5 Things To Know About 18-year-old Niles Francis, Election Forecaster And Political Scientist

Isheka N. Harrison
Written by Isheka N. Harrison
Niles Francis
Niles Francis is a name you should probably learn. Here are 5 things you should know about the 18-year-old political scientist. Photo Courtesy of Niles Francis.

Niles Francis is a name you should probably get to know. In an age when election forecasting has reached pitch, he’s building an impressive reputation as a knowledgeable political scientist. The catch? He’s only 18. Here are 5 things you should know about Niles Francis.

He’s a respected voice in politics at 18

Over the course of two years, Francis has come to be respected by peers and fans alike. He has almost 15,000 Twitter followers, makes election maps and contributes to outlets such as Decision Desk HQ and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball.

“Niles has risen to the top of that group of people on Twitter analyzing elections because he’s able to offer a lot to his followers in terms of really interesting and incisive and insightful analysis,” said Gabe Fleisher, a fellow teenage wunderkind who has gained a national following with his “Wake Up To Politics” newsletter.

“People look for authenticity, they look for passion — I think Niles has both of those,” Fleisher told Mic

J. Miles Coleman, the associate editor of the Crystal Ball, told Mic that debating with Francis makes him better.

“Honestly it keeps me sharp, because there aren’t a lot of 18-year-olds who can carry on a conversation like that,” Coleman said. “He has quite the fan club.”

Made official foray into politics in 2016

Francis initially started with canvassing and volunteering for Democratic candidates in his home state of Georgia.

He joined Twitter in 2018 and started map-making.

Self-taught and resilient, Francis is a recent high school graduate

Despite his immense wisdom, Francis just graduated from South Cobb High School in Austell, Georgia in May, Mic reported. He’s also overcome immense personal tragedy.

He was raised by a single mother after losing his father to a brain tumor when he was 9. In 2018, they lost all their possessions in a house fire and his mother died a month later from diabetes complications.

Now living with his grandparents, Francis is bright and provides well-informed commentary.

“Some of it is self-taught, some of it is learning from others,” Francis told Mic. One of the benefits of the online community Francis has joined, he said, is, “We’ve become real, actual friends over the course of the last few months and years. There’s a really big social aspect to it.”

Greg Bluestein, a political reporter for the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, said “That’s the beauty of the system we’re in now, that a brilliant 16, 17-year-old can teach himself how to do this and by 18 become an influencer in Georgia politics.

“You don’t need a cartography degree from Yale or a master’s degree in political science to do this kind of thing anymore. You need an acumen to do it, you need the time and ability to do it, you need mentors.”

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John Lewis was his hero

Francis said civil rights legend John Lewis – who died earlier this year after a battle with cancer – is his hero. He told Mic he had the opportunity to meet the last surviving member of The Big Six who coined the iconic phrase “Good Trouble” twice.

When remembering Lewis, Francis said, “You have to learn to speak out whenever you see something that isn’t just or fair, and he taught all of us that.” 

His grandfather’s upbringing in Alabama and family political engagement have also shaped his passion for politics.

Making headway in a predominately white field

Election forecasting doesn’t have many prominent Black voices represented among its ranks.

“The election forecasting and just the political world in general can be very hard to break into,” Coleman said.

Niles Francis is showing it’s possible.

“I do wish the field were more diverse, but it’s not really something I think about a lot,” Francis said. “At the end of the day we all share a common interest” and when it’s time to talk politics with his fellow election aficionados he said “our backgrounds, they’re kind of on the back-burner.”