Princeton Election Consortium

A first draft of electoral history. Since 2004

The cheat sheet (a.k.a. Geek’s Guide) is here!

November 4th, 2008, 11:11am by Sam Wang



Confused about what to watch for tonight? Read the cheat sheet! [PDF]. I’ll be using the Geek’s Guide to tracking national returns – which races to watch, a way to identify polling biases, and more. (Note: the map is the estimated mode of the distribution, but the topline estimate is the median.)

The Geek’s Guide contains what I think is interesting or suspenseful about tonight’s races. In it I list

  • My lowest-error-rate guess for the eventual electoral outcome (the mode, not the Median EV Estimator);
  • Key states to watch early in the evening;
  • Ways to identify polling biases such as the Bradley effect;
  • One key close Senate race and one key Presidential race to watch; and
  • A list of poll closing times.

In the Presidential race, I’ll be watching the contests in Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and … New Hampshire. What’s that? Why New Hampshire? You’ll have to read the Geek’s Guide.

Thanks to Josh, Maury, and David R. for vetting a previous version of the document, and to Larry Allen for the poll closing time information. See the comment thread for the inevitable errata.

P.S. There’s some experimental tiebreaking secret sauce on the last page. Depending on the size of the bias, by the evening’s end it will look clever or stupid. All I will say is that its only ingredients are state polling data and MATLAB.

Oh, here is the map without the guesses:

Tags: 2008 Election

12 Comments so far ↓

  • Deanna

    Thanks for the cheat sheet. Of course, I’m not a geek, but it is kinda fun, y’all!

    Cheers, I hope.

  • E. Duvert

    Thanks, again, Sam, from a geek wannabee. I’ve downloaded your cheat sheet and getting started. Enjoy the evening!

  • Sam Wang

    Ed – It’s on there as < 270 >.

    Jon and Sr. Taco III – The feeling’s mutual! It’s been fun. I may keep the site alive, but obviously one needs something else to talk about. I liked the Top Chef suggestion on one of the previous threads.

  • Ed

    In the rank ordered list of states (+DC) at the bottom of page one, it would be interesting to indicate the point at which there are an equal number of EVs on each side…might be “in the middle of a state” or on a line between two.

  • Jon

    Sam,
    Thanks for the “Geek’s Guide” and for your great insights (and occasional reassurance) throughout this election season. I’m not saying that I’m looking forward to the next election, but I will miss checking in with your site each day.

  • Johnathan F. Taco III, Esq.

    Thanks, Sam! This place has been my drug since I discovered it while looking for accurate info on the election. It has since become my drug of choice.

    Is there any sort of rehab I can check into after the elections? :)

  • Signe

    The EST portion of FL polls close at 7pm as listed in the guide. But in the portion of the Florida panhandle that’s on central time (CST) the polls don’t close until 8pm EST.

  • Sam Wang

    Grahame – those are nominal values. Now edited.

    Andrew Foland – yes, you are right. Corrected. Good to see you!

  • Andrew Foland

    On the first page you note which states to the left of did not vote for Kerry.

    Having been inspired by the 2004 concept of “jerseyvotes” to canvas in nearby New Hampshire, I can assure you that NH in fact voted for Kerry in 2004.

    I think you mean NM.

  • Grahame

    Is that a typo for Indiana? From 50 to 2 percent with “secret sauce”?

  • Sam Wang

    Matt – Secret sauce is my way of breaking pesky ties. It’s not bad but I implemented it in a hurry. I’ll reveal the method later. Against the spirit of full disclosure, I know…

  • Matt Incantalupo

    What is secret sauce?