I wasn't positive if I'd get any sort of correlation, but hey - sometimes you just have to throw stuff against a wall and see what sticks (that's a completely legitimate form of science, by the way).

Surprisingly, though, there was a correlation. A pretty decent one too - I got an R2 value of 0.914 (where 1.0 is perfect fit). In fact, the data I input can be summed up in a nifty little formula:

First Round Votes= (12.7%)*C+(11.2%)*Fb+(54.4%)*B+(2.8%)
In this equation, C is a normalized value for number of years on Students' Council, Fb is a normalized value for number of Facebook friends, and B was a normalized value for the relative amount of money spent on campaign materials.

At this point I would like to remind you that correlation does not imply causation, so take what I'm about to say with a grain of salt. I'm not trying to present this as a fact or the truth, simply an interesting finding.

This formula suggests a few things. First of all, it suggests that the number of penalties taken by a candidate has very little impact on how well they do in the election (unless, of course, they get so many they're disqualified). This is interesting because penalties are supposed to offset relative gains for a candidate, and so one might almost expect a candidate with lots of penalties to have an edge. It would appear, though, that for these elections that wasn't the case.

Secondly, having more Facebook friends than your opponents is fairly important in an election. A plausible explanation for this is two-fold: having lots of Facebook friends suggests that a candidate is some combination of interested in social media, and popular and/or out-going. Though of course the number of friends isn't necessarily proportional to presence on campus, it has become increasingly apparent that social media is important in races of all sorts, and so it is not unrealistic to expect that number of Facebook friends plays a role.

Thirdly, having been on Students' Council is slightly more important than social media presence. Cool. I'm not particularly surprised that having been on Council helps people out in Students' Union elections, though I could see that if this had been a different set of candidates in a different set of elections, with fewer returning executives and a stronger pure Lister group, this factor could change quite a bit.

Last observation from this formula is that how much you spent on campaigning from your budget plays a huge role in how well you do. Some candidates spent significantly less than others in their races (for instance, Adam spent less than 30% of all campaign materials in the VPX race, resulting in Dorothy and Petros splitting the rest), and it (apparently) cost them big-time. Moral of the story is go big or go home when it comes to materials, I guess.

Of course, this model isn't perfect:

Great predictions:
Saadiq Sumar: 81.18% (Real: 80.60%)
Andy Cheema: 33.04% (Real: 31.74%)
Jessica Nguyen: 19.93% (Real: 21.17%)

Really bad predictions:
Murtaza Jamaly: 18.28% (Real: 9.94%)
Farid Iskandar: 26.41% (Real: 19.68%)
Mike McGinn: 18.38% (Real: 27.88%)

But hey, what can you do?

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