Social science: It works

Data-based analysis can contribute in meaningful ways to Utah’s political dialogue.

Last Friday, March 4, the Senate passed HB 497, Rep. Stephen Sandstrom’s illegal immigration enforcement bill, by a vote of 22-5 with 2 absent. The bill was almost identical to HB 70, the “Arizona-style” bill, but the Senate required Sandstrom to renumber the bill in hopes that it would shed its “Arizona” stigma.

HB 70 had passed the Utah House two weeks earlier. When it did, I wrote a post here predicting the vote on HB 70 (now HB 497) in the Senate. After posting those predictions, I heard from a few people that I was wrong, and that Senator X or Senator Y would not be voting as I predicted. (Actually, I was told by various people that several of my predictions were wrong.)

But it turns out that my predictions were almost perfect. I don’t bring this up to boast–only to demonstrate that data-based analysis can contribute in meaningful ways to Utah’s political dialogue. Of course, if you didn’t believe that already, you wouldn’t be at this site.

The table below shows my prediction for each Senator and then each Senator’s actual vote. I did not make a prediction for the two freshmen, Senators Reid and Thatcher, since I had no data to base it on. I predicted that HB 70 (now HB 497) would divide the Democrats, with Senators Jones and Morgan on the fence. Sure enough, one of them voted “yes” (Jones) and one voted “no” (Morgan). My only incorrect prediction was for Senator Mayne, who supported the bill. To be fair, though, I also stated in my previous post that I was less certain about my prediction for her than for any other Senate Democrat.

Senator My prediction on Feb 22 Actual vote on March 4
Adams Yes Yes
Bramble Yes Yes
Buttars Yes Yes
Christensen Yes Yes
Davis No No
Dayton Yes Yes
Hillyard Yes Absent
Hinkins Yes Yes
Jenkins Yes Yes
Jones On the fence No
Knudson Yes Yes
Liljenquist Yes Yes
Madsen Yes Yes
Mayne No Yes
McAdams No No
Morgan On the fence Yes
Neiderhauser Yes Yes
Okerlund Yes Yes
Reid No prediction Yes
Robles No No
Romero No No
H. Stephenson Yes Yes
J. Stevenson Yes Yes
Stowell Yes Absent
Thatcher No prediction Yes
Urquhart Yes Yes
Valentine Yes Yes
Van Tassell Yes Yes
Waddoups Yes Yes

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About Adam Brown

Adam Brown is an assistant professor of political science at Brigham Young University and a research fellow with the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy. You can learn more about him at his website.
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