Students affiliated with the Penn Program on Opinion Research and Election Studies are preparing to work with the NBC News Decision Desk on the night of the 2022 midterm elections this November.
PORES is an undergraduate program that conducts research on American political outcomes through a data-driven approach. The program partners annually with the NBC Decision Desk to project election outcomes. Several PORES faculty and affiliated students work on the NBC News Decision Desk each year, assisting the network in projecting the outcome of races.
The 2022 midterm elections will take place on Nov. 8 and include 435 House races, 35 Senate races, and 36 state gubernatorial races. The most contentious races in Pennsylvania during this year's midterm elections are the battle for the United States Senate seat and for the position of governor.
Republican State Sen. Doug Mastriano and Democrat Attorney General Josh Shapiro are going toe to toe to fill Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf's office with much of the election hinging on legal and safe access to abortion. Vying for the Senate seat in a neck-to-neck race are Democrat Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz.
College junior Tyler Jenkins-Wong worked on last year's NBC News Decision Desk and will be working in the Comcast Technology Center on election night this year. Jenkins-Wong will be on a data quality checking team this election, ensuring that the information NBC receives from third-party aggregators is accurate and up to date.
“This requires web-scraping information from county websites and calling election officials on election night,” Jenkins-Wong said. “As votes start to come in, I’m tasked to make sure that we’re not behind.”
Jenkins-Wong said the decision desks are isolated from the possible biases of news organizations. He added that their only goal is to accurately project outcomes.
“It’s such a cool experience to be doing work that is profoundly impactful and important for the country — important for democracy,” Jenkins-Wong added.
College and Engineering junior Sina Shaikh will also be working with the NBC Decision Desk on election night. As a computer science and political science major, Shaikh said that an online New Student Orientation preceptorial sparked his interest in PORES. He joined the program his first-year spring and has been involved ever since.
Shaikh's role with the NBC Decision Desk is creating and testing election night graphics. He has also been preparing research in addition to learning how to use the graphic creation tools.
“There’s a lot of stuff you can pre-prepare, but there’s a lot of other things where it’s unforeseen,” Shaikh said about his work on election night. “I’m excited to see what’s happening and understand what goes on.”
College sophomore Arushi Saxena said she first got involved with PORES during the spring semester of her first year. She will also be checking data quality on election night.
“Over the summer, we started preparing the data,” Saxena said. “We’re working a lot on doing outreach to the most politically contentious counties in the country.”
She explained that a large part of the Election Day preparation was putting together databases of contact information for election officials, number of registered voters in counties, and their party affiliation.
“I’ve been working on this for the past 10 months, and I think all of us have been working so hard to make sure our databases are accurate,” Saxena said. “Seeing what ends up on the election in combination with all of our preparation is really exciting to me.”