Princeton Election Consortium

A first draft of electoral history. Since 2004

Jul 15: Biden 372 EV (D+5.9% from toss-up), Senate 53 D, 47 R (D+5.6%), House control D+8.0%
Moneyball states: President AK AR IA, Senate MT KS ME, Legislatures KS TX NC

Our Polling Trauma

July 8th, 2020, 1:42pm by Sam Wang


Did the 2016 election make us too gun-shy to trust polls? New in the Columbia Journalism Review, I tell what went wrong, polling successes in 2018 and 2019, and what it all means for 2020. I offer an opinion on how journalists could incorporate data into their coverage of this year’s race.

I also point out downticket races, such as U.S. Senate, state legislatures, and other local races as deserving attention. Polling and other information can draw attention and help mobilize citizen action. For example, we’re using that data to optimize donations (see the ActBlue and WinRed links at right).

Read on! (and here is a hyperlinked draft for factchecking purposes)

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Will New Jersey Hispanics and Asians have to wait until 2023 for fair representation?

July 9th, 2020, 6:42pm by Sam Wang


Since the 2010 census, Hispanic and Asian populations in New Jersey have increased by 410,000, almost as many people as live in 2 legislative districts (see map at left and our statement). But if Jersey legislators get their way, those communities may have to wait two years until 2023 to see their numbers reflected in redistricting.

Today in Trenton, an Assembly committee reviewed ACR188, an amendment to the state constitution which would allow redistricting to be postponed until after the 2021 election. The reason has to do with likely Census delays, which in turn delays the work of the redistricting commission. But as written, the amendment takes steps that appear to be unnecessary – and go well beyond actual needs. [Read more →]

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College Reopening, Coronavirus, and the Adolescent Brain

July 3rd, 2020, 12:58pm by Sam Wang


Politics and Polls logoCan colleges reopen safely? Should they try? On Politics and Polls (the podcast for the Princeton Policy School, co-hosted by Julian Zelizer and me), I interview Laurence Steinberg, major expert on adolescence. Our conversation is a mash-up of neuroscience, public health, coronavirus, and the adolescent mind. Spoiler: it’s going to be really, really, rilly difficult. Take a listen.

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The new generation gives me hope

June 29th, 2020, 7:38pm by Sam Wang


This remarkable bit of TikTok storytelling, after the jump (it’s causing problems on some browsers)… [Read more →]

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Woodrow Wilson’s name removed from policy school

June 27th, 2020, 12:46pm by Sam Wang


Big news here at Princeton: Woodrow Wilson’s name will be removed from our Policy and International School. See President Christopher L. Eisgruber’s announcement here.

Wilson is a huge figure in both Princeton and national history. He helped grow Princeton into the institution it is now. As President of the United States, his role in domestic and international policy was immense: World War I, the League of Nations, and helping gain women the right to vote. But he was also a racist. He re-segregated the federal government and welcomed the KKK into public life.

Wilson once came up with an inspirational phrase known to all of us here: “Princeton in the Nation’s Service.” In 1996, that motto was expanded to include “…and in the Service of all Nations.” That was a good step forward (especially since he liked the movie Birth Of A Nation so much). Today’s removal of his name from the policy school is another step forward. It makes it easier for Princeton policy students to reconcile the name of their school with their goals of serving all people and all nations.

For those who think this event took too long: In my view, leaders should be praised even if they take a while to catch up.

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Blue Kentucky Girl

June 25th, 2020, 8:55pm by Sam Wang


(updated to reflect a narrow win by Amy McGrath over Charles Booker in the Democratic primary)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has made a successful career out of exploiting the rules of government. He is the single greatest architect of changes that move the U.S. away from democracy. But national Democrats and voting rights advocates have used their hearts rather than their heads to work against him.

This week’s primary election in Kentucky highlighted the lack of perspective. Out-of-state advocates focused on polling station scarcity, while ignoring the actual high turnout that occurred. Second, Democrats poured money into candidacy of Amy McGrath, who has come very close to not making it through the primary. A better strategy – one that would not have depended on who won the primary – would draw upon local factors, including what Kentuckians were actually thinking and doing. [Read more →]

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Juneteenth

June 19th, 2020, 8:47am by Sam Wang


The Civil War ended in April 1865, but news back then traveled slowly. On June 19, 1865, a Union general in Texas made a public declaration, which grew into the Juneteenth celebration and commemoration, observed by Black Americans starting in the 1880s. Today, Juneteenth is observed in some manner in 49 out of 50 states. As of this year, it’s a Princeton University holiday.

It’s been a tough road since the first Juneteenth. Southern whites continued the Civil War past 1865 in the form of local rebellions. They were able to turn back civil rights and voting rights for a century (and longer). Reconstruction, the Gilded Age, and the Jim Crow era are fascinating – I encourage you to read about the period. The best sources are Eric Foner’s Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution and W.E.B. DuBois’s Black Reconstruction. For a deep dive, I recommend Richard White’s The Republic For Which It Stands.

From a political standpoint, I think we are in a second Gilded Age (here are two podcasts I did on the subject). The comparisons are only getting more intense – but I think in a good way. The Gilded Age was followed by the Progressive Era. People are more engaged than ever, on race and on other issues. I am optimistic about the next few years.

Right now, there’s a lot to do in order to get there. Here at PEC, we will be rolling out resources to help you exert maximum influence, via this year’s campaign, on what the political and civil rights landscape will look like in 2021 and beyond.

Happy Juneteenth.

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It’s alive!

June 19th, 2020, 6:46am by Sam Wang




Detailed explanation to come. Basically, it’s the same as the 2016 calculation – a simple snapshot of polls to give a sharp picture of where the race is on any single day, to allow optimization of resource allocation.

The November prediction (red zone, one-sigma; yellow zone, two-sigma or 95% confidence band) comes from estimating the likely amount of drift between now and Election Day. The major change is putting a higher floor on the minimum level of uncertainty in the home stretch. Increasing the floor (to 2 percentage points) prevents overconfidence in the home stretch, while retaining the sharp time resolution that we get from day to day from now until then.

Most of the details are here. and in an older article. More explanation to come.

Contributors to this feature: Lucas Manning, Ben Deverett. The code is at https://github.com/Princeton-Election-Consortium/data-backend. Outputs: tables and charts.

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At Labyrinth Books tonight with Dave Daley on Unrigged, his new book on democracy reform

June 18th, 2020, 8:33am by Sam Wang


Tonight at 6:00pm Eastern, I’m looking forward to this conversation with Dave Daley. His new book Unrigged: How Americans Are Battling Back To Save Democracy talks about all the ways that reform is breaking out across the nation.

His previous book, Ratf***ed, detailed how partisan gerrymandering was committed in 2010. In Unrigged, he’s broadened his scope to include ranked-choice voting, restoration of ex-felon voting rights, redistricting reform, and more.

This is an event in the Fixing Bugs in Democracy series, co-sponsored by the Princeton Gerrymandering Project. Register for the Crowdcast and tune in! I’ll post the recording later.

Also, support Labyrinth Books – buy the book from them! You can get free delivery or curbside pickup, and a 10% discount. Write to orders.labyrinth at gmail dot com or call 609-497-1600 and dial #1 during business hours (11am-4pm most days).

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Election tracking 2020, Part 2: The U.S. Senate

June 17th, 2020, 8:42pm by Sam Wang


Close watchers of politics sense that conditions are turning against Senate Republicans. Exactly when this began has been hard to tell by looking at individual polls. But a statistical aggregate clarifies the answer: the middle of April, at the same time as President Trump’s increasingly wild coronavirus-19 press conferences.
The core calculation is to determine the probability distribution of seat outcomes that results from all 2^22 = 4.2 million possible combinations. The way this is calculated makes it quick and easy to estimate where donations will have the largest impact on Senate control. Use the ActBlue link (for Democrats) in the sidebar, or the WinRed link (Republicans), to give in an optimal way, based on these calculations.

Here’s how the calculation is done. [Read more →]

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