"“Leland, you need a better hobby. This is the uni..."

Tufts University

It's cool to be smart. Tell us about the subjects or ideas that excite your intellectual curiosity.

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(Tufts University)

“Leland, you need a better hobby."

This is the universal reaction amongst my friends and family when I tell them one of my favorite pastimes: learning about presidential elections.

For me, elections are an exciting combination of many different subjects, which I take upon myself to untangle. There’s a heavily quantitative portion of elections, which involves calculating the paths each candidate can take to achieve 270 electoral votes. Speculating about how a candidate could’ve won is one of my favorite parts of politics. Take one of my favorite anecdotes: the state that lost Al Gore in the election of 2000 is his home state, Tennessee, not Florida. Gore could have won the election if he had put any amount of money into Tennessee, but he just assumed that he could carry the state since he was from there.

Social sciences also play an indispensable part in elections. For one, there are demographic trends - who's voting, and who are they voting for? How many votes do we need from Detroit for Hillary to carry Michigan? Finally, the most important part of elections to me are the issues that define and drive the election. Each year there are a varying set of divisive issues which each candidate must take a stance on in the hopes that their views will resonate with American citizens. These issues help people like me decide who to vote for, and although I've never voted in one, I love presidential elections.

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