Princeton Election Consortium

Innovations in democracy since 2004

Sep 27: Biden 353 EV (D+5.2% from toss-up), Senate 52 D, 48 R (D+3.7%), House control D+3.6%
Moneyball states: President IA NV AZ, Senate MT KS AK, Legislatures KS TX NC

Boosting Princeton turnout: introducing Vote100

September 12th, 2020, 2:14pm by Zachariah Sippy


In 2014, according to the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement, only 11% of Princeton Undergraduate students voted. This dismal turnout inspired Princeton’s Vote100 initiative, with a stated goal of encouraging a 100% turnout rate among eligible Princeton students. In 2018, the population of students voting more than quadrupled, to 50%, but it is still well short of Vote100’s participation goal.

Both Professor Sam Wang and Julian Zelizer (the co-hosts of SPIA’s Politics and Polls Podcast) serve as faculty advisors for the initiative. And this summer, more than two dozen Princeton students served as undergraduate fellows of project, working to register their peers, provide key election information (especially as so many will be voting absentee), and gin up excitement for the election this fall.

On September 15th, at 5 p.m. Eastern, Professors Wang and Zelizer will speak with two undergraduate fellows about their work. You can join the live Politics & Polls podcast event using this link. See you then!

→ 2 CommentsTags: 2020 Election · Politics · Princeton

The Authoritarian Checklist, September 2020

September 6th, 2020, 7:24am by Sam Wang


In his public abuse of Laurene Powell Jobs, Donald Trump reminds us again of the PEC Authoritarian Checklist. At this point, the Trump Administration meets all 10 criteria for authoritarianism that I laid out in 2017, before the start of the term. It was a way of laying out possibilities in advance, preventing the concepts from being redefined along the way. Each item has been reinforced over time, for example the use of federal forces to detain BLM protesters, and Trump’s defense of Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse and other white nationalists.

Whether this becomes a long-term part of our system of government is on the ballot in November.

Read more about the checklist.

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→ 9 CommentsTags: 2020 Election · President · U.S. Institutions

The mailbag

September 5th, 2020, 7:59am by Sam Wang


Some recent correspondence of interest… [Read more →]

→ 4 CommentsTags: 2020 Election

New PEC feature: 50-State Guide to 2020 Elections

September 1st, 2020, 8:00am by Zachariah Sippy


While the Presidential election is hogging most of the attention, there are literally thousands of other races on the ballot. All 435 US House of Representatives seats, and a large Senate class (35 elections) are up for grabs. These races will have a massive impact on legislation and the composition of federal courts.


Our 50-state guide to the election is designed to ensure that these downballot races are not overlooked. [Read more →]

→ 11 CommentsTags: 2020 Election · Politics · Redistricting

Even odds?

August 31st, 2020, 11:38am by Sam Wang


Betting markets used to favor Biden over Trump. But in the days after the Democratic and Republican conventions, the markets now report 50-50 odds, a toss-up. Is that a realistic assessment?

Based on polling metrics alone, the data so far don’t support this shift. It seems that bettors are factoring in “pre-poll” possibilities such as difficulties in voter access in a way that helps Trump; or “post-poll” disruption such as post-election unrest arising from a slow count, eventually leading to an Electoral College outcome that doesn’t match true state-by-state voter intent. We must do everything we can to guard against these threats to democracy.

But today, let me put that aside. Ignoring the factors above, what would it take for conditions to suggest a true even-odds Presidential election, assuming the election is held without major incident? Based on polls only, here are some thresholds to watch for:

  • Biden Meta-Margin at 0.0%
  • Biden ahead in national popular vote by 2.5%
  • Democrats lead generic Congressional ballot by 3%
  • Trump job approval at 46-47%

Here is why. [Read more →]

→ 26 CommentsTags: 2020 Election · President

When’s that bounce coming?

August 30th, 2020, 9:20am by Sam Wang


In case anyone is curious, the Presidential state poll aggregator won’t start to show the effects of cumulative post-convention bounce (Democratic plus Republican combined) until surveys are available. Maybe as early as tomorrow, but more likely it will take the whole of the coming week to see it clearly. Luckily there isn’t much news happening. (Hello Portland and Kenosha!)

In the meantime, take a look at the generic Congressional ballot median, plotted above. It’s updated more frequently than state polls. It’s D+6.8% above threshold for control of the chamber, which is near the top of its range for the 2020 season. Is that a harbinger of movement toward Democrats in the days ahead? We will find out.

Also, welcome, readers of Salon. See the links in the banner to find Moneyball states and races. Then optimize your giving in the right sidebar!

→ 3 CommentsTags: 2020 Election · President

Before the conventions, a slightly narrowing race

August 19th, 2020, 8:21am by Sam Wang


Can events like the roll-call vote above change public opinion? We’re about to find out – and trends over the last month will make a convention bounce easy to see, since Democrats have been trending slightly downward.

Our federal poll trackers use different data streams, yet they seem to be moving together. This happened in 2016 as well. Democrats still lead for Presidency, Senate, and House. But in all cases, the race has narrowed by 2-3 percentage points.

[Read more →]

→ 11 CommentsTags: 2020 Election · House · Politics · President · Senate

Ranked-choice voting wins in court in Maine

August 14th, 2020, 6:11pm by Sam Wang


This afternoon, Judge Lance Walker issued his order in a court case that affects this November’s Senate election. This comes surprisingly fast, just one day after the evidentiary hearing. He finds that plaintiffs, four supporters of Senator Susan Collins, have suffered no constitutional injury from ranked-choice voting. His order gets pretty tart with the plaintiffs, and is worth a full read, here. Our work is quoted! See our amicus brief. (Interestingly, Princeton faculty were on both sides of the case.)

Consequently, supporters of minor-party candidates will still have the option (as they did before this lawsuit) to reassign their vote to either of the two major-party candidates, Sara Gideon (D) or Susan Collins (R). In principle, every voter in Maine will have a say between which of these two is the Senator next year – without risking the possibility of throwing away their vote.

September 8th: Another challenge to ranked-choice voting, this one in the Maine Supreme Court, has also failed. Consequently ranked-choice voting will be used, as planned, for the Presidential race in Maine. This will be a high-profile example for the whole nation to see!

→ 10 CommentsTags: governors · Senate

How hard is it to steal a national election by mail?

August 13th, 2020, 8:09am by Guest Contributor


(This is a guest article by Michael Goldstein of Trenton, New Jersey. I helped too. -Sam)

Recent statements by the President – and actions by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy – raise concerns about the integrity of the upcoming Presidential election. In a close election, voter suppression (such as deliberate slowing of the mails) and election interference (such as hacking of voting machines) could distort the outcome. However, because of the way U.S. elections are administered – in a highly local manner – we find that the risk of a stolen election is lower than one might fear. [Read more →]

→ 24 CommentsTags: 2020 Election · Politics · President

Ranked-choice voting gets a hearing in Maine

August 13th, 2020, 8:07am by Sam Wang


Today in Maine, ranked-choice voting will be considered in federal court for the third time. And our team at Princeton has weighed in.

In 2018, ranked-choice voting was used for a federal election for the first time anywhere in the United States, in the 2nd Congressional District of Maine. And it made a difference. Minor-party voters were able to express their first preference, without fear of throwing their vote away. They could then give their support on later rounds to either Jared Golden (D) or Representative Bruce Poliquin (R). In the end, their support was enough to elect Golden to the House seat. Over 95% of voters’ preferences were used in all rounds of vote-counting, including thousands of minor-candidate voters.

Minor-party voters were highly strategic in thsir use of the ballot, most often ranking all the candidates. In contrast, Golden and Poliquin supporters’ most frequent choice was to stop after making one choice.

[Read more →]

→ 9 CommentsTags: 2018 Election · House