Investigation: How society monopolisation can help to predict election results

Investigation: How society monopolisation can help to predict election results

Dan Jacobson investigates the effect of society secondment on election success

The SUUCL Leadership Elections are upon us once again. The voting process, set to begin on Thursday 1st March at noon and lasting one week, will inevitably be accompanied by a flurry of posters, leaflets, and campaigning on behalf of the candidates. However, it has become obvious from past years that certain societies, due to factors such as campaigning techniques and size of membership base, have far more of an impact on the results of the election than others.

By looking at manifestos from candidates running for the full-time Sabbatical officer roles going back to the 2012 elections and gathering data about the endorsements received by each candidate, we have illustrated the effects of certain societies on union election results, painting a picture of a politically unbalanced union.

An endorsement is simply a show of support by an individual for a given candidate, who can display up to 10 individuals on their manifesto. Whilst it technically means very little, it is implied that a candidate who receives an endorsement from an individual who is involved in some society will receive aid in campaigning from that group. This means that endorsements can have a large effect on a candidate’s likelihood of winning.

Using this data, it is possible to quantify the effect of a society’s endorsement. Using a technique known as ‘linear regression’, you can measure the expected change in probability of a candidate winning if they are endorsed by an individual of a given society, compared to if they are not.

In this way, you can provide a candidate with a ‘score’ based on the endorsements they receive, with a higher score referring to a higher chance of winning. This technique was used to correctly predict 25 of the past 31 full-time Sabbatical Officer positions held over the past 4 years, with 21 of those contested for by more than one candidate.

Here are the predictions, based on this statistical model, for next year’s full-time Sabbatical Officer positions, along with the scores they received (‘N’ means that no society endorsements were listed on their manifesto. This explains why the method cannot be used to predict next year’s Postgraduate Students’ Officer.):


Activities Officer

Andrea Agnel – 0.73

Khaleel Mirza – 2.93


Black & Minority Ethnic Students’ Officer

Samira Abdalla – 0.00 (N)


Democracy, Operations and Community Officer

Sheryl Banas – 0.00 (N)

Jack Kershaw – -0.05

Mahmudur Rahman – 1.24


Education Officer

Farooq Dean – 1.43

Rica Kelly – 0.00 (N)

Matthew Lee – -0.05


Postgraduate Students’ Officer

Suzan ElSayed – 0.00 (N)

Saddiqur Rahman – 0.00 (N)


Welfare & International Officer

Rothna Akhtar – 1.87

Dominique Hua – 0.54

Ganesh Khadka – 0.00 (N)

Olga Pushkina – 0.73


Women’s Officer

Abeni Adeyemi – 1.35

Justine Canady – 0.00 (N)

Warona George – -0.29

Nicole Orchard – 0.00 (N)


Based on past Leadership Elections, it was unsurprising to see that the two most active societies were the Friends of Palestine Society and the Somali Society, each making four endorsements, all going to candidates predicted to win. Three of the candidates predicted to win were also endorsed by Mahmadur Rahman, the President of the Islamic Society. Rahman himself is running for the role of Democracy, Operations and Community Officer, and is endorsed by individuals from both the Palestinian and Somali societies, in addition to 2015/16 Sabbatical Officer Zakariya Mohran.

One potential cause for upset is the resurgence in endorsements from individuals involved in student activism. Three candidates, Jack Kershaw (DOC), Matthew Lee (Education), and Dominique Hua (Welfare) have all received endorsements from Gianluca Cavallaro-Ng, of UCL Fossil Free, and Anabel Bennett, of UCL Cut the Rent. Whilst these groups have shown little endorsement success in the past, having collectively made only one successful endorsement from six since 2012, their recent increase in exposure could equate to better campaigning when it comes to election week.

A notable prediction made in this article concerns next year’s Women’s Officer. Here, it is predicted that it will be won by Abeni Adeyami, thus deposing Justine Canady, who is running for re-election to the position. Canady has not listed any endorsements on either of her manifestos. However, she ran unopposed during last year’s Leadership Election, and so it will be interesting to see if she retains her position against other campaigns.

The results will be announced on Thursday 8th March.

You will be able to vote from Thursday 1st March at 12:00.

You can find more information on the candidates, including their manifestos, here.

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