DISH Modeling Predicts Presidential Outcome

DISH satellite is taking a unique “tell me what you watch, and I’ll tell you how you’ll vote” approach to prediction modeling by using the viewing habits of millions of customers to try to predict the next President, as well as the results for the House of Representatives. (Sufficient historical viewership data was not available to meaningfully predict the outcome at the Senate.)
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Without question, this election cycle has been one of the most contentious and divisive ones in recent memory. Between questionable ethics, lewd comments, personal attacks, and hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising, the presidential candidates have divided the country in lines of “The other person is a nightmare and the country is ruined if my candidate doesn’t win!”

Navigating past any news channel or website will show you a variety maps divided between red, blue, and shades of purple states, with every political pundit trying to predict the outcome of this race, giving you as much time to decide whether you want to move to Canada or not.

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DISH satellite is taking a unique “tell me what you watch, and I’ll tell you how you’ll vote” approach to prediction modeling by using the viewing habits of millions of customers to try to predict the next President, as well as the results for the House of Representatives. (Sufficient historical viewership data was not available to meaningfully predict the outcome at the Senate.)

“With so much focus around national polling, we thought it’d be interesting to see if we could find a correlation between how our customers interact with DISH and how they may vote,” said Warren Schlichting, DISH executive vice president of media sales, marketing, and programming. “We recognize that our call on the distribution of seats in the House may be an outlier. Yet when we tested the model against 2014 House elections, we found that we were able to predict the outcome at a 98 percent reliability point.” 

Using anonymized data generated from millions of DISH’s internet-connected set-top boxes across the nation, DISH analyzed the relationship between programming watched and predicted political affiliation. For example, DISH’s model determined customers who watched more sports, religious, or family-oriented programming (NFL football, GEB America, Sesame Street) were more likely to vote Republican, while customers whose viewing habits centered more on series/specials, education, or music-oriented shows (Scandal, MythBusters, or The Voice) tended to vote Democrat. 

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Developed in partnership by DISH’s Data Science and Media Sales divisions, Viewers to Voters is the first project completed under the company’s extra-curricular initiative, Wisdom of Crowds. DISH’s Wisdom of Crowds program will explore the potential relationships between TV-viewing behaviors and real-world actions. For this election, DISH collected terabytes of viewership data and then utilized a two-step approach to develop its model to predict the outcome.

According to the press release, “The first stage of the model identified the relationship between the shows DISH customers watched in 2014 with the state-by-state outcomes of the 2014 House elections. A wide assortment of variables were analyzed, including the types and amounts of programming customers viewed across nine different Nielsen-defined genres (e.g. sports, movies, education, and series/specials). The second stage of the model then identified the relationship between House party control and presidential party affiliation dating back to 1932.” 

Based on DISH’s analysis, the Viewers to Voters modeling predicts that Hillary Clinton will win the presidential election, and a Republican majority victory in the U.S. House of Representatives, with an estimated 245 out of 435 seats, a two-seat gain for Democrats in the 115th Congress.

To see if DISH’s predictions come true—or to just keep up with all the Election Day coverage—DISH is converting its Sports Bar Mode on its new Hopper 3 DVR to a special “Election Newsroom” on the night of the election. This will allow users with a 4K TV to view four, real-time 1080p channels that will auto-populate with CBS, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. (Viewers can choose to view any four channels simultaneously, perhaps for an alternate news source or to take a much needed break from the coverage.) 

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