Princeton Election Consortium

A first draft of electoral history. Since 2004

Mark Halperin tries out a quantitative approach

April 19th, 2015, 1:30am by Sam Wang


So, Mark Halperin went to New Hampshire to watch the GOP presidential field. And then he evaluated them by handing out grades, which I guess is meant to be rigorous. I think these “grades” reveal at least as much about modern political journalism as they do about what happened in the Granite State. [Read more →]

→ 6 CommentsTags: 2016 Election · President

The Real Problem With That Chart

April 13th, 2015, 11:03pm by Sam Wang


In today’s dustup between FiveThirtyEight and Vox, the press is missing the point. This is often the case, since most reporters understand mud-throwing better than they understand data.

I am not interested in squabbles over whether it is kosher to show someone else’s graphic. That ship sailed ten years ago when blogging got big. See Ezra Klein today; it’s what aggregators and commentators do. The real story is that the original interpretation is quite possibly wrong. Go read what Matt Yglesias actually wrote!

The bottom line, in two sentences: 1) Hillary Clinton has Presidential-level name recognition, which nearly the entire GOP field would kill for. 2) Jeb Bush is starting off as damaged goods, but most other Republicans are not.

Follow me down to understand why. [Read more →]

→ 33 CommentsTags: 2016 Election · President

Tuesday’s real winners: Kulanu and the Joint Arab List

March 18th, 2015, 2:09am by Sam Wang


Kahlon's support is critical for Likud's coalition. Credit: Tsahir Abayov, AP

Moshe Kahlon of Kulanu, kingmaker

The votes are counted. Likud surged in the home stretch, making them the largest party in the new Knesset. The fifth-largest party, Kulanu, is likely to play an outsized role in determining who the next Prime Minister will be. This means that Benjamin Netanyahu’s return to office is not quite a done deal.

First, the results of Tuesday’s election: [Read more →]

→ 16 CommentsTags: Politics

Israel exit polls – and how to read them

March 17th, 2015, 3:19pm by Sam Wang


This is useful: a Times of Israel guide to reading exit polls, and how President Rivlin might weigh today’s results. And…official tallies in Hebrew and English.

What are you reading?

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After Election Day: Degrees of treif

March 17th, 2015, 10:07am by Sam Wang


If pre-election polls hold up – and there is some question now, since Israeli law prohibited publication of polls over the weekend – Labor/Hatnuah (also known as the Zionist Camp) may well get the first chance to form a ruling coalition of a majority of the newly-elected 120 Knesset members. On the face of it, it would not seem that Likud-plus (Likud plus natural allies on the right) can get to 61 seats easily. However, Labor’s difficulties are quite substantial, a problem which has become quite apparent upon further analysis. For this reason, Netanyahu’s chances of retaining at least some power are probably better than I thought before.

The last few days of the Israeli campaign have been quite a spectacle… [Read more →]

→ 5 CommentsTags: Politics

Israeli election 2015: Netanyahu at risk?

March 14th, 2015, 6:03pm by Sam Wang


Note: updated to reflect final polls and some reader comments like this one.

Israel's Labor/Hatnuah ticket has emphasized economic issues. Credit: Jack Guez/APF/Getty Images/Vox

Labor's Isaac Herzog: Israel's next Prime Minister?

Israeli elections are Tuesday, March 17th – St. Patrick’s Day! Israeli politics is rococo in its complexity, but let’s take a look at the data. Bottom line, there is a substantial chance of Netanyahu being ousted as Prime Minister. In the context of Israeli politics, his US speech looks like a Hail Mary pass. [Read more →]

→ 18 CommentsTags: Politics

(On-campus) research assistant wanted

February 28th, 2015, 6:30am by Sam Wang


I’m looking for a research assistant at Princeton to work on a gerrymandering project at a scholarly level, i.e. for academic research. It will also have practical implications. There’s a posting at the Student Employment office – look for posting #35677! For now, students only please.

→ Post a commentTags: 2012 Election · 2014 Election · 2016 Election · Princeton · Site News

What do GOP voters want?

January 20th, 2015, 11:50am by Sam Wang



In a recent CBS poll, Republican voters were asked who they wanted to see run for President. In terms of the net yes-minus-no percentage, leading the pack were Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush. Trailing, but still with net positives were Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, and Ben Carson. In negative territory were Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, and Rick Perry. Bringing up the rear? Chris Christie and Sarah Palin.

Palin is an interesting “control experiment” since her political career is basically over. Using her to define a maximum lack of enthusiasm (1 Palin unit, or 100 centiPalins), and Mitt Romney to set the high-enthusiasm end (0 centiPalins), Governor Christie is at 77 centiPalins. Whatever it is that GOP voters want, it doesn’t come from New Jersey.

Looking at the general temperature of enthusiasm for GOP candidates, one question arises: why are reporters spending so much time on Christie and not, say, Ben Carson?

→ 10 CommentsTags: 2016 Election · President

An “Obama Unbound” effect – or Viva Obama?

January 2nd, 2015, 1:13pm by Sam Wang



Since mid-December, President Obama’s net approve/disapprove numbers have shot up. This graph shows the median of the last 21 days of polling. The current level, a net disapproval of only 2%, reflects six pollsters (Gallup, Rasmussen, CNN, ARG, YouGov/Economist, and ABC/Post). These are his highest numbers since early 2013. What is going on?

First, a caveat. A jump of this size and suddenness is surprising. Reasons should be offered with care. For example, I still don’t have a good explanation for the dive in Obama’s numbers in June – and that was a drop of similar size. Still, this recent jump occurred with multiple pollsters, suggesting that it’s a real phenomenon and not some artifact of changing methods.

To identify possible causes, we should look to events prior to the jump. The obvious event is the President’s newfound liberation from the pressures of the election cycle. Since the November election, the President has done the opposite of what many people expected: he showed strong assertiveness to Congress (shortly after November 4), acted boldly on immigration (November 20), made frank public statements on race (December 17), and normalized relations with Cuba (December 17). Could it be that voters like a strong leader?

It could be asked whether, from an electoral standpoint, these actions would have been welcome before the election. However, that is a mixed bag. Consider an alternative scenario, in which Obama had acted like this earlier. That might have been worse for his policies since loss of the Senate was still likely, as well as retained GOP control of the House. Those defeats would then cast a shadow on Obama’s actions and lead to pressure to reverse them. In the current situation, the President has little reason to change course.

I’ll get out on a limb with a speculation: If this “real Obama” uptick lasts, it might demonstrate a benefit to Democrats if they act, with vigor, like Democrats. With a newly invigorated President and a Congress in full opposition, the coming year will be worth watching.

Postscript: The most plausible trigger seems to be normalization with Cuba, which was huge news and reminded people of the unique power of the Presidency. This is a time when crosstabs would be helpful. Is the uptick concentrated among Hispanics? Democrats? Independents? For now, I leave that to readers and other analysts…

→ 23 CommentsTags: 2014 Election · President

Exceptionally Low Turnout Can Account For Polling Errors

November 10th, 2014, 9:26am by Sam Wang


At The American Prospect:

In the home stretch, I wrote that midterm polling is far less accurate than in Presidential years. Today, in The American Prospect, I detail how this year’s polling errors are correlated with voter turnout, which was the lowest since 1942, as based on Michael McDonald’s tabulation so far. In 2014, Democrats underperformed expectations by over 5 percentage points on average, the largest such error in over 20 years. State by state, underperformance was correlated with low turnout. This suggests that voter apathy on the Democratic side was a significant factor in the 2014 election. Here’s the article.

From a polling standpoint, estimating turnout is likely to be a major source of systematic error. Here are some details of this year’s GOP “bonus.” [Read more →]

→ 37 CommentsTags: 2014 Election · governors · Senate