Microsoft's Predictions Get Political With Bing Elections

Tech and politics collide again. This time, Microsoft turns its prognostication technology on this year's midterm elections in the U.S.


Microsoft's machine learning research helped Bing properly predict the outcome of the World Cup. Now, the company is trying its hand at elections.

The company launched Bing Elections today, a resource guide to the 2014 midterm elections in the United States, which includes Microsoft's predicted wins in each race. This year, a number of U.S. Senate and House seats are up for grabs, as well as several governorships.

While a novel use of the Bing prediction technology, voter outreach is Bing Election's ultimate priority.

"According to a recent survey conducted on behalf of Bing, 50 percent of people said that they don't feel confident about voting this November with 70 percent stating they don't feel informed on all the issues," said Derrick Connell, corporate vice president of Microsoft Bing, in a blog post. "Politics aside, our goal with Bing Elections and the personalized Voter Guide is to arm voters so they can make decisions based on the most comprehensive and best information available."

The Bing election hub serves up an interactive map, a personalized Voter Guide for residents of major metropolitan areas, news from different political perspectives, election trivia and, of course, predicted outcomes. "You can sort by incumbents, Bing Predicts and on election day we will provide a view of real-time exit polls," informed Connell.

Hovering over states or districts with contested seats displays the candidates and their chances of winning as predicted by Bing. A click generates a custom search results page with related information.

A location-based feature, called My Ballot, is set to roll out shortly. "From here, based on your location Bing will display everything that will appear on your ballot as well as the location of the nearest voting station in your area," said Connell. "You can compare candidates, dig into propositions and even see predictions from Bing as to which candidate has a higher chance of winning the elections."

Bing Elections is powered in part by Microsoft Prediction Lab, a gamified, social media-enabled polling site that turns the wisdom of the crowds into forecasts. "You can predict every Senate, House, and Gubernatorial race and weigh in on many key issues. Your predictions are integrated into our crowd forecasts showing how likely certain candidates will win and other events will occur," reads the Website's FAQ.

Microsoft's approach appears to be working.

During this year's World Cup competition in Brazil, Bing not only predicted that Germany would take home the trophy, it correctly called all the games. "We are pleased to report that for the final elimination rounds we were 100 percent accurate picking the winner in 15 out of 15 games, finishing the knockout rounds with a perfect bracket," said Bing development manager Walter Sun in a statement after the tournament wrapped up.

Microsoft is tackling the NFL this football season. In addition to gathering the social media and Web sentiment surrounding the sport, Sun revealed in a Sept. 3 blog post that his group is basing its model on the "respective strengths of the teams by examining outcomes from previous seasons including wins, losses, and the very rare tie outcome (two games since 2009), factoring in margin of victories, location of contest, playing surface and roof cover (or lack thereof), weather and temperature conditions, scoring by quarters, and multiple offensive and defensive statistics."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...