Their votes don’t count, but for more than 70 years, they’ve almost always chosen the eventual winner.
Hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren, from kindergarten to the 12th grade, cast mock ballots for the presidential election ahead of Nov. 8, handing Hillary Clinton the under-18 “vote” 53-35 over her opponent Donald Trump.
And if parents voted the way their children did in the mock election, third-party candidates would also have a surprisingly good showing.
The mock votes were collected by mail and online by Scholastic, the educational publishing company, in an educational tradition it has followed since 1940, according to its website.
Trump carried 16 states in the nationwide “election,” while Clinton carried the other 34, including several swing states like Ohio, Virginia and critical Florida. The District of Columbia, which got to cast its own votes, went to “others,” which cumulatively counted candidates who were neither Trump nor Clinton.
The results, the site explicitly states, are “not based on a scientifically designed sample of the student population” and intended solely as an educational exercise for students. But the results, more often than not, have retroactively carried meaning. For all but two elections, the kids’ votes have predicted the actual presidential-elect after Election Day.
The first time students chose the runner-up instead was in 1948, when students voted for Thomas E. Dewey over Harry S. Truman. The other occasion was in 1960, when students incorrectly supposed that Richard M. Nixon would defeat John F. Kennedy. (Nixon, of course, would be elected president in his own right eight years later, before resigning during his second term over the Watergate scandal.)
But like the adult campaign cycle, 2016’s results among children were equally unusual. Children cast a disproportional large number of votes for write-in candidates by 13 percent, compared to the average 5 percent such candidates have received in the past.
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who conceded the primary battle to Clinton, earned a full 1 percent among younger voters despite having endorsed Clinton in real life. Libertarian Gary Johnson received about 2 percent of voters’ support overall.
Real-life polls have handed Clinton a lead nationally by several points, and election forecasts have put her chances of winning the presidency near 90 percent.