Princeton Election Consortium

A first draft of electoral history. Since 2004

With Perdue in, Nunn now an underdog (GA-Sen)

July 23rd, 2014, 11:08am by Sam Wang


Nate Cohn chose today to drop his story on how demographic trends bring Georgia surprisingly within reach for Democrats. I guess that is true, but the timing is funny. The race was close to begin with, and then yesterday’s primary was a boost for the GOP. In my view, that is the real story.

Like many, I expected Rep. Jack Kingston to be the Republican nominee in the Georgia Senate race. But businessman David Perdue bested him by about 1 percentage point. This was a substantial miss for polls, which showed a median 5.5-point lead for Kingston. However, that is par for the course for primary-season polls (dissected here). It is hard to predict which partisans will turn out.

However, general-election polls are more reliable in the aggregate. What they tell us is that the Democratic candidate, Michelle Nunn, probably got the toughest opponent possible for November. Out of six survey organizations who polled Georgia in 2014, only one gave Kingston a lead over Nunn (median margin, Nunn +2.0±2.9%). In contrast, three out of six gave a lead to Perdue over Nunn (median margin, Perdue +1.5±2.9%). That means Perdue is a stronger candidate, by 3.5% in the general election. (Note that there is a small chance, 1 in 10, that actually Kingston is stronger.)

To back up a bit, Nunn’s chances in November are still not that bad. Perdue, despite being cousin to a two-term governor, is himself new to running for office. He could make another misstep, like denigrating people who “just” went to high school. But all the same, voters coalesce around their nominee after the primary season. In the coming weeks, we should expect movement toward Perdue. At this point I would call Nunn the underdog, by a small margin.

This season, the Republican party has mostly picked their strongest Senate candidates during the primary season: Mississippi (Senator Thad Cochran over Tea Partyite Chris McDaniel) and Alaska (Dan Sullivan over Mead Treadwell). Georgia adds to that list. The one misstep has been Iowa, where Mark Jacobs probably would have been a better choice than Joni Ernst, who subscribes to fringe ideas like the threat of United Nations Agenda 21. Tea Party-like Republicans aren’t a major factor in the 2014 Senate campaign. However, they are keeping the GOP in line, both in agenda and tone. This is more apparent in the House, where they continue to go after – and win – nominations in heavily Republican districts. Whatever happens in November, we will have pretty much the same Republican party next year.

→ 8 CommentsTags: 2014 Election · Senate

Just how close is the 2014 Senate race?

July 18th, 2014, 4:06pm by Sam Wang


In my last update, some of you commented that the 2014 Senate race had swung by a lot since May. That is not true! I think perceptions were colored by my emphasis on the snapshot probability. Today, let me take a different tack.

This year, control of the Senate will be closely fought. At the moment, the 2014 Senate race is as close as the 2004 Presidential race (Kerry v. Bush). In an election held today, Democrats/Independents would probably win 48, 49, or 50 seats. There are large distinctions between these outcomes!

We’re building the data pipeline. We’ve now hard-coded our rule for collecting polls (I’ll describe the rule in comments). This allows us to plot how the daily Senate snapshot has evolved. Changes have been quite subtle:

[Read more →]

→ 18 CommentsTags: 2004 Election · 2014 Election · President · Senate

Senate control: Three factors to watch in 2014

July 14th, 2014, 4:22pm by Sam Wang


Here (in beta-test version) is the Senate polling snapshot for this year so far.

[Read more →]

→ 20 CommentsTags: 2014 Election · Senate

Beta test: Senate snapshot 12 July 2014

July 12th, 2014, 10:06am by Sam Wang


Greetings, everyone. This is for hardcore readers. I’m going to dispense with bells and whistles. We’re building things, so I’m not very chatty! I just thought I’d show you where things are at. Bottom line, Democrats have a 55% chance of control in an election held today. That is as close to a toss-up as it gets. The median result is 50 D/I seats, 50 R seats. [Read more →]

→ 9 CommentsTags: 2014 Election · Senate

The Dog That Didn’t Bark (AR-Sen)

July 10th, 2014, 11:39pm by Sam Wang


Today, the NYT’s Nate Cohn speculates about the problem of low-quality polls in Senate races. It’s an interesting piece with lots for poll junkies. However, I am compelled to offer several gentle corrections. My bottom line: polls are better than he implies, especially when they are aggregated properly. And Senator Pryor (D-AR) is probably a little underwater at the moment. Oh, and Democrats aren’t as hosed as you might think.

First, how have Senate polls done in the last two cycles? [Read more →]

→ 7 CommentsTags: 2012 Election · 2014 Election

Race and mental traits: Nicholas Wade’s third error

July 8th, 2014, 11:41pm by Sam Wang


An octogenarian once invited me to his old, exclusive East Coast club to give a talk about neuroscience, my area of specialty. Afterwards, as we walked past oil portraits of old white men across the centuries, the octogenarian pulled me aside, lowered his voice and asked, “I was wondering if you could explain something. What is it about the brains of Chinese and Jews? They seem superior.” Evidently, as a member of one of those tribes (the former), he thought I might know the answer. [Read more →]

→ 27 CommentsTags: Health · Politics

High-leverage races for 2014

June 28th, 2014, 2:56pm by Sam Wang


This year, the big political question is who will control the Senate in 2015. I’ve analyzed this briefly and will continue to do so in the coming months. As of the end of June, it’s looking like Democrats/Independents (who vote together) and Republicans are likely to win 47 seats each. The remaining six races are currently on the knife’s edge, and will determine control. They are: Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, and Louisiana.

If you want to make the most of your donation, give to your side’s candidates in those six races. As I’ve written in past elections, donations are most effective at the margins. In close races, donations are most likely to move the win probability. In addition, as national politics has become oriented around parties rather than individuals, it is control of the chamber that matters, rather than specific individuals.

Note that this advice is the same whether you support Democrats or Republicans. For your convenience, I have provided links at the left to ActBlue (Democrats) and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (Republicans). The first link will be updated if conditions shift between now and November.

→ 19 CommentsTags: 2014 Election

Schroedinger’s Senate

May 27th, 2014, 9:45pm by Sam Wang


In 2015, who will control the Senate? Warring models point in opposite directions. The NYT’s “The Upshot” looks at polls and other factors, and has Democrats favored. The Monkey Cage favors the Republicans. Who’s right?

For now, here’s the snapshot (following my past methods): in an election today, Democrats would retain control of the Senate with about 67% probability. Think of the Senate in 2014 as Schroedinger’s Cat: in that closed box, it’s currently 1/3 dead*. That will change over time. We open the box on November 4th.

See my further thoughts on the issue over at Politico. Here it is: The War Of The Senate Models.

Update: As per usual, here is the MATLAB code. It’s basically like the Presidential race, except that each state gets one “electoral vote,” i.e. one Senate seat. Super-simple. The basic algorithm is in senate2014_est.m. Then, senate2014_biascalc.m calls the basic algorithm, and allows you to see what would happen if polls moved over a range of possibilities. A simpler way is to simply set “bias=-2“, which moves margins toward the GOP by 2%, then run senate2014_est.m. Set bias to whatever your hopes and biases are. Mine is bias=0, which has a good track record on Election Eve.

Update #2: To learn about Schroedinger’s Cat and why I invoked it, click the image!

*”Dead”=GOP control, “live”=Democratic control. Some might see it the other way around…

→ 27 CommentsTags: 2014 Election

Did the NYT pay Jill Abramson less?

May 16th, 2014, 9:33am by Sam Wang


According to Ken Auletta at The New Yorker, Abramson was fired when she found out she was being systematically paid less than her male predecessors. New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., appears to deny this. Can these statements be reconciled with one another? Yes…though Sulzberger seems to be parsing his words rather carefully. [Read more →]

→ 1 CommentTags: Uncategorized

Last Lectures, Class of 2014: Genes, Brain, and the Human Mind

May 14th, 2014, 5:36pm by Sam Wang


This Friday, May 16th, I’ll be speaking to the graduating Class of 2014. My topic is “Genes, Brain, and the Human Mind: Neuroscience in the 21st Century.” It’s at 7:00 pm in McCosh 10, here on the Princeton campus If you’re local, please come! The lecture is open to all students, faculty, and community members, though seniors have first priority if the room fills.

To get a taste of what I’ll talk about: I’ll be talking about a research program that was launched by me speaking to the incoming class when they were freshmen. They got me interested in whether intellectual traits could be inherited. As it turns out, they might be, and if they are, they share common genetic causation with disorders such as autism and depression! See this press release, and Catherine Rampell’s take on the work. I’ll also talk about the US government’s BRAIN Initiative, and what it means for the future of neuroscience. Come on out!

→ 3 CommentsTags: Princeton