Election liveblog thread #1

November 8, 2016 by Sam Wang

I’ll comment as the evening progresses.

9:09pm: The NYTimes Senate projected margins are running several percentage points more Republican than pre-election polls.

9:04pm: Here are some negative signs for Democrats: Trump’s ahead in Florida, overperforming his polls by several percentage points. Also, NH and PA Senate races leaning R at the NYTimes tracker.

I note that the generic House ballot swung toward Republicans by several points in the closing weeks, to D+1%. That is another piece of data suggesting that the GOP might overperform their polls. Definitely some mixed signals tonight.

8:43pm: Oh, this is awesome: the NY Times projection tool. So much better than TV. For now, it looks like control may come down to the New Hampshire and Pennsylvania Senate races. If Republicans take one of those, then they are likely to retain control.

8:31pm: Todd Young (R) wins IN-Sen. Not unexpected, but that’s one close race for the GOP.

8:25pm: According to you, television watching options:

  • Red Skelton special is coming up
  • Showtime: Stephen Colbert election night special
  • Pop: the movie Dave
  • El Rey: Twilight Zone marathon

8:18pm: Don’t ask me about any race closer than two percentage points. All comments on this topic will be deleted until 10:00pm!

8:13pm: I’m unaware of any advance indications of Trump overperformance. On the contrary, we have: (a) early voting neutral or more Democratic than 2012; (b) massive Latino voting; and (c) high turnout. If I had to guess, I’d say any error will favor Clinton.

8:04pm: Do yourselves a favor and turn off the TV coverage – it is basically worse than pre-election polling until 10:00pm. My friends here want to watch it though. Any suggestions of other TV stuff that is fun tonight?

8:00pm: Here’s something cool: an electoral-vote tracker from reader Ben Reich. Just fill in the cells in row 4 with “C” or “T”. It automatically calculates the electoral totals, and updates the paths to victory for Clinton or Trump. No map update, sorry! For that, use 270towin.com.

6:30pm: Here is Slate’s VoteCastr tool for forecasting state totals based on partial information. I’m a bit suspicious, but it’s certainly not worse than live news, which is basically worthless for the next 2-3 hours. Or follow real counts at the New York Times.


Zach says:

Hi Sam — do you have any comments on VoteCastr and how we should be interpreting it’s results? I’m cautiously optimistic about the numbers I’m seeing, which seem to support a GOTV-fueled bump for Clinton, but I’d like to know what balance of optimism/skepticism I should strike.

truedson says:

I’ve looked at the Slate site today…but like Kevin Drum I’m not at all sure what it means. So I gave up on it. Anyways it is encouraging for Clinton.

mediaglyphic says:

The exit polls seem to be indicating same male/female ratio as last time. Non whites up as pct of total (African American down 100 basis points, hispanics up 100 basis points, all others up 200 bp’s). Is this an early indicator?

Nancy Evans says:

Use the vice site instead of Slate. Same data updating more frequentlyhttps://news.vice.com/story/live-election-day-turnout-results-with-votecastr-eod

Michael Coppola says:

Voted early this morning. One Trump volunteer handing out sample ballots and one Clinton volunteer smiling and saying, “hope you’ll vote Democratic” to everyone who walked past him. They were standing about six feet apart and exchanging pleasantries during the lulls. Maybe this isn’t the end of the world as we know it after all.
Still, the next few hours just might kill me.

G-dogg says:

The Cuebig site, tied to cellphone location metadata is pretty interesting too!

jvl says:

Shouldn’t cell J10 contain
instead of

jharp says:

The Votecastr is not my thing until I know more about it.

Dave in Tulsa says:

Sam, this is my third election poring over your site and learning lots about statistics and polling. I am watching the early returns as well as movement in the betting markets. The early returns are inconclusive to my eyes but the betting markets have gone sharply toward Clinton. Is there something in the data out so far that is driving that movement?

Lorem says:

Perhaps just an observation that nothing completely crazy is happening – that seems like a good reason to bet on Clinton.

NDE says:

As a TV alternative, Stephen Colbert has an election night special on Showtime.

Ken says:

Clinton has jumped from ca. 80% to over 91% at electionbettingodds.com in the last 45 min or so.

Marco says:

Re: TV watching
TCM is in a WW2 mood. First was “the Battle of Britain”. Now “The great Escape” is on. If that is your cup of tea 🙂

Ken says:

The NY Times live updating website is fun to watch. The constantly changing dials have to be fake though. Unless they are meant to visualize uncertainty. http://www.nytimes.com/elections/forecast/president

counsellorben says:

For TV watching, the channel Pop is showing the movie “Dave.” Love that movie.

Sean says:

I’m watching the twilight zone marathon on the el rey network.

Dawn in Bar Harbor says:

Showed your website (and the Wired article) to my AP Stats students today. Trying not to obsess. Maine polls closed 15 minutes ago…

iayork says:

Anyone know if the NY Times tracker (http://www.nytimes.com/elections/results/president) includes early votes or not?

anonymous says:

Trump is way ahead in VA. My state. (gulp) I was afraid of this.

Jake Ingram says:

Anon, did you read Sam’s Geek’s Guide?
“Slow counting: Virginia is slow-counting in a way that makes Republican candidates appear
stronger than their eventual finish. Ignore early counts.”

Anonymously says:

from dailykos
So don’t freak out at the Virginia toplines.
Obama won Loudon by 5, Clinton is winning it by 16.
Obama won Fairfax by 21. Clinton is winning it by 33.
Obama won Henrico (Richmond) by 12. Clinton is winning it by 21.
Obama won Richmond City by 57. Clinton is winning it by 54.

Sam Wang says:

Yes, but that could be the college-educated divide. Those might be counterbalanced by rural areas.

SoddingJunkMail says:

The CNN commentators live announcing the Florida vote totals as they change is absurd.

theliberalcrab says:

Do you feel as bad as I do for Peter King. Wolf is like a kid excited by a fan that keeps changing colors. It’s actually embarrassing for a veteran.

Michael B. says:

The Twilight Zone marathon isn’t really an alternative, this already is almost like an episode of TTZ… The orange monster might become president…

Anonymously says:

If trump wins, I won’t eat a bug, but I’ll spend much time watching Turner Classic Movies, HGTV, and Music Choice.

Anura says:

Television? Get Netflix. Watch something light, that you have seen before and don’t need to pay too much attention to so you can keep checking the internet without worrying about missing anything (in my case, Futurama fits the bill nicely).

OldenGoldenDecoy says:

The Weather Channel
You’ve voted, now experience peaceful views and sounds of nature with us! #EscapetheElection #ElectionDay Courtesy: Nature Vision.

Indomitable Ted says:

Haha, now that’s some good marketing…

Olav Grinde says:

As always, I rather like The Guardian’s online coverage. The zoomable maps are brilliant!
Our TV is off. Not a single talking head to break the wonderful silence.

Graham Strouse says:

If you’re looking for something to watch on your tv, iPad, or laptop, I’d go with Luke Cage.

Joy says:

The only livestream I’m watching is Facts. on YouTube; 3 super-tired Irish people (almost 2am there) answering questions and trying different foods (their last taste test was turkey-flavored chewing gum). Definitely WAY better than watching the mainstream news.

Megan says:

Distraction: Martha and Snoop’s Potluck dinner party on VH1. Yup, Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg cooking together.

bks says:

Thumbs down on VoteCastr. Would someone say something encouraging. please?

Jim K says:

Seems like VoteCastr was entirely meaningless since it was only accurate if the polling was correct, and if the polling was correct it didn’t tell us anything that we (via Sam) didn’t already know.
It is looking terrifyingly like the polling was off…

538 Refugee says:

I was watching PBS but turned on NBC for some local results. Came downstairs for some sanity. Ohio does look interesting though. Perhaps the Columbus Dispatch poll is closer than many of the national pollsters? I hope. 😉

Ed Wittens Cat says:

Any suggestions of other TV stuff that is fun tonight?
Candle Cove
even scarier than a Trump presidency

Bill G. says:

NY Times is currently projecting Trump at 259. Still plenty of time to go, but any thoughts on what kind of bug you may enjoy?

Sam Wang says:

Yeah, not ruling out the bug.

Mac and Cheese says:

Looking like polls are junk Wang.

Anthony Shanks says:

Sam, hold me.

Steven Anderson says:

I’m terrified

Adam says:

This is a nightmare that I truly never thought would happen. Is anyone else thinking more and more that he is about to win?

Graham Repulski says:

I feel like it can’t be happening, but then again, I’ve felt that way for the past 18 months or so.
I don’t understand anything anymore.

Dave says:

Yeah, this is terrifying.

Mary says:

I’m suddenly concerned for first time this election. I hope we’re just being dramatic.

Veronica says:

Unfortunately, yes. I’ll never trust this site again.

Ruth Rothschild says:

I am. Trump’s predicted chances are now at 78%. This is just a nightmare and very terrifying. We’ve all been living in a fantasy world, thinking that people wouldn’t want the likes of Trump. How wrong we all were! This is absolutely terrifying. I wonder if there will be states that would consider seceding. Nice thought, but probably won’t happen. We can only hope that the West Coast states will help pull out a Clinton win.

Koos van Blerk says:

Looks like we’re heading for a Trump victory.

GM says:

Smart money is still on a Clinton presidency, but also most certainly on the consumption of crawly comestibles.

Sam Wang says:


Veronica says:

Looks like you’ll need to be eating bugs.

MNP says:

Are there Trump branded bugs?

Rhina says:

oh my god, this is no looking so hot, what happeed to NC, now MI. God helps us.

Amitabh Lath says:

Michigan looks like the firewall now. It’s right on the edge. Good god!

Indomitable Ted says:

Yelp, I’m having a heart attack.

Michael B. says:

Why do all news coverage teams call states with 1-2% reporting, and a difference of 10-15% between candidates?

Sam Wang says:

The larger the margin, the easier it is to call. They just need a tiny sample to call a state like Oklahoma or Vermont.

Michael B. says:

But Sam, how do they know it’ll be representative when they only have 1 precinct reporting? Especially as strange as this election has been so far…

Kurt says:

Looks to be over. Even if it isn’t, I can’t believe this country has gone so batshit crazy. Nothing else to say.

Michael Liams says:

When I think of all the money Sam convinced me to not spend on this race and spend elsewhere…I just wonder if it would have made a difference. I should have stayed with 538. Once again they were the most correct out of all predictors.

Amitabh Lath says:

NY Times projection tool is saying 54% P(Trump). MI is trending Trump. This does not look good.

Ruth Rothschild says:

NY Times projection is now saying 73% for Trump. Both MI and Wisconsin are trending Trump. How could all of the estimates and statistics been so wrong? Were we living in a fantasy world thinking that Trump was so off the wall that people would come to their senses and not vote for him? Guess that not only will Sam be eating bugs, but I’ll be moving out of the US.

Ruth Rothschild says:

Wow! These early return numbers, both Senate and presidential race are scaring me. With 88% of the precincts reporting in Virginia, Trump is ahead. I find that interesting considering that Virginia was leaning Democratic for so long and also given that this is Kaine’s home state. Hoping that Hillary starts to gain some ground and that the statistics end up being right about her final electoral count. This just doesn’t look real good to me right now. 🙁

Ruth Rothschild says:

Looks like it’s now a 61% chance that Trump will win. What happened to the Obama coalition and all these voters who disliked Trump? I guess the early voting was meaningless. I sure had hoped that Sam wouldn’t have to eat any bugs. But, it’s looking more and more like this could end up being a Republican landslide. I’m now looking into place outside of the US I want to move to. I don’t think I can live in a Nazi-style dictatorship. Vladimir Putin must be ecstatic right now.

Phil says:

If Sam decided not to return tonight, I don’t blame him.

Larry Guy says:

Smart dude develops super elegant model that works well for a while. Does not detect when input data goes bad. Model fails. Smart dude says “uh, six sigma event”

JayBoy2k says:

Sam, I love your site — always have. You are the best in this business. However this turns out tonight, I look forward to your analysis of the polls and this election. No one can do it better,,, Jack

Jay Sheckley says:

Agreed. Sam, it’d be too much to lose you.

Bruce O'Dell says:

Sorry Sam. I’m a cybersecurity professional and we kinda all saw this coming. American voting systems are trivially hackable. There’s no relationship between polls and results any more: haven’t been one for some time. And so it goes.

Erica says:

What I find shocking about this site, and 538, is that it continues to advance the idea that data science is an ethical, benign tool. Sure, Professor Wang will concede that he made analytical errors, or even admit that there were across-the-board, “enormous” polling errors. But neither he nor Nate Silver nor DailyKos has really grappled with the likely immeasurable costs of data science and data journalism to our society. It’s disturbing, particularly on the part of academics who should have a better understanding of their obligation to the public.

Sam Wang says:

In fact, I agree with you. There is the issue that we did not have a good way of anticipating this cost. I am willing to take responsibility, but surely you recognize that this was a difficult cost to anticipate.
However, recall that my stated point was to direct activist energy, not the topline probability. I recognize that this fell on deaf ears. For instance yours – you do not even acknowledge this goal.
Generally data can be useful, and now the question is what to do with it in the future. The alternative of not using data to guide strategy is self-destructive and nihilistic.
Your suggestions are welcome.

Erica says:

Thank you for your response. I appreciate that your stated goal might have been to “direct activist energy”, rather than present “topline probability.” But as a public voice, and especially as representatives of a university, I believe that sites like these have obligation is to go beyond issuing disclaimers. I believe it is possible, and necessary, to anticipate how the information this site presented might be used.
The problem is that so many of us have decided to cut short the work of understanding our fellow-citizens that comes, in part, through regular reading of narrative journalism. Instead, we prefer to click on sites like yours with graphs and charts to try to understand our political landscape in 30 seconds before heading to work. That broader cultural problem is, of course, not the fault of PEC or 538. But, sites like this encourage that type of rapid data-minded thinking. I imagine you do have ideas about how to grapple with the costs of our preoccupation with big data. My guess is that at some point sites like PEC and 538 will begin to address the presumption that big data can be modeled in ways that are fit for quick reads on iphones during morning commutes. I’d bet that these models were designed for scholars like yourself. They were meant to include foot-noted explanations of modeling errors and qualifications, rather than presented for mass consumption on a blog.
Some historians have worked ont he problem of data-minded thinking in American history. One area of interest is in engineers’ perception of the risk of nuclear catastrophe in the face of statistically-modeled improbability. That’s what I was thinking of the past 14 months.

Sam Wang says:

The Upshot also showed substantial uncertainty, if I recall correctly.
I dissected my error in the NYT after the election. My error was technical – an underestimate of the ceiling on correlated error – but has important implications, which I have written about. Because of political events, we all have to live with the consequences of the 2016 media’s it-can’t-possibly-happen attitude. I didn’t create that, but I was part of that narrative.
Joseph, I’m sorry you are still angry. I am not sure what you are looking for. I’m not going to keep writing about it – it’s two years later, and we all have to move forward.
In case you haven’t noticed, I am doing some very different things now. I encourage you to find your own way to do good work, and not just be an angry reader of websites.

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