Anyone care to help me extract some Wisconsin State Assembly results from this database? I am applying this proposed gerrymandering standard to t...
Two Futures: 45 or 50 Democratic Senate seats…but not in between?
Four years ago, I pointed out that close Senate races all tend to fall in the direction of one party or the other. Since then, the idea has stood up pretty well. It implies two very different possible futures. There are a few races I will be watching on Tuesday to figure out which is ours.
The overall pattern above is consistent with two ideas: (1) Polling misses a bit of enthusiasm for the winning side in Presidential election years. (2) Polls also don’t catch energy that goes against the President’s party in midterm years.
The chart shows the range of possibilities in races where the polls showed the race within 3 percentage points. 2014 fits the pattern, 2016 less so.
In 2014, the President’s party (Democrats) had a midterm election go hard against them beyond what polls indicated. That was the lowest-turnout election since 1942. This could help account for the systematic polling error, which I estimated as being more than five points.
In 2016, the outcome favored Republicans, but less so. Compared with final polls, the unexpected winners were Republicans in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Indiana. Democrats still won in Nevada and New Hampshire.
An overall error as small as two percentage points would lead to fairly different outcomes, at either end of the range:
Future #1: Democrats get to 50 seats. This future corresponds to the idea that there is hidden support for the out-party, i.e. the Democrats. That would lead to 50 Democratic/Independent seats.
Arguing in favor of this idea is Trump’s high unpopularity. Arguing against this idea are the reports of high turnout, which is a situation that pollsters ought to be able to deal with. If there is a polling error, I would guess it will not be nearly as large as 2014. But a two-point error is well within the range of possibilities. Which gets Democrats to 50 seats. This possibility is more likely than people realize, I think.
What happens in a 50-50 divided Senate? Last time this happened, in 2001, there was power sharing. But those were very different times, and the Senate is far more polarized now. Think of the possibilities: Pence stuck in the Senate all the time to break ties, or Democrats attempt to recruit Murkowski to their side. That would be quite a show.
In addition to this 50-seat scenario, as an outside possibility I will be watching the Tennessee race between Phil Bredesen (D) and Marsha Blackburn (R). Tennessee is a low-turnout state even in Presidential years. This year, early voting shows increased turnout among Tennessee voters under the age of 50. So there’s some chance of a hidden bonus there. Nonetheless, Blackburn leads in polls by a median of 5 points, which is a fair amount. If Bredesen pulls off a win, it would boost the odds substantially that Democrats can get as high as 51 seats. It’s a long shot.
That’s a contrast to Texas, where early voting has passed the 2012 Presidential numbers and might get to 2016 levels. Does this mean there’s a hidden bonus for one side or the other, or does it mean polling will be more accurate? I think polls are accurate and Cruz will win, but we will find out.
Future #2: Democrats end up with 45-46 seats. Conversely, the Arizona Senate race has shown a slim lead of about 3 points for Kyrsten Sinema (D) over Martha McSally (R). If McSally pulls out a win, that would suggest the polling error favors Republicans, and a bad overall outcome for Democrats in the Senate.
I guess there is also Future #1.5, a median-ish outcome of 47-49 D’s. That’s not nearly as good as Republicans had hoped for a few years ago. But it’s also not a dream outcome for Democrats.