Princeton Election Consortium

A first draft of electoral history. Since 2004

It was all a blur

July 22nd, 2016, 9:55am by Sam Wang


Measuring the effect of a particular political event is challenging. Any single poll spans multiple days, and multiple polls are necessary to get good accuracy. National surveys give the first indication, within a week. State polls (upon which the PEC snapshot and forecast are based) are more accurate when aggregated, but take longer.

In the case of the Republican convention, we will have a hard time knowing what its effects are in isolation. Certainly the event was distinctive. Last night, Donald Trump entered the general election campaign with a harsh 76-minute speech that painted the U.S. as a dystopia, and his opponent as a criminal. These claims do not hold up to scrutiny – but they do show his approach for the months ahead. One might like to know the net effect of that speech, that of his endorsers and various other Trumps, and of Ted Cruz, who called for citizens to “vote your conscience.” It would be interesting to know if such a convention would close his deficit with Republican voters.

Almost immediately, the Democrats now take the stage. Today, Hillary Clinton is expected to announce her vice-presidential pick. Next week comes her party’s convention. Many polling measurements will capture the combined effect of all of the Republican and Democratic events. The comparison is close in time, making contrasts easy to draw. My guess is that the net effect should be relatively large, favoring the Democrats. If I am wrong, it will still be the case that undecideds should decrease.

However, how large is “relative”? The effects of conventions have been declining. Based on Gallup data, the median “net impact” (more-likely-to-support minus less-likely-to-support) of conventions from 2004-2012 was 5 percentage points, compared with 16 percentage points for 1984-2000. I would characterize this as entrenchment of voters, a feature of political polarization. I will be very interested to see if the net impact of this year’s conventions is an exception to the trend.

Today the electoral snapshot is at Clinton 312 EV, Trump 226 EV. Margins in many states are quite narrow – note the pastel appearance of the electoral maps in the right-hand column. Consequently the Meta-Margin (how much swing toward Trump would be needed to create an electoral tie) is only 2.5%. Therefore Clinton’s November win probability is 80%, in the range (20-80%) that I call uncertain. This is our starting point for evaluating the weeks ahead.

→ 9 CommentsTags: 2016 Election

Politics And Polls #4: An Unconventional Convention

July 21st, 2016, 6:34pm by Sam Wang


Politics & Polls #4 (podcast): in which Julian Zelizer and I chew over the convention’s role in shaping the race. Bonus overtime minute: Sam suddenly realizes how the Cruz/Trump smackdown is basically wrestling theater (be sure to click – must-reads from Washington Monthly and Balloon Juice).  Guess who’s the heel? (hint: not Trump.)
[Politics & Polls on iTunes] [on SoundCloud]
Courtesy of the Woodrow Wilson School.

→ 4 CommentsTags: 2016 Election · President

Senate update

July 20th, 2016, 3:51pm by Sam Wang


Indiana is updated to be Young (R) vs. Bayh (D). Bayh is a massive favorite, and his entry into the race pushes the overall Senate snapshot to a median of 50-50. [Read more →]

→ 9 CommentsTags: 2016 Election · Senate

Paths of Glory

July 19th, 2016, 10:27pm by Sam Wang


Welcome, New York Times readers! Josh Katz unveils The Upshot’s model for the November election – complete with comparison to other sites: electronic bidders (PredictWise), polls-only (FiveThirtyEight and the Princeton Election Consortium), and professional prognosticators (Charlie Cook, Stuart Rothenberg, and Larry Sabato).

Qualitatively, PEC and The Upshot mostly agree, though PEC shows less confidence in Nevada, Ohio, and Mississippi. That is likely because [Read more →]

→ 21 CommentsTags: 2016 Election · President

The party conventions begin

July 18th, 2016, 8:01am by Sam Wang


The Republican Party’s national convention starts today [schedule]. Conventions are a chance for a political party to showcase their unity, their candidate, and their policies. Next week the Democrats take the national stage. Viewers will get a fairly direct contrast.

As measured via state polls, the Presidential race shows Hillary Clinton slightly ahead of where Barack Obama was at this point in 2008 and 2012. So far, the 2016 race has been stable.
History of Popular Meta-Margin for Obama
National polls suggest that undecideds account for about 5 percentage points more of the electorate than the Obama-Romney race, and Trump is particularly weak in states won by Romney. Based on these numbers, Trump needs to bring Republican voters home.

Downticket, in many key Senate races, general-election candidates are not known yet. I will not have anything to say about that for a few weeks. For now, a more interesting indicator of downticket sentiment is the generic House preference, which is currently at Democrats +7.5%. If that were to hold up, Democrats would have a good shot at retaking control of the House. However, preferences can change. Based on past years, it should take at least a month for us to get a fuller picture of where the national House race is headed.

→ 32 CommentsTags: 2016 Election · House · President · Senate

FOO (freakouts over outliers)

July 15th, 2016, 1:00pm by Sam Wang


A CBS/NYT poll released yesterday indicated a 40-40 tie between Clinton and Trump. Cue media freakout. This illustrates the point that news organizations habitually report on outlier events, a bad move when it comes to data points when other data points are available.

Four other surveys with mostly overlapping dates show Clinton +1% (Morning Consult), YouGov/Economist (Clinton +3%), AP-GfK (Clinton +4%), and Clinton +12% (Raba Research). Five data points, with CBS at the extreme end. Oldtime PEC readers, all together now: take the median. The median is Clinton +3.0 ± 1.3% (± estimated one-sigma uncertainty). So the race may have narrowed from a 5% gap – maybe because of FBI director Comey’s public announcements? Anyway, it’s not a tie yet.

Same story with state polls. [Read more →]

→ 39 CommentsTags: 2016 Election · President

Politics and Polls #3: A Referendum on the Incumbent Party?

July 14th, 2016, 3:30pm by Sam Wang


In Politics & Polls #3 (podcast), Julian Zelizer and I talk about the extent to which the election is a referendum on the governing party…and who that might benefit. Courtesy of the Woodrow Wilson School.

[Politics & Polls on iTunes] [on SoundCloud]

→ 8 CommentsTags: 2016 Election · House · President

What is fascism?

July 13th, 2016, 8:31am by Sam Wang


We have a few weeks of waiting to see where polls are headed. I expect many undeclared voters to choose up sides after the conventions. In the meantime, the political theater is a more riveting story. Not necessarily in a good way.

For those who take the long view, Umberto Eco’s essay defining “Ur-Fascism” is a useful look back. I learned of it from Jamelle Bouie’s piece. The point here is to get away from “fascism” as a cheap insult, and ask what were the common factors in the mid-20th-century in what one could call classical fascism.

Eco lists 14 criteria that may seem familiar to observers of the current scene. [Read more →]

→ 62 CommentsTags: 2016 Election · House · President

Technical Article Of The Day

July 11th, 2016, 9:55pm by Sam Wang


New in Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), a review of the national and state-level impacts of the Affordable Care Act…by Barack Obama, J.D.! I guess everyone can use a boost to the ol’ C.V.

Seriously, though, I believe that makes him the first President to publish in a peer-reviewed journal (with two formal revisions and several rounds of editing). However, it was only a review article. Also, note that Thomas Jefferson was a fairly serious scholar. Update: commenters point out scholarly contributions by James Garfield, Herbert Hoover, Teddy Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson.

→ 31 CommentsTags: Health · President

Politics and Polls #2: Does the VP Pick Still Matter?

July 8th, 2016, 10:00am by Sam Wang


In the second segment of Politics and Polls, Julian Zelizer and I discuss what the vice-presidential pick might accomplish for the candidates. Courtesy of the Woodrow Wilson School.

[Politics & Polls on iTunes]

→ 10 CommentsTags: 2016 Election · President