Princeton Election Consortium

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A difference with Nate Silver? Not exactly.

October 12th, 2013, 3:30pm by Sam Wang


From Brad DeLong, this headline caught my attention:

SAM WANG VS. NATE SILVER: NOTED

Always good to see the Ali-Foreman thing.

Seriously, though, take a look at Silver’s essay at his new home at Grantland. His description of conditions is a good overview of pre-shutdown conditions. If we stop with the continual budget crises, then I agree that we might drift back toward the conventional prediction (R’s keep control in 2014).

Where we differ is that I am adding to that picture the sea change in the last two weeks. As I’ve written, there’s big stuff going on. Poll movement is substantial and rapid in the generic Congressional ballot. Multiple polls, including a detailed one from NBC/WSJ, show that public sentiment has turned against the GOP. Under the radar, gerrymandered districts are swinging much harder than I was expecting. If the election were today, Democrats would control the House by about 50 seats. That will fade, but by how much?

Silver lists other events that didn’t move opinion: Benghazi, and the IRS business, and Syria. But the shutdown has, bigtime. I agree with him that most pundits emit bulls**t, which is why I am working on a prediction model. Right now, the model is saying: as long as the GOP stays on its current path, where the House goes next fall is an even-money bet.

Tags: 2014 Election · House

20 Comments so far ↓

  • Khadijah

    Just saw you and I agree 100 %

  • Frank

    Yeah, this surprised me about Nate. Benghazi, the IRS and Syria were/are all essentially non-scandals (trumped up by the GOP) that do not affect the average American’s daily life. However, this shutdown, and the impending credit default, DOES. THAT is the difference, and I am surprised Nate was quick to blow this off.

    • Amitabh Lath

      I too did not understand Silver’s comments equating Benghazi, IRS etc to the current situation. But I do understand the general sentiment. I remain reluctant to credit huge swings in public opinion in a timescale of a few days (example: PEC after the 1st presidential debate).

      But this time is different.

      I think Sam’s got something here. This is (to use an often abused term) a paradigm shift. The change is not just on the margins. Deep red districts are in play. People must be rethinking decades long voting patterns, in large numbers.

      It is in the nature of paradigm shifts that very smart people fail to recognize they are happening.

    • Sam Wang

      He has moved to a sports site. It is good business to namecheck events that appeal to Republican readers.

      The thing about the first debate is that it was a single-day event, so likely to be short. The shutdown is longer in duration. I do not know how to predict the duration of this effect. An example of a long-lasting effect was 9/11, which had a half-life of close to a year, long enough to hit the 2002 midterms.

      Another factor is whose opinion is affected. Benghazi, IRS: party loyalists liked those, not independents as far as I could tell. Opinion didn’t move. A bad economy (2010), longer-lasting. That one’s harder to separate from the ACA, though I favor the recession explanation.

    • Amitabh Lath

      Sam, think about the enormity of what the polls are saying. It’s as if Cambridge MA started voting Republican. Surely some head scratching would be called for.

      Actually it’s even stranger than that. At least Cambridge has its share of rational thinkers (at least the bits of Cambridge along Memorial Drive by the Mass Ave bridge).

      What the current polls are showing is that people who largely believe the president to have been born in Kenya, who disbelieve in anthropogenic global warming and evolution, still hold neolithic views on gays… THESE people are drifting towards voting Democratic.

      Wouldn’t you question your instruments if they started giving such readings?

      Or maybe the people who hold the above views are the ones NOT moving, it’s everyone else who voted R and now realizes they made a terrible mistake.

    • mediaglyphic

      Amit,
      is there any poll that tells us what percentage of the population
      ” largely believe the president to have been born in Kenya, who disbelieve in anthropogenic global warming and evolution, still hold neolithic views on gays”

      Just wondering, i would have thought its smaller than we think, but i really i have no idea.

    • Sam Wang

      Ah, perhaps you do not know about the Crazification Factor. Which is really a constant, not a factor. But anyway.

    • Amitabh Lath

      Ha! I remember the Obama Senate run. At the time I was working on an experiment at Fermilab so I was often in IL. The establishment Republican candidate (Jack Ryan) imploded due to revelations by his wife (Seven-of-Nine from Star Trek Voyager).

      Then Alan Keyes jumped in, and I recall being surprised that the IL Republican establishment had no power to prevent his obvious carpetbagging. I guess that was a precursor of R establishment impotence on the national stage.

      Media, you would think the .AND. of all of those beliefs would be small numbers, but perhaps there are correlations. I am trying to look up how many people believe in strict biblical creation (ie, no Big Bang, Universe created 4k years ago just as we see it today…) but no luck. Some interesting creationist websites though.

  • SFBay

    I’ll be interested to follow your model as more data points are added and the model develops.

  • Amy Fried

    The economic effects of the shutdown will likely have an impact on 2014. However, those will only hurt Republicans if voters attribute them to Republicans. Typically, the president and president’s party benefit or suffer from economic shifts.

    Maine, where I live, is one of the top five states in economic impact from the shutdown. We also have a Tea Party governor running for re-election who has been arguing that he has created jobs (at a slow pace, under the national average). Right now is a key part our tourist season but Acadia National Park is closed. The governor has declared a civil emergency so he can lay off state workers without following the usual rules in state law and union contracts.

    Your model might account for economic effects in the states. At the same time, attributions are critical. Democrats should be stressing that Republicans are threatening the recovery (at least). Given the recent polls showing strong disapproval for Republican strategies, that would not be a hard case to press.

  • Paul H. Rosenberg

    I think the GOP is running on borrowed time. They blew it badly with the Great Depression 80 years ago. The American people didn’t let them control all 3 branches of government for another 70 years after that.

    Then, in a few short years, they made *ANOTHER* terrible mess–not just the Great Recession, but also 9/11, Iraq & Afghanistan. Fortunately for them, Obama came along & saved their bacon by focusing so much attention on trying to be buddies with them when he should have had his eye on the ball of fixing the wreckage they’d left.

    Now what we’ve seen is a bit of a delayed reaction. Despite all of Obama’s bumbling efforts to help rehabilitate them, they’ve gone and shot themselves in the foot–along with the American people, and possibly the global economy.

    Does this mean that the effect seen so far could really last? No. It *could* last if the Dems had *any* clue about how to manage political messaging over the long haul. I’m just saying it certainly *should* last for the most basic of objective reasons. In other countries you can argue that conservative parties have reasonably good record compared to their more liberal counterparts. In the US? Not so much.

  • Olav Grinde

    In my opinion, there is a key factor that is being overlooked. This time the Democratic Party, led by Harry Reid and President Obama, are playing hardball. Many ambivalent voters now perceive there is a party worth voting for.

  • Olav Grinde

    I have a question: Reid and McConnell are preparing a debt extension and temporary budget deal that lasts into early next year.

    There may well be a new round. Which if there is anything resembling a repeat will be much closer to the mid-term elections.

    Question: Is this a savvy move from Harry Reid that plays to the Democratic Party’s advantage?

    • Richard

      Yes. It’s hard to see a downside for the Dems.

    • mediaglyphic

      Olav,
      this is something i wonder about also. This could cut both ways. First if the economy slows, then democrats may wear it a littl more, also at some point if Reid and co. appear to be too be bargaining too hard, they could lose some moral high ground. But i think the Repubs have the most to lose. Its not clear the Repubs think that the polls may deteriorate further for them in January, or even remain as bad as they are, else the Repubs would want this whole chapter ended. By repubs i mean mainstream not cruzco.

  • Luís Henrique

    Everybody had neolithic views on gays until about 1970.

    And whether one thinks that Darwin was right or wrong, few people (even those who daily complain against the nanny State) are willing to give up public services long taken for granted, just for the sake of “the Bible says so”. Even people who supposedly have no brains still have wallets and pockets, which may be screaming just now.

  • Terence Weldon

    There’s an important point that’s not been raised, here. Sam’s assessment is based on polls, right now. What’s go to happen between now, and then? First, as Stu Rothenberg has noted, once the dust has settled, polls will slip back some way to the norm. I’m sure he’s right. But then?

    Then come the primaries. The present fiasco in the GOP caucus is being caused primarily by a fit of sulks, that a minority Tea Party rump is not getting everything they want – so they willing to play spoilers for everybody.

    Come the primaries, moderates will be looking to replace the hardliners, Tea Party will be wanting to replace the perceived sell- outs. What will the polls say once the circular firing squad starts to take aim?

    Rothenberg says he want to see the polls in January, after the current dust has settled. I want to see them in September – after the primary dust-ups.

  • Jinchi

    A big difference between the shutdown and
    “Benghazi, and the IRS business, and Syria” is that the shutdown directly, and immediately impacted the lives of over 800,000 people who were locked out of their jobs. They spent the last 3 weeks wondering whether they were going to be able to pay their bills. People could have lost their homes over this. If it had continued past November 1, many would have missed rent or mortgage payments.

    I’m guessing most people couldn’t quite explain “Benghazi”, “the IRS business”, or Syria. They understand this.

  • speakertoanimals

    Never, ever, forget that Nate Silver is NOT a scientist and his mindset has its limitations, over and above the financial ones that Dr. Wang correctly pointed out.

  • Kevin

    Well we now have the benefit of hindsight, and Silver was quite simply wrong about much in the last year.

    First, he was 100% wrong about the GOP sustaining lasting damage from the shutdown. Their polling is still at historical lows, starting from the point of the shutdown. This is almost one year later now, and their approvals have not recovered. This is the absolute definition of a lasting damage.

    Then, he was 100% wrong about what the rocky ACA rollout would mean for 2014′s polling. In fact, Democrats are, and have been, FAR ahead of where they were in 2010, contrary to Silver’s prediction about the long-term damage of the ACA.

    Then, he was 100% wrong (via Harry Enten as proxy) when claiming that polling data was as favorable to the GOP this Spring as it was in the Spring of 2010. This blatant incorrectness was apparent from the very data presented in the article itself.

    Enten even claimed to have direct apples-to-apples polling comparisons between 2010 and 2014… Except that the 2014 firms he used, hence their models, weren’t even utilized in the 2010 mid-term landscape until only eight weeks out from the election. It was a blatant falsehood, written directly underneath the charts that prove it wrong.

    I’m no longer of the opinion that Silver is separate from the “fundamentals” pundit class. His product, since leaving the NYT, has become inaccurate, lazy, and reflexively defensive (devoid of introspective review).

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