Princeton Election Consortium

Innovations in democracy since 2004

Nov 03: Biden 342 EV (D+5.3% from toss-up), Senate 53 D, 47 R (D+3.9%), House control D+4.6%
Moneyball states: President AZ NE-2 NV, Senate MT ME AK, Legislatures KS TX NC

North Carolina’s legislative gerrymander held in 2020

November 22nd, 2020, 9:33pm by Sam Wang


Last year’s redraw of the legislative maps left in a fair bit of the partisanship, especially the state House map. Despite Democrats winning 53% of the statewide vote, Republicans retained control. Facing South reports.

→ Post a commentTags: 2020 Election · Redistricting

Georgia: send money and letters – but not postcards

November 21st, 2020, 1:31pm by Sam Wang


From the mailbag:

Noted the thread from Lara Putnam about the Georgia runoffs. I think​ I understand her point that sending 50 or so postcards to random voters in a state with 5 million voters is pointless and serves only to make the postcarder feel useful. That if you want to do something to actually help, donate to Fair Fight or a similar group instead. Do you think postcards are ever effective? Or is it like choosing a Christmas gift for college-aged cousins–just send money?

This is basically correct. To mobilize one additional voter, it would take anywhere from 80 to 500 postcards*. To achieve even that, it assumes that the voters aren’t already being bombarded. That might be the case in a sleepy state house race. The situation is far worse in Georgia, where all eyes are on the two special Senate elections on January 5, 2021. These races will determine control of the U.S. Senate and the fate of President-elect Biden’s agenda.

It used to be that you had to vote in November first, but the law has changed. Anyone who is registered to vote by December 7th can vote in the runoff. If you will be 18 by then, register to vote!

Everyone outside Georgia: if you want to make a difference, give money to register voters by December 7 and to turn out voters. For Democrats, you can give to Stacey Abrams’s Fair Fight or other organizations listed in the ActBlue link in the left sidebar. Republicans can give at the WinRed link.

*Update: I’m told that letters are said to be 2 to 3 times more effective than postcards at mobilizing votes. It’s not known why that is, though note that opening a letter requires active engagement by the recipient. Anyway, that improvement might get the amount of necessary effort down to a few dozen letters per vote, which is an improvement.

Here’s a recent report on per-voter effects for other interventions: in-person canvassing (7 percentage points increase) is best, followed by text messages (4 points). There’s one final unknown: does it cost more to send a letter, or to make an in-person contact? If sending letters is a lot faster, then letters may still be a cost-effective approach. So if you really want to do something yourself (which is part of the social and emotional benefit), then write letters.

→ 18 CommentsTags: 2020 Election · Senate

Today at Princeton: Ambassador Samantha Power

November 19th, 2020, 3:49pm by Sam Wang


Today at 5:00pm Eastern, I’ll help host former UN Ambassador Samantha Power. It’s part of the University Public Lecture series. It will be a conversation between Amb. Power and Deb Amos, my colleague in Journalism and NPR News correspondent.

This lecture is free and open to the public, but reservations are required.
Or you can watch this event via Live Stream by clicking here.

For more information about this event, visit the Public Lectures website.

→ 1 CommentTags: Princeton

In the Washington Post

November 12th, 2020, 2:58pm by Sam Wang


In today’s Washington Post, my take on the sources of polling errors in Senate races – and the consequences for resource allocation when we don’t take those errors into account.

I have more to say to PEC readers on this, since it was a major feature of what we did. If we knew then what we know now, North Carolina and Georgia Senate races would have gotten more emphasis. I will dissect that soon.

→ 14 CommentsTags: 2020 Election · Senate

Senate poll error: GOP undecideds came home

November 9th, 2020, 12:14pm by Sam Wang


The polling errors for Senate candidates were quite large this year. In 13 races with final-ish results, the margin of the outcome was a median of 7.9 points more Republican than the last week of polling. That’s an amazingly large difference. In the past, the median error was no more than 3 points or so.

A big reason seems to be voters who were “undecided” about their Senate choice came home to their party. The other day I showed a graph that showed this effect (click to enlarge):

However, this didn’t show up for Democrats. [Read more →]

→ 8 CommentsTags: 2020 Election · Senate

North Carolina and Georgia, you’re not done yet!

November 7th, 2020, 10:10am by Sam Wang


The Presidential race is resolved:


…however, y’all are not done yet in the South!

The importance of the election for redistricting is still unfolding. There’s one more item: the Chief Justice of the North Carolina state Supreme Court. As of today, that race is within a margin of 3,500 votes – 0.06% of the over 5.3 million votes counted so far. There are an estimated 60,000-100,000 ballots still to be counted: mail-in ballots and provisional ballots to be verified, many of which must be “cured” between now and November 12th. Curing is a repair process that is done by phone or door-to-door contact. To help, volunteer here. (I welcome more suggestions for links.)

This is important because redistricting in North Carolina is now under single-party control. The state Supreme Court ordered a redrawing last year. If the General Assembly tries another gerrymander, they will face a court with at least 4 Democrats and 2 Republicans. The incoming Chief Justice will provide the 7th vote. Paul Newby (R) or Cheri Beasley (D) will have a lot of say!

And of course there are the Georgia Senate races, both of which are headed for a January 5 runoff. Those potentially determine control of the U.S. Senate. New voters can participate if they register by December 7th. Register online or by mail!

→ 28 CommentsTags: 2020 Election · Redistricting · Senate

Presidential Polling Error: slightly smaller than 2016…but in deep Trumpland, larger

November 6th, 2020, 12:17am by Sam Wang


While we wait for the likely conclusion of a Biden win with 306 electoral votes and a 5-6% popular-vote margin…

The graph above shows only states which have been called by media organizations, and where the count is >95% complete (results from NYT). For example, California, Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania are left out. Things may change.

In only two states, North Carolina and Florida, did the polls point in the wrong direction, where “wrong” means the sign of the polling margin and the outcome are opposite, and are indicated in red (North Carolina’s not entirely done yet). From a public consumption standpoint, though, that was consequential: before there election, expectations were raised of a possible Election-Night resolution…which was then followed by four days of suspense (I’m updating this on Saturday 11/7, after the networks finally called Pennsylvania).

But if we get into the details, there is a notable error in state polls. It has two components: (1) In states where polls favored Biden, the actual vote margin favored Trump by a median of an additional 2.6 points. (2) In states where polls favored Trump, Trump did better by a lot – 6.4 points median, and increasing steeply with his vote share.

Before you get all excited about that larger number…I should point out that it’s a known phenomenon in landslide states.  [Read more →]

→ 57 CommentsTags: 2020 Election

Counting, conflict, and consequences

November 4th, 2020, 10:03am by Sam Wang


Based on traffic stats, the great majority of you arrived in the last few days. We’re living out some likely events I suggested in September. First, mail-in votes are different this year. They are taking a while to count in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Second, given the Trump Administration’s attitude to the law, it matters who is in charge of election administration, especially Pennsylvania.

It seems like a full vote count (for example, if mail ballots were not delayed; hi, Louis DeJoy!) would lead to WI/MI/PA for Biden, GA a toss-up, and 291 to 307 electoral votes for Biden in the end (or one less, if Trump wins Maine’s 2nd Congressional District).

Three things are on my mind today: (a) voting rules matter a lot for the Presidency – and for the Senate, in Georgia and Maine; (b) polarization took over in Senate races, and (c) electoral reform took a major hit last night.

Also, there is no avoiding the question of the large polling error. [Read more →]

→ 55 CommentsTags: 2020 Election · President · Redistricting · Senate

PEC 2020 Liveblog thread #2

November 3rd, 2020, 11:41pm by Sam Wang


New thread.

11:32 pm: Fox has called Arizona for Biden. 

So far the reported returns, compared with pre-election polls, appear to be 6% toward Trump (Florida), 3.5% toward Trump (North Carolina), and 0% (New Hampshire). Pretty big errors, though not a pattern that tells us about WI/MI/PA.

11:51 pm: It’s like I said back in September, for the Presidential race we may be stuck waiting for Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. And here we are. Wisconsin will report tomorrow, Michigan Friday maybe tomorrow as well, and Pennsylvania…not sure yet. [Read more →]

→ 2 CommentsTags: 2020 Election

PEC 2020 Liveblog thread #1

November 3rd, 2020, 8:01pm by Sam Wang


Live thread starting at 8:00pm. Comments are on! [Read more →]

→ 24 CommentsTags: 2020 Election