Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com
Historically from 1952 to 2012, the likely range of movement in two-candidate margin from this time until Election Day has been 10 percentage points, which is the standard deviation from the 16 past elections. Therefore, even though Clinton currently leads by a median margin of 7 percent (12 national surveys) and would certainly win an election held today, she could still lose the lead, and from a purely poll-based standpoint, is only narrowly favored to be elected President in November (probability: 70%).
It is also the case that Clinton is the only candidate who is poised for a blowout. Her “plus-one-sigma” outcome (current polls plus one standard deviation) is a popular vote win of 58.5%-41.5%. Trump’s plus-one-sigma outcome is a narrower win, 51.5%-48.5%.
I should point out that the last four elections, from 2000 to 2012, have been far less variable than I have calculated above. They show a standard deviation of 4 percentage points. These have been polarized years. But considering the upheaval in the Republican Party, a little voice tells me to open my mind to a wider range of possibilities…including a Trump win.
Of course, the Presidential race is played out through the Electoral College, which is composed of winner-take-all races. The basic effect of the Electoral College is to amplify the difference between the two candidates.
The map at the top of this post lists states as being uncertain by either of two criteria:
- The median of state polls since February is within 10% for either candidate; or
- If there is no polling, then the election margin in 2012 was between Obama +7% and Romney +13%.
Criterion #2 is based on the fact that Clinton-v.-Trump is currently polling about 3 percentage points more Democratic than the Obama-v.-Romney vote in 2012. So a Romney +3% state would be right on the edge at this moment in time.
Obviously, this highly provisional map is simply a starting point. The list of uncertain states will change as more polls become available. For now, it looks like Democrats will have at least 262 electoral votes, and Republicans will have at least 122 electoral votes, with 154 electoral votes up for grabs. It takes 270 electoral votes to win, so Republicans face an uphill climb.
Another way to look at the data is to force a win for whichever candidate is leading in each state. This does not take into account all the possibilities. But it does give the mode – the single most likely combination of wins and losses. That mode gives a total of Clinton 364 EV, Trump 174 EV, very close to Obama’s win in 2008. This is totally consistent with the fact that Obama won the popular vote by 7% – the same as Clinton’s national poll margin today. The map would look like this.
Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com
If you do not like how one particular state is colored: that does not matter. You are getting lost in details. What matters is the overall picture: if the election were held today, the probability of a Clinton victory would be over 99 percent, and few people would care which way Utah or Missouri went. However, the election is still nearly six months off. Republicans’ main hope lies in the possibility that opinion will move across the board nationwide.
So far, I have taken a fairly conventional approach to this year’s race, and assumed that any swing would be equal across the board. But Trump has upended the national Republican party. So it is argued that he has the potential to scramble the national race as well – and win states that were previously out of reach for Republicans.
We can start looking for evidence of a Trump Scramble by plotting current state polls against 2012 election results:This plot is based on polling data from RealClearPolitics and HuffPollster. In these 15 states*, which include all the usual suspects, the Clinton-Trump margin is 3.0+/-4.4% (median +/-estimated SD) more Democratic than Obama-Romney. Overall, it is consistent with an across-the-board shift. Trump has not scrambled the map yet.
There is one massive exception: Utah. In 2012, Utah went for Mitt Romney by a 73%-25% margin, the largest margin in the nation. A recent poll shows Clinton up by 2%. This is a single poll and therefore subject to much uncertainty. But even if it is off by 10% (i.e. Trump actually leads by 8%), it is still over eight sigma away from the other 14 states. I am really not feeling the null hypothesis there.
From this I would say that Utah Republicans probably dislike Donald Trump, enough to express a preference for Hillary Clinton. Considering how radioactive Clinton is among Republicans, that is really saying something. It’s hard to imagine that Utah voters like either option much. No matter who wins Utah in November, they may well have lower-than-usual turnout.
Are there other exceptionally anti-Trump states? It depends on why Utahns dislike Trump. If it’s connected with the fact that 60% of them are Mormon, the only other state that comes close is Idaho, which is 24% Mormon.
GOP primaries could provide another clue. Ted Cruz won Utah with 69% of the vote compared with Trump’s 14%, a massive blowout. However, in Idaho the Cruz-Trump vote was only 45% to 28%, so that state seems safely Republican. One could conceivably imagine trouble for Trump in other states where Cruz was probably ahead in the primary: Montana (Google Correlate-imputed lead, Cruz +45%), and South Dakota (Google Correlate, Cruz +46%). Even one general-election poll in either state would test this idea.
On the Democratic side, no hugely anti-Clinton states have emerged. The closest is New York, in which Clinton is at +20%, 8 points worse than Obama’s showing in 2012. However, New York is Trump’s home state more than it is Clinton’s. So that could just be a favorite-son effect.
*NY, MI, NH, PA, VA, OH, FL, NC, AZ, GA, MO, IN, MS. WV, and UT.