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Sanders Projected to Win South Carolina Primary, GW Election Prediction Model Finds

Biden among contenders for second place in new model from GW’s Graduate School of Political Management

February 27, 2020
Jason Shevrin: [email protected], 202-994-5631
Timothy Pierce: [email protected], 202-994-5647
WASHINGTON (Feb. 27, 2020)—Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is expected to emerge victorious in the 2020 South Carolina primary, according to the latest projection from the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM). Former Vice President Joe Biden is projected to finish in second place.
GSPM researchers utilized two election prediction models. A “momentum” model takes into account the results from the Nevada caucuses in order to examine the effect of the most recent election. According to the momentum model, Mr. Sanders will win South Carolina handily, with 28.4% of the vote share. Mr. Biden, the long-presumed frontrunner in South Carolina, is projected to finish in second place with 17.5% of the vote. Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg (12.9%) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (11.6%) are the only other candidates in double digits in the momentum model.
The original model, which does not consider previous election results, suggests a far tighter race. While Mr. Sanders remains at the head of the pack, he is only projected to garner 19.7% of the vote. Mr. Biden finishes close behind the Vermont senator with a 15.1% vote share, with Ms. Warren (12.3%) and Mr. Buttigieg (11.2%) also in the vicinity.
“There is more uncertainty in the predictions made by the momentum model given how South Carolina often diverges from earlier contests,” Meagan O’Neill, GW’s lead research scientist for the project, said. “The second basic model, without accounting for momentum, demonstrates a closer race based on fundamental factors alone.”
Both models consider 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. The momentum model also takes the results of previous elections into account. 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.
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. The researchers plan to test the new models against the results of the first few primaries in 2020 to refine it before predicting an array of results for Super Tuesday. Model projections will be published periodically throughout the 2020 campaign.