Princeton Election Consortium

A first draft of electoral history. Since 2004

Three Reasons To Ignore Debate “Expectations”

September 25th, 2016, 11:25pm by Sam Wang

Polls are likely to move after the debate. It is the moment when voters get to make a direct, side-by-side comparison of the two candidates. This may also be the last time for any significant shift in the race.

Both before and after the debate, pundits will emit opinions about “expectations.” This commentary does not have predictive value. It would be better if they kept their focus on policy substance or factchecking.

Here are three reasons why you should basically ignore the onslaught of horserace punditry that is about to rain down. [Read more →]

→ 62 CommentsTags: 2016 Election · President

Today – WHYY Radio Times at 10am; on campus at noon

September 26th, 2016, 8:38am by Sam Wang

Today at 10:00am Eastern, I’ll be on WHYY-FM’s Radio Times with Mary Cummings-Jordan for an hour-long program on polls and the campaign. (Did you miss it? Archived here.)

If you’re in the Princeton area, at noon I’ll be giving a talk in the American Politics Seminar. My focus will be this year’s race, polarization, and a little gerrymandering too if I have time. Come on by if you can!

→ 2 CommentsTags: 2016 Election · Politics

Between Two Ferns: Zach Galifianakis interviews Hillary Clinton

September 23rd, 2016, 8:00am by Sam Wang

A bit strange.

Comments OffTags: 2016 Election · President

Politics & Polls podcast #12 – How will debates move the race?

September 22nd, 2016, 5:00pm by Sam Wang

The first debate is Monday, Sept. 26, at 9 p.m. from Hofstra University in New York. This first debate could be the most-viewed in our history. How might these debates influence voters? With presidential polls more favorable to Trump than their average for 2016, which way will they move afterward? Julian Zelizer and I chew the cud.

→ 15 CommentsTags: 2016 Election · President

Ipsos/Reuters rips off the Band-Aid

September 20th, 2016, 7:00pm by Sam Wang

In today’s 50-state release of data by Ipsos/Reuters, some have commented on the fact that some individual state results are not convincing. I take a different view: having so many data points at once is a gift. [Read more →]

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How Lies Live And Grow In The Brain – 2016 edition

September 20th, 2016, 7:30am by Sam Wang

In 2008, conservative email and websites propagated the false belief that Barack Obama came from somewhere other than his birthplace of Hawaii. In the New York Times in 2008, Sandra Aamodt and I addressed the neuroscience of why people came to adopt this belief. Now that Donald Trump is attempting to hide his five-year involvement in the “birther” movement, our piece is timely again. [Read more →]

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Politics And Polls #11: Gender and the Presidency, with Rebecca Traister

September 16th, 2016, 9:39am by Sam Wang

On Politics & Polls (SoundCloud, PodOmatic, and iTunes): Julian Zelizer and I interview Rebecca Traister, whose profile of Hillary Clinton for New York magazine is the best profile of Clinton I have read this year. Traister is the author of All The Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation. Listen to our far-ranging discussion now!

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Sometimes life comes at you fast

September 16th, 2016, 7:15am by Sam Wang

It looks like the Presidential state-poll snapshot is heading for a near-tie. This should become evident in the PEC analysis by the time of the first debate. I believe this will be a temporary situation. It will take at least until after the first debate on September 26th to find out.

National polls currently show Clinton ahead by only 1.0 ± 0.6 % (median ± estimated SEM, 7 pollsters with at least some post-Phlegmghazi respondents). However, our state poll-based analysis moves more slowly. I expect the Meta-Margin to keep on moving toward Trump for at least a week as state poll medians catch up. To get an idea of where the PEC analysis will head in the next few days, see, whose main map displays the most recent single poll for each state and therefore is noisier than my calculation – but more up-to-the-moment.

I estimate that if we had up-to-date data in all states, in an election held today the Presidential outcome would be extremely close, approximately like the map below.

Click the map to create your own at

If the election were today, it would be a nail-biter. But as Glenn Thrush at POLITICO points out, there are lots of ways for Clinton to recover.

Today, I will go over some reasons that may make Clinton supporters (and Trump opponents) feel concerned.

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The real news today…downticket

September 13th, 2016, 8:42am by Sam Wang

It is good for a cheap laugh to flay the media for its obsession with horserace. This week’s ongoing ruckus with Phlegm-ghazi confirms that reporters cannot get out of their mental rut of some older storyline. In this case, the storyline is “Clinton is secretive.” Let us pause for a moment. She was concealing her pneumonia because the press would make a big deal out of it. And, wait for it…the press made a big deal out of it.

You, Dear Reader, are complicit in this. I notice that more of you click Presidential links than on the nifty Competitive Congressional District Finder. You like the Presidential horserace. My reason for generating the best prediction I can is to reduce the noise of campaign news. I thought it would clear mental space for thinking about policies, or downticket issues.

The Presidential forecast [methods] takes a low-noise snapshot of state polls, then adds possible drift based on recent elections and this year. Because of intense polarization, few voters are movable. The calculation says that Clinton’s win probability is 90%. The Senate forecast does the same [methods], but also factors in Presidential-year or midterm-year bias. It says that Democrats’+Independents’ probability of taking control is 72%, which is in the 20-80% range, meaning that things could really go either way. Other forecasts tend to count uncertainties twice, or to overestimate how movable voters are. Other forecasts are also under commercial pressure to attract eyeballs.

Still, the comment section is still peppered with anxious questions about Clinton’s chances. Honestly, some liberals can be total ninnies. You don’t see the conservatives in hysterics…though actually, here is their version of a meltdown. I take it back. You go.

Here are some news items that matter more. [Read more →]

→ 92 CommentsTags: 2016 Election · President · Senate

Find a competitive House race near you!

September 9th, 2016, 8:51am by Sam Wang

This year, Republicans are going to lose seats in the House of Representatives – this is certain. How many seats, we don’t know. As analyzed by Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report, their majority is protected by aggressive redistricting efforts in 2010 (see my Stanford Law Review article and David Daley’s book Ratf***ed) and poor candidate recruitment by Democrats this year. Nonetheless, there remains some chance that a strong enough national popular vote win can flip the House.

Even if the House does not change control, a closer seat margin increases the ability of the minority to get legislation passed by peeling off votes from the majority. Under a Hillary Clinton Presidency, this will affect legislative priorities that cut across party lines, such as an increase in the minimum wage.

If you want to make a difference for your side, you can volunteer for a campaign in a contested district. In response to my wish, PEC reader Sharon Machlis has developed the Competitive Congressional District Finder, a cool application in which you type in your address or ZIP code and get back a map showing competitive races near you, as identified by the Cook Political Report. Whether you support Democrats or Republicans, these are the races that matter. Give the app a try – and get out there!

Note the general location of competitive districts: in the Northeast, the Midwest, the Southwest, and Florida. Many of these districts are competitive thanks to good-government and/or nonpartisan redistricting practices – see especially Arizona, California, Florida, and New York. This demonstrates the power of redistricting reform, whether pursued through the courts or through voter initiative.

Note on Florida: for a week or two, the app will not show current boundaries, thanks to a court-ordered redistricting and delays in getting the map files. The currently competitive Florida districts are FL-7FL-13FL-18, and FL-26.

Sharon used Google Fusion Tables and the Searchable Map Template, which was created by civic tech builder and open-government advocate Derek Eder. Many thanks to Sharon for her fast work. Talented readers like her are a major source of gratification.

→ 48 CommentsTags: 2016 Election · House