Princeton Election Consortium

A first draft of electoral history. Since 2004

Time to double the number of deaths Sunday, June 7: US 106.2 days, NJ 147.2 days, NY 421.4 days

Authoritarianism in 2020: Checking the checklist

June 4th, 2020, 12:47pm by Sam Wang


In January 2017, shortly after the Inauguration, I provided a ten-item checklist of signs of authoritarianism. It seemed like a good idea to think in advance about what might happen, and lay down a marker in advance. In addition, I was concerned that the press, television media, and citizens might become desensitized to the news.

I was mocked by a few people as being hysterical. Likewise, scholars of authoritarianism such as Sarah Kendzior were also considered to be out there.

But then things started coming true. And scholars of authoritarianism were proved correct: see this recent NYT report.

Events have happened fast, and repeatedly. I provided a brief update to the list in May 2017, and another in August 2018. In light of recent events surrounding police and military response to the protests, it’s time to take stock.

Before going to the list, I want to note something striking. Even with unrest, military crackdowns, and pandemic, Donald Trump still has support from about three-fourths of self-described Republicans. His approval among all voters hasn’t fallen below a floor of about 39% (or gone above a ceiling of 43%) for nearly his entire presidency. The Republican Party, once the party of Eisenhower or Reagan, has become the party of Trump. As of today, he’s at 42.5% in the adjusted FiveThirtyEight average. As I wrote in October 2016, his base keeps him afloat.

Here’s the checklist. The Administration scores 9 out of 10.

The Authoritarian Checklist, June 2020 update

  1. Taking sides with a foreign power against domestic opposition.Check mark, Segoe UI Symbol font, character code 2713 hex.
  2. Detention of journalists.Check mark, Segoe UI Symbol font, character code 2713 hex.
  3. Loss of press access to the White House.Check mark, Segoe UI Symbol font, character code 2713 hex.
  4. Made-up charges against those who disagree with the government.Check mark, Segoe UI Symbol font, character code 2713 hex.
  5. Use of governmental power to target individual citizens for retribution.Check mark, Segoe UI Symbol font, character code 2713 hex.
  6. Use of a terrorist or other incident to take away civil liberties.Check mark, Segoe UI Symbol font, character code 2713 hex.
  7. Persecution of an ethnic or religious minority, either by the Administration or its supporters.Check mark, Segoe UI Symbol font, character code 2713 hex.
  8. Removal of civil service employees for insufficient loyalty or membership in a suspect group.Check mark, Segoe UI Symbol font, character code 2713 hex.
  9. Use of the Presidency to incite popular violence against individuals or organizations.Check mark, Segoe UI Symbol font, character code 2713 hex.
  10. Defying the orders of courts, including the Supreme Court.

The interpretation of authoritarianism doesn’t take into account the fact that many of these actions have been taken with a low degree of competence. The Administration is particularly maladroit. At some level, teargassing D.C. protesters is about what one might expect from a mayor. But these actions are now becoming normalized. People with more competence will be ready to take up the torch, as we saw in Senator Tom Cotton’s opinion piece. No matter who wins the Presidency in 2020, that is a concerning sign for 2024 – or even the next post-election transition.

And now, the details. [Read more →]

→ 4 CommentsTags: President · Supreme Court · U.S. Institutions

Fixing Bugs In Democracy: The Electoral College

June 3rd, 2020, 9:13pm by Sam Wang


Thursday at 6:00pm, I’m pleased to help host the fourth event in our series, Fixing Bugs In Democracy. In our cross-hairs: the Electoral College.

That’s right, we are hosting an event for an author who wants to do away with the reason that most people come to this site. It’s a terrific book, full of important history. Getting a national popular vote will be very hard…but we have to build for the future. Jesse Wegman’s new book lays the foundation.

Julian Zelizer and I host Jesse to talk about Let The People Pick The President: The Case For Abolishing The Electoral College. We’re co-hosted by the Princeton Gerrymandering Project and Labyrinth Books. To buy the book: email
orders.labyrinth@gmail.com (include your callback number) or call 609-497-1600 #1 (Tues-Sat 11AM-4PM). You’ll get 10% off, curbside pickup or free shipping in NJ, and the satisfaction of supporting the store that made tonight’s event possible. It was recorded: Watch the event here! (you can also watch on YouTube)

Postscript: 294 attendees, a great turnout for a warm evening. Nerdy aside: many questions we didn’t get to are answered in my forthcoming article with Jacob Canter in the Harvard Law and Policy Review, available here. [SSRN]

→ Post a commentTags: 2020 Election · President

Reanimating… Meta-margin Biden+4.6%, most effective GOTV states NV/AZ/FL/NM/NH/MI/NC

May 24th, 2020, 4:15pm by Sam Wang


Just a quiet Sunday, reanimating some code…minus some problems from 2016.

As of today, survey support for Biden is 4.6% above threshold in terms of Electoral College mechanisms. Median snapshot of current polls: Biden 343, Trump 195 EV.

Today’s poll-based modal outcome (i.e. the single most probable combination):

Here’s what it looks like if just 2% of voters flip from Biden to Trump uniformly: [Read more →]

→ 9 CommentsTags: 2020 Election · President

How is South Korea’s re-opening going?

May 19th, 2020, 6:54pm by Sam Wang


South Korea and the United States had their first coronavirus case on the same day. But from there, their trajectories diverged radically. What’s happening in Korea, and what is their strategy for reopening? Very soon, Julian Zelizer and I speak with Asaph Young Chun, who is helping head the re-opening effort. Listen to Politics and Polls tonight, live, and ask questions! Click HERE to listen. (requires Zoom).

To ask questions:

  • use the Zoom Q&A
  • Tweet your questions using the hashtag #politicspolls, or
  • text us at this Google Voice number: 929-242-9349

I’ll post a link to the recording later.

→ Post a commentTags: Redistricting

Steak-umm Bless!

May 18th, 2020, 11:51am by Sam Wang


I was interviewed on the essential topic of Steak-umm’s advocacy for truth and evidence-based policy. Juliana Kaplan at Business Insider reports.

Comments Off on Steak-umm Bless!Tags: Politics · Uncategorized

2020 is a close national election, especially for Senate and state legislatures

May 16th, 2020, 11:37pm by Sam Wang



Despite Trump’s low approval numbers, April/May polls indicate a closer race than Obama 2008 or Obama 2012. This is yet again another close Presidential race, same as it’s generally been since 2000. We live in an era of close elections, and 2020 is not yet an exception. (Note that even Obama’s 53%-46% win in 2008 is fairly close by historical standards. You probably have a different idea of what “close” means.)

A four-point swing – or 2% of voters changing their minds – would make Wisconsin, Michigan, and Florida more likely to go to Trump, and bring the mode outcome close to a perfect toss-up. In the terminology of this site, the current Presidential Meta-Margin is Biden +4%.

A six-point swing (3% of voters changing their minds) would bring the mode outcome to Trump 294, Biden 244.

Presidential poll medians, state by state:
AZ: Biden +9%
PA: Biden +6%
FL: Biden +4%
MI: Biden +4%
WI: Biden +3%
NC: Trump +1%
OH: Trump +3%

Senate. The same is true in Senate races. Thanks to natural gerrymandering (two Dakotas, one California, that kind of thing) and today’s severe polarization, Republicans can maintain control of the Senate with a little less than 50% popular support. Despite that, Democrats have a shot at retaking control if they win a handful of races.

They start from 46 seats (counting Sanders as a Democrat, and assuming Doug Jones loses in Alabama). The basket of competitive Senate races, listed in order from Democratic-leaning to Republican-leaning, is:

Colorado – Arizona – North Carolina – Montana – Maine – Iowa – Georgia (Perdue).

If Democrats were to win four of these races, they would get to 50 seats, opening the possibility of taking control of the chamber. Given current polling data, they could conceivably win all but Georgia and Iowa, which gets them to 52 seats.

In 2020, we will focus on citizen leverage. Your donations and efforts have the most influence on representation in cases where the race is on a knife’s edge – if it’s within a few points in either direction. Therefore Senate races from the middle of the list above are the best place to put resources. In the ActBlue on the right, I currently include Senate races in North Carolina, Montana, Maine, and Iowa.

Conversely, Alabama and Kentucky are not efficient places to put money. I know Democratic readers of this site would like to oust Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell from office. That is unlikely (at least until new data come in suggesting otherwise), but a more likely way to affect him would be to deprive him of his Majority Leader role.

State races. Finally, I am most excited about our newest expansion effort: identifying leverage in state legislative races and voter initiatives. These are cases where your activism can move the needle on policy and, in many cases, lead to bipartisan rule. for example, in Kansas, changing just one legislative seat would remove the supermajority, and compel the Republican-controlled legislature to work with the Democratic governor. Opportunities to flip partisan control can be found in Arizona, Florida, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas. These apply to both parties – Republicans would surely like to avoid single-party Democratic rule in Minnesota.
Goal Thermometer
Some of those state legislatures have a say in redistricting. In those cases, a change in control in 2020 would have a decade’s worth of effects. Those states are Florida, Kansas, North Carolina, and Texas. (I’m leaving out Minnesota for reasons I’ll explain another day.)

Again, you can donate to all of these efforts on this site, whether you’re a Democrat (ActBlue) or Republican (RSLC; see right sidebar).

We’ll set up the usual feed soon. Also, the site’s getting a revamp soon!

→ 12 CommentsTags: 2020 Election

All Fixing Bugs in Democracy videos are available on YouTube

May 12th, 2020, 4:24pm by Jason


Our Fixing Bugs in Democracy series got off to a great start in April. Now, all three of our videos are available on YouTube. Watch a playlist of our Virtual Town Halls, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.
[Read more →]

Comments Off on All Fixing Bugs in Democracy videos are available on YouTubeTags: Redistricting

CDC Guidance For Re-opening

May 7th, 2020, 10:33am by Sam Wang


Controversially, the Administration is now pushing the idea of re-opening daily life in the United States. This is a questionable idea, considering the lack of firm standards for doing so. Also, at the beginning of the sheltering order, it was clear that re-opening would require procedures for testing, tracking, and isolation. In most states, those have not been set up.

Now, it turns out that a Centers for Disease Control document (draft version here) has been suppressed by the Administration. As reported, by AP’s Jason Dearen and Mike Stobbe, this 17-page document gives detailed procedures and guidance. It comes after previous more general CDC guidelines and an internal CDC briefing memo.

Together, these documents are exactly what we need for an orderly national response. Failing that, it’s up to the states. Here in NJ/NY/CT, case rates and death rates are coming down. Here in New Jersey, local information can be found at covid19.nj.gov.

→ 1 CommentTags: 2020 Election · U.S. Institutions

Coronavirus New York state update: switching from Johns Hopkins to NYT data

April 19th, 2020, 9:35pm by Sam Wang


Over the last few days, our doubling-time tracker has showed steady progress toward longer times in nearly every state – except New York. We think we’ve identified a source of inaccuracy: uneven updating at the Johns Hopkins site. They’re excellent, but their data isn’t intended for visual display. So we’re switching to the New York Times feed.

Here’s our revised graph based on NYT data:

Further thoughts after the jump. [Read more →]

→ 17 CommentsTags: Health

Elections, neuroscience…and Bill Nye!

April 19th, 2020, 10:18am by Sam Wang


(photo taken February 6th)

I was on with Bill Nye and Corey S. Powell to talk about elections, polls, and neuroscience. It was a lively and fun conversation – take a listen!

Topics: the Electoral College, polls, what neuroscientists do for fun, gerrymandering…lots of topics. Those guys move fast!

→ Post a commentTags: Politics · Princeton · Redistricting