Princeton Election Consortium

A first draft of electoral history. Since 2004

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 →]

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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 →]

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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 →]

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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.

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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…

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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 →]

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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!

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Are Americans really jingoistic yahoos? A cautionary statistical tale

April 13th, 2014, 9:36am by Sam Wang


It can be good for a laugh to view U.S. citizens as people who don’t have a clear idea of what’s happening outside their borders…but still want to launch a military attack. This week in The Monkey Cage comes a finding that feeds that view. The headline is impressive: “The less Americans know about Ukraine’s location, the more they want U.S. to intervene.”

But how big is the reported effect, and what does it really say about American attitudes? [Read more →]

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Autism NYT piece: Postscript

April 6th, 2014, 7:00am by Sam Wang


I’ve received some useful feedback on the NYT piece on autism. I have extra notes to offer on three topics: (1) elective induction, (2) environmental toxins, including endocrine disruptors, and (3) the lack of a true link with SSRI use. [Read more →]

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How to think about autism risks

March 29th, 2014, 8:57pm by Sam Wang


For those of you coming here from the NYT, welcome! If you’re interested in drilling into the scientific literature, I’ve archived some articles here. Note: if you’re having trouble getting the links from the NYT piece to work, the link above has all the correct files. Basically the NYT site messed up the “~” character in the URL. Soon I’ll document the calculations behind the risk ratios.

In my article in the Sunday New York Times on how to think about autism risks, I apply meta-analytical techniques to autism research literature. It’s nearly impossible to get a good overall perspective from news reports. However, I provide a way to look at it all at once. My secret decoder ring takes the form of risk ratios. Check it out.

As stated in the article, by far the largest risk is genetic. In comparison, the measured impact of environmental risks ranges from nonexistent to small, unless you work directly with chemicals in a factory. The small risks might actually be due to stress. For more information, check back later – or see PubMed, which allows you to search the vast research literature on autism.

You can read about my own neuroscience research here.

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