Princeton Election Consortium

A first draft of electoral history. Since 2004

Jul 07: Biden 375 EV (D+6.8% from toss-up), Senate 53 D, 47 R (D+5.7%), House control D+6.0%
Moneyball states: President AR IA AZ, Senate MT KS ME, Legislatures KS TX NC

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 →]

→ 1 CommentTags: 2020 Election · Politics · Senate · Site News

Election tracking 2020, Part 1: The U.S. House

June 17th, 2020, 3:12pm by Sam Wang


In the coming weeks, PEC will roll out new features and a new design. Most prominent will be an emphasis on local action. Our editorial stance this year is to leverage your local efforts locally for the Presidency (4 years), the Senate (6 years), and redistricting (10 years).

This week, we start up the previous PEC federal trackers: U.S. House, Senate, and Presidential. The math under the hood is mostly the same: the cleanest possible snapshot of polls with transparent assumptions. The notable exception is an increase in the minimum amount of uncertainty in the final stretch.

Today let’s start with the simplest tracker: the U.S. House. As of today, Democrats appear to be 5.0 percentage points above threshold from what they need to retain control of the chamber.

Here’s how it works. [Read more →]

→ 2 CommentsTags: 2020 Election · House · Princeton · Redistricting · Site News

Authoritarianism in 2020: Checking the checklist

June 4th, 2020, 12:47pm by Sam Wang


In January 2017, shortly after the Inauguration, I provided a ten-item checklist of signs of authoritarianism. It seemed like a good idea to think in advance about what might happen, and lay down a marker in advance. In addition, I was concerned that the press, television media, and citizens might become desensitized to the news.

I was mocked by a few people as being hysterical. Likewise, scholars of authoritarianism such as Sarah Kendzior were also considered to be out there. But then things started coming true. And scholars of authoritarianism were proved correct: see this recent NYT report. The mitigating factors are the level of competence of some actions, and the degree to which federal officials are going along. Also, widespread protests are making it clear how hard it would be to build on such actions.

I provided a brief update to the list in May 2017, and another in August 2018. In light of recent events surrounding police and D.C.-area military response to the protests, it’s time to take stock.

Before going to the list, I want to note something striking. Even with unrest, military crackdowns, and pandemic, Donald Trump still has support from about three-fourths of self-described Republicans. His approval among all voters hasn’t fallen below a floor of about 39% (or gone above a ceiling of 43%) for nearly his entire presidency. The Republican Party, once the party of Eisenhower or Reagan, has become the party of Trump. As of today, he’s at 42.5% in the adjusted FiveThirtyEight average. As I wrote in October 2016, his base keeps him afloat.

Here’s the checklist. The Administration scores 9 out of 10.

The Authoritarian Checklist, June 2020 update

  1. Taking sides with a foreign power against domestic opposition.Check mark, Segoe UI Symbol font, character code 2713 hex.
  2. Detention of journalists.Check mark, Segoe UI Symbol font, character code 2713 hex.
  3. Loss of press access to the White House.Check mark, Segoe UI Symbol font, character code 2713 hex.
  4. Made-up charges against those who disagree with the government.Check mark, Segoe UI Symbol font, character code 2713 hex.
  5. Use of governmental power to target individual citizens for retribution.Check mark, Segoe UI Symbol font, character code 2713 hex.
  6. Use of a terrorist or other incident to take away civil liberties.Check mark, Segoe UI Symbol font, character code 2713 hex.
  7. Persecution of an ethnic or religious minority, either by the Administration or its supporters.Check mark, Segoe UI Symbol font, character code 2713 hex.
  8. Removal of civil service employees for insufficient loyalty or membership in a suspect group.Check mark, Segoe UI Symbol font, character code 2713 hex.
  9. Use of the Presidency to incite popular violence against individuals or organizations.Check mark, Segoe UI Symbol font, character code 2713 hex.
  10. Defying the orders of courts, including the Supreme Court.

The interpretation of authoritarianism doesn’t take into account the fact that many of these actions have been taken with a low degree of competence. The Administration is particularly maladroit. At some level, teargassing D.C. protesters is about what one might expect from a mayor. But these actions are now becoming normalized. People with more competence will be ready to take up the torch, as we saw in Senator Tom Cotton’s opinion piece. No matter who wins the Presidency in 2020, that is a concerning sign for 2024 – or even the next post-election transition.

And now, the details. [Read more →]

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