Princeton Election Consortium

Innovations in democracy since 2004

Outcome: Biden 306 EV (D+1.2% from toss-up), Senate 50 D (D+1.0%)
Nov 3 polls: Biden 342 EV (D+5.3%), Senate 50-55 D (D+3.9%), House control D+4.6%
Moneyball states: President AZ NE-2 NV, Senate MT ME AK, Legislatures KS TX NC

Geek’s Guide to the Election 2012

November 6th, 2012, 5:20pm by Sam Wang

I’ve made a simple guide for tracking the election. It’s at geeks-guide-2012-b.pdf. My two pieces of advice are:

  • Ignore exit polls and large states.
  • Watch New Hampshire (expectation: Obama +3%) (CNN) (

I’ll use this post to list some resources. I’ll update this on the fly – check back now and then. Or leave your own in comments.

I actually don’t like Election Night that much – too much noise, not enough signal…and not nearly enough MATLAB. But should I liveblog anyway? Or more accurately, open a comment thread so you can liveblog…


Election returns: New York TimesCNN, Associated Press,

Presidential scenario trackers. Automatic tabulation of the victory scenarios for Obama and Romney. Web tools: app by  Kumars app by Cohen. If those don’t work, try this Excel file ElecVote2_revised (740 kb).

Early voting site (Mike McDonald).

Liveblogging by the human InTrade (Andrew Sullivan).

Recount rules from the Brennan Center for Justice.

NorCalGuy’s itinerary for the evening. A good assortment!

Feed your fears: Highest risk of E-voting meltdowns, at Freedom To Tinker (Ed Felten).

Sam Wang’s first predictions, Take 1 and Take 2, and a prediction challenge.

In case I am wrong about Minnesota, Pennsylvania, or Ohio: ThailandUnique.

What I care about for the new Congress: filibuster reform.

District and precinct level voting histories at the Stanford Election Atlas.

Tags: 2012 Election · President

135 Comments so far ↓

  • Jon V

    Robert Gibbs being interviewed by Chris Matthews right now. Doesn’t sound too confident, stuttering a lot as Chris asks him about voter turnout. His reaction is making me nervous. Chuck Todd says the people he talked to in the Romney campaign are excited about voter turnout.

    • StratMan

      Geez, Jon. Already? Take it easy, man.

    • Ross C

      I don’t know why the R campaign would be excited about voter turnout — it’s apparently huge, maybe record-breaking. Republicans all along have been counting on depressed turnout to win — you know, all those disillusioned Obama supporters deciding to sit this one out. I don’t think so.

    • Khan



    • Ross C

      Also, Chuck Todd WOULD say that…his allegiances are thinly veiled.

    • CobaltinSF

      Isn’t the whole point of coming to this site because we believe in reason and because we know the value of making inferences based on the hard data and statistical method that creates the meta-margin, etc? If so, why on earth would you allow yourself to be spooked instead by the stuttering of Robert Gibbs or the hearsay of Chuck Todd. We all came here for the objective information. Keep the faith.

    • Matt McIrvin

      I just got a robocall from the Massachusetts Republican Party imploring me desperately to go out and vote because “this election is tied”. Dudes, thanks for the GOTV and I already did, but I don’t think you’d have liked it…

    • Steven S

      @CobaltinSF: nicely said.

  • DJG

    I’m curious, why 3% for NH? The margin listed on the site is 2%.

  • Ira

    Yeah, but Gibbs wants people to vote, Chuck Todd is a glorified stenographer, and none of them are doing any kind of detailed objective analysis. I didn’t watch the segment you’re talking about, but none of that surprises me. The election makes me nervous, too–I would have been happy if it could have ended months ago–but I take comfort in the fact that all analyses point to an Obama victory.

  • Khan

    Turnout in both Florida and Virginia has surpassed 2008 by a large margin.

    Huge turnout only helps one candidate.

    • Osso

      I agree, as Obama’s speech last night in Iowa was very clear: “Get Out and Vote or Else!”

      Obama will win big.

    • mediaglyphic

      great news, wonder what/where your source is?

      i am anecdotally hearing the same thing from a friend in Dade

    • Khan


      Check a few posts below this one, links to the Tweets by the Guardian. Source is the Florida SOS and Virginia BOE.

    • Suja P

      I actually had to stand in line at 3:00 PM to vote. For an hour. It has not happened, ever, in my (admittedly sieve like) memory. This is in NoVA.

    • Some Body

      OK, so let me play devil’s advocate here for a moment: Suppose the 2008 turnout reflected high enthusiasm for Dems but low enthusiasm for Repubs, and that this year’s higher turnout mostly reflects higher enthusiasm among Repubs, with a slight decline among Dems. That’s one possible scenario where high turnout is great news! For John McCain! Erm… Romney, I mean.

      Anyway, I’m only writing that to suggest that reading tea leaves is a bit of a useless pursuit.

  • 538 Refugee

    I’m just gonna relax and have a home brew.

  • Paul Griner


    Just curious, where are you getting early turnout info?

  • Jeannius

    Guys… these anecdotal body-language reading crap is not helping anybody… some of us are close to being medicated. So if you don’t have SOLID info (fact-based)… Please spare us the rise in blood pressure!

  • Bob Castleman

    Would it be fair to say that early reporting states will give us some indication as to where the final total vote will fall within the predicted margins? If early states all come in above or below the projected mean can we extrapolate that to the national level? Or is it more reasonable to expect some reversion to the mean?

    • Some Body

      Why would there be reversion to the mean in what is essentially a single event?

    • Bob Castleman

      @ some body

      51 events. Each would be +/- relative to a projection. Couldn’t there be an early trend to the + or minus side so that all 51 events were above or below their projections by a similar amount?

  • mediaglyphic

    Dr. Wang, i have an out for you about bugs, you can always eat the code that would resulted in your algorithm giving a deviant answer and call this a bug!!

    of course the likelihood of this is very very small

  • Jon V

    ok, thanks guys… needed a little calming… can’t avoid tv completely. I don’t really care to Chuck Todd too much either

    • Khan

      Fight the urge. Fight.

    • LTM

      I’ll never forget Todd on msnbc four years ago. He called a lot of states for McCain enthusiastically which turned out to be false. Never trusted him since.

    • Matt

      If your nervous, and have television available, i.e. probably not at work, turn off the television, log onto and start making phone calls. It will calm your nerves. Trust me.

    • Mikey Armstrong

      I loathe Chuck Toad.

  • Jay Bryant

    Thanks for the guide, Sam. I’ll be consulting that all evening long.

  • don in fl

    not watching tv.when can we expect results to start flowing in to this site?

  • LDE

    Prof. Wang, maybe you could while away the time and avoid the noise by porting some of your code into R? As good a time as any to make the switch from Matlab :)

  • Lucy in SLC

    Yes, please, Sam – liveblog it.

  • Outloud FLL

    Dr Wang,

    Like many before me, I want to say thanks. For the site, the neuroscience, and the occasional humorous links. That Dogs Against Romney FB page killed me. :)


    Sean in Ft Lauderdale

  • Alan White

    I’ve become quite a fan in these last few weeks Sam (if I may). Your methods are striking in simplicity and elegance. I’ll be completely shocked should you even be very far off by say, 12 evs.

    I asked only one question on this site before but I think Sandy might have swallowed it. Given the fact that your meta-analysis could be so influential in future elections, do you think there will be deliberate efforts to thwart it, such as the parties (ok, one party) funding more and more biased polls?

    In any case one helluva job.

  • wheelers cat

    AMG the scorpion lolly.
    my sides hurt from laffing.

    hmmm….i think i might order some snake whiskey.

    • 538 Refugee

      Edible Buffalo Dung Beetles sound yummy too. You just have to wash their little feet first I guess?

  • Neminem

    Any full list of PEC’s state projections, winning margin?

  • SoleburyJim

    Let me add my thanks Dr. Wang for all you do. I got hooked on PEC in 2008 and made a beeline back here in August of this year. You provide the most rigorous and least emotional analysis I’ve come across.

  • H8r

    Dr. Wang,
    With all due respect, it has become impossible to continue to ignore your misguided affection for MATLAB, which is a truly terrible piece of software.

    If you do not repent and convert to e.g. python/numpy, I will have no choice but to stop visiting your site 10 times a day in the coming weeks.

  • Osso

    FOX News is very nervous as they want people to send them tips for “suspect voting”!

    I think I am going to watch FOX News all night for a good laugh.

    • don in fl

      only after the raced is called for obama then fox should be good entertainment.

    • Khan

      They spent two hours this morning talking about the black guy standing outside the Philly polling station.

      They then spent a ton of time talking about True the Vote and how they would combat liberal voter fraud… and magically stopped when the news story broke that True the Vote was banned from observing elections because they forged signatures and falsified federal filings in order to get closer to voters.

    • Osso

      They also called to get a Judge’s order to remove the Portrait of Obama from the Polling station….

      Another “petty” Mission Accomplished!

  • Nathan Duke

    By the way, everyone, remember that most of the conservative counties in Virginia get called first. The bluer counties do not get called until near the end.

  • Aravind

    I am going to miss coming here every ten minutes
    or so to check the MM status and comments.
    Thank you, Prof.Wang for your superb dedicated work. This place is an oasis of reason.

  • Ming

    The Geek’s Guide is so great, it made me laugh and laugh. I will be the envy of all the other geeks at tonight’s party. :)

    Thanks!!! This site has been a joy.

  • Steve Howard

    Look for the worst if this thing is at all close with respect to the popular vote. Expect Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and the other bloviating ignoramuses to start ranting about the “stolen” election.

  • SoleburyJim

    I’ve got tips for suspect voting for Fox…all the reports I’m hearing of long-time and first-time voters in Philadelphia not being on the books. This info is from a lawyer friend who’s watching the voting for Obama. Apparently there are tons of provisional ballots being cast. Let’s hope PA is an easy Obama win!

    • Sam Champion

      Busy today in NH, working OFA GOTV. Great organization, big turnout. We left it all on the field.

      Thanks Sam for all your work. The Power of Your Vote was a motivating force for many of over the last few days in NH. We will take the state.

      After swiming a mile to release endorphins, I will now self-medicate with a six-pack of beer.

      Know hope.

  • Rick in Miami

    Definitely needs more Matlab!!!

    Obama=0; Romney=0;
    while (Obama+Romney=270) disp(‘Obama win!’);
    else disp(‘Romney win!’);

  • Michael S


    In case it happens: Go for the crickets. Trust me on this.

  • Jeff in CA

    Right now Romney is leading in the popular vote 66.5% to Obama’s 30.2%. It’s early, but think it’s safe to say, this is going to be an unprecedented blowout.


  • Rick in Miami

    Hmm – it dropped a bunch of my code – better coding next time!

    I had a while loop adding 10*rand(1,1) to Obama, and 10*randn*(1,1) to Romney, ending when the total was 538.

    I’m not meant for geek humor, I guess…

  • Olav Grinde

    Dr Wan, thank you very much for your Geek’s Guide 2012! I’ve printed it out

    For your soothing predictions, for your great analysis and posts, and your infinitely patient comments and answers.

    Yes, please live-blog this evening, as we reach election result milestones.

    PS. Do you or any commenters have a recommended site for fact-oriented election results? (We do not have a TV, and we don’t intent to watch live streaming.)

  • Olav Grinde

    * Dr Wang (apologies for typo!)

  • philly suburbs

    Yes please live blog and open for comments.

  • Antone Aboud

    Mr. Wang,
    My sister turned me on to your work. What I appreciate is the rigor of your analysis. That you are also picking Obama to win is a plus. Generally I find most other polical analysis at this point (not Nate Silver) to be so much blather. I’m a liberal, but even MSNBC drives me nuts. Thank you for information, not argument.

  • mediaglyphic

    my informal poll of turnout is telling me 332 obama.

    Dr. Wang love the thai site, you have a great sense of humour

  • Eileen

    Dr. Wang,
    I just downloaded and read the election night guide. I’d like to thank you for this and for all of the rest of the work you did this election season. I’ve appreciated your cheerfully calm tone.

  • Rick in Miami

    CNN just reported that Romney internal final poll of Ohio had Obama up +5%. Wonder why they released that?

  • Howard Roark

    Peter Hamby of CNN obtained last Romney Ohio internal polls, showed him trailing. Romney campaign pessimistic about tonight.

  • Jon V

    Reddit is overloaded already

  • hopeful in calif

    CNN just quoted sources within Romney camp — WAY off the record — that Romney internal polling had Obama +5% in OH on Sunday.

  • Rick in Miami

    This explains the last-minute Hail Mary in Pennsylvania.

  • Jon V

    They are trying to let people down a little bit at a time maybe

  • Matt McIrvin

    I wonder if NH is such a good early indicator. It’s very, very white. I have a hunch that this may tend to depress its D turnout relative to certain other states in this cycle.

    • StratMan

      You know VT has to be at least as white as NH. That’s just not a huge factor in New England.

  • don in fl

    cnn and aca remember.

  • Buddah

    Minnesota’s very white too!

  • Jon V

    yeah, but NH is pretty far away from the confederacy

    • Grateful

      You would be surprised! I’ve seen stars and bars on pickups outside Concord.

  • Michael

    Used to live in NH. It’s just a weird place, period. Voters there can do anything, and are rarely predictive of voters anywhere else.

    • Grateful

      True. My husband is from NH and I think he was accultured to be stubborn on purpose, just because.

  • Khan

    Do not trust anything leaked by anyone.

  • TJ

    I think I’m going to need to bang my head on something really hard after watching the CNN opening sequence to the Presidential Super Bowl Title Weight Fight …

    ugh, what has the media become ….

    • DaveM

      I’m doing the slow DSL internet-only election watching: no video, no Flash, sound muted. I will turn on the TV only to watch Obama’s victory speech.

  • Dylan Wasserman

    Wow I cannot believe that Romneys internal polls have Obama +5 in Ohio. On top of that there was been massive voter turnout. Maybe this turns into a Reagan type election in Obamas favor. Honestly if he wins in a landslide my faith in America will be restored. I like conservatives and liberals, but Mitt Romney is neither. He will go down in history as one of the worst candidates ever, and the Jeep Commericals that he ran blew the midwest for him. Starting to feel very good about tonight. HALO 4 is the bomb by the way.

Leave a Comment