Midterms 2018: An Early Forecast from the Swarm AI System

The 2018 Midterms are being widely described as the most consequential non-Presidential election in recent memory, and  unprecedented voter enthusiasm  has some experts predicting 50-year turnout highs. At the moment, Republicans control all three branches of government with Trump in the White House, majorities in both the House and Senate, and with the recent appointment of Brett Kavanaugh, a firm Conservative grip on the Supreme Court.

Any hope for the Democrats to offset some of that political authority rests on the 2018 Midterms, where a “Blue Wave” of Democratic enthusiasm could reclaim the House, Senate, or both. There is strong precedent for this sort of minority re-balancing as Republicans took back control of the House from Democrats in 2010 during Obama’s first term, and did the same to Bill Clinton in 2004, a result that came to be known as the “Republican Revolution.” Democrats will need a similar performance if they want to act as a check on the President for the next two years.

But forecasting midterm elections is notoriously difficult, and even the most high-profile prognosticators are reluctant to issue sweeping predictions with so many variables at play. Nate Silver, perhaps the most famous election forecaster working today, recently urged caution to the Washington Post when forecasting – and reporting –  midterm elections. As the Post concluded, “uncertainty is the one thing Silver says is baked into the midterms.”

Still, researchers at Unanimous AI have used their Swarm AI technology to accurately forecast myriad unlikely events, from Donald Trump’s 100 Day Approval Rating to the #metoo movement’s winning TIME’s Person of the Year awards. So, a few months ago, when a 30 person swarm of likely voters was gathered for a moral philosophy experiment with MIT, Unanimous could not resist asking them to forecast the 2018 Midterm elections. First, the AI system was asked whether or not Paul Ryan, the Republican Speaker of the House who resigned in April, two months prior to when this research was collected, would finish out his term.

Of course, the far more pressing question is whether or not the GOP will be able to maintain its narrow majorities in the House and the Senate. Those majorities, though slim numerically, represent a powerful ability to enact their political will.  Popular wisdom is that the Blue Wave is more likely to reach the shore in the House, which is by its nature more representative of the general population that voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by nearly three million votes . In contrast, since the Senate is designed to amplify the voices of the smaller ( and currently Red-leaning ) states by giving two seats to each regardless of size, the Democrats face a much tougher battle there.

For insight into the potential midterm outcomes, researchers first asked the Swarm AI system to forecast who would hold the House and Senate after the elections, then for a broad range forecast, and ultimately a specific percentage likelihood. This process ultimately produced the insight below, that Republicans have just a 1 in 3 chance to retain control of the House. Keep in mind that this forecast was produced in early June, which is many lifetimes ago in the current political climate, but that percentage has held relatively steady, if not moved in the Democrats’ favor.

A taller task for Democrats lies in the Senate. Even in the aforementioned 2010 Midterms, which are considered a landslide victory for the GOP, Republicans took back control of the House but expanded their minority in the Senate, rather than reclaiming it. Back in June when this swarm of voters was gathered, Democratic confidence in the Blue Wave was riding high, AI-powered forecast revealed a slight likelihood that Democrats would gain control of the Senate. In the months since the forecast below was generated, a series of politically divisive battles like the one over Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation seem to have tipped the scales back in favor of the GOP.

Naturally, five months out is far too early to make any sort of concrete predictions for any election, but in these chaotic times, that can seem more like five months. So, while it’s tempting to use the Swarm AI’s system track record as evidence that its word is gospel, in the case of the midterms, Nate Silver’s earlier warning on the certainty of uncertainty is probably a word to the wise here. With so much riding on the outcome of the November 6th electio, and so many potential stories between now and then, the old Hollywood maxim that “no one knows anything” might be equally applicable to this political cycle.

About Unanimous AI:
Unanimous AI is a Silicon Valley company that has pioneered Swarm AI® technology, a new form of AI that combines real-time human insights and AI algorithms modeled after natural swarms. In 2018, Swarm AI technology won “AI Innovation of the Year” at the SXSW Innovation Awards. For more on Unanimous, visit http://unanimous.ai

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