Tag Archives: Electoral College Prediction

The Electoral College Map Five Days Out: Most Likely Trump Scenario is a Tie

The most likely way for Hillary Clinton to not win the presidency may be a tie between Secretary Clinton and Donald Trump. This is because, when one looks at the data a number of ways, and makes various adjustments, Clinton wins, often just barely, most of the time, except in what appears to be the worst case scenario. That scenario is Clinton losing most of what are called “Battleground States” — but for the most part, only those that are truly in contention, so it is quite possible — but retaining her “firewall” states, the states she really can not possibly lose. That puts Clinton 3 points ahead of the 270 required to win. But then, in this scenario, the most likely bluish state to switch to red, New Hampshire, goes for Trump. When that happens, the Electoral College Vote becomes 269-269, and the Electoral College becomes the Electoral College Prank.

What happens then? The House attempts to decide who will win. If that happens, each state gets one vote (or zero, if they can’t decide). Even if the Democrats win the house back from the Republicans this election, Republicans will theoretically decide the outcome, because Democrats are concentrated in the more popular states. On a state-by-state basis, most states are Republican.

That does not mean that the Republicans will vote for Trump automatically. They have to chose among the top three Electoral candidates (while the Senate, meanwhile, choses among the top TWO VP candidates). Who knows what will happen?

You might think this is unlikely. Until I did my analysis this morning, I thought it was possible, but unlikely. I now realize that the chances of an electoral tie are pretty darn good. (And by pretty darn good, I do mean probably less than one in ten, but that’s still pretty darn good for something that has only happened once before.)

Let’s look at all the numbers.

As you know I have a model. I mentioned weeks ago that near the end of the election season, my model would converge on the polls, because it is calibrated to the polls, but only uses the better and more recent polling data. Today, I decided to use the final adjusted polling estimate provided by FiveThirtyEight, because, a) they are good at adjusting and evaluating polling data, and b) there is now enough information to use polling data from pretty much any state. Still, there are some weak states, and there are other uncertainties, so feeding polling data into my model provides a semi-independent look across the states (it is quite possible for the polls to put a state in one column but my model to reverse that).

(Note: my model does not use polling data from Utah or Hawaii, because those states are too different from all the other states.)

So, here I’m going to use two separate sets of results, polls and my model. My model’s multiple R-squared value is really high (0.9838) and the polling results and model results are almost identical, but not quite. Given the strength of my model during the primaries, I trust it more than the polling data. Also, my model foretold many things that the polls finally caught up with, over the last several days, such as the weakness of North Carolina as a Clinton state. Well, not many things, but that one thing and maybe a few other things.

This is what the current polls say about Clinton’s chances in the race. If we take all the polls, and assign every state where Clinton beats Trump to Clinton, we get this:


As noted on the map (made using 270 to win’s excellent tool), Clinton, according to the best available analysis of current polls, would win by only 3 electoral votes. I’ve seen this coming for some time, and despite lots of arm waving saying it is not true, this is the most current, scientific, likely most accurate estimate.

The weakest state among the blue states on this map is New Hampshire. Look closely at New Hampshire on election night. If this map is shaping up as indicated here, AND New Hampshire looks weak, like maybe a Trump win, then we may well have the ultimate election night hangover on Wednesday. An electoral tie.

All the nay sayers out there (you know who you are) who have been telling me that my model must be wrong, because the polls show Clinton doing much better than my model, etc. etc., take heed now. That map, above, was from your precious polls. The following map is from my model, and it has a somewhat more secure win for Hillary Clinton.


I’m giving Florida and Nevada to Clinton, and New Hampshire is more secure. Frankly I think the most likely scenario is either one of the above two maps, or something in between, and that’s pretty much what is going to happen on election night. A trivial and incorrect way to calculate the likelihood of a tie is to look at all the different combinations (moving NH, NV, and FL around) but that is dumb, so I’m not going to do it. The extremes are probably less likely than the other combinations.

One prediction comes out of this that is rock solid. Tuesday night and Wednesday morning are going to be nail biters.

But wait, there’s more. Let’s have another look at the map, but applying the uncertainty in my model, in order to get one possible Election Night Bingo Card version. This map shows what states to watch, because they are the ones right in the middle between the two candidates.


By the way, recent information out of Florida seemed very very positive with respect to that state. But that is only one study, using a methodology and a set of data never before used, in a highly dynamic and changing system, in an untrustworthy state. Comment such as “Yeah, but Florida is in the bag for Clinton” will be frowned upon.

Here’s the same deal, but based on polls instead of my model:


Now, lets try some Magical Thinking. From Trump’s perspective, consider that the polls have been shifting by about one percentage point towards Trump or away from Clinton per week over the last few weeks. So, let’s move one percentage point from Clinton to Trump across all the polls and see what we get.

We get this, the Map from Hell, in which Trump does not win, but the rest of us lose anyway.


The second Magical Thinking scenario involves the idea that Clinton, and the Democrats have a real ground game going, and Trump does not. In this scenario, we move 2.5% from Trump to Clinton across the board to reflect this political reality. This may be the case, but it could also be, as noted, wishful magical thinking. And, it looks like this:


A lot of people have been talking about a Clinton Landslide, but this is the best you are likely to get. And, if you want to call this a landslide, feel free, but it isn’t and you would be wrong.

And, finally, your election night watch list. This map shows as blue every state that remained blue in all of the above analyses, and as red every state that remained red in all of the above analyses. The unknown state are, therefore, states that have either moved back and forth depending on how you look at the data, or what are within a short distance, either by polling or by my model, of those states. This is actually a pretty robust list. I don’t expect any state not brown on this map to move, and some of the brown ones won’t either (Colorado will be Clinton, Georgia will be Trump). But, if things are wonkier and wackier than our imaginations even now let us allow, who knows…


The Presidential Race Tightens Even As Many Assume It Is Over

A Trump-Kaine presidency is now on the table.

It ain’t over ’till the lady in the pantsuits wins. Or looses.

Imagine Debbie Downer and Chicken Little have an offspring. It would be me. Or at least, that’s how I’ve felt over the last few weeks as the only person in the Free World who seems to have noticed that the gap between Trump and Clinton is closing, and in fact, was never really that large to begin with. It only appeared large because a fluctuation occurred at about the same time everyone was hoping for a fluctuation, so it became more real than it should have been. The race has been close for some time, remains close, and is narrowing.

This morning, the newscaster for NPR introduced a story on the race with “With Hillary Clinton’s lead narrowing …” or words to that effect. The story was about President Obama’s remarks. You think you’re wining, then you miss a couple of free flows, get a penalty or two you weren’t expecting, next thing you know, you wake up the next morning, and you’re the Minnesota Vikings. Or words to that effect.

Let’s look at some tracking polls. Tracking polls may be inaccurate with respect to magnitude (how high or low the candidates are, in relation to each other, but scaled in absolute terms) but they are supposed to be helpful in detecting short term changes. So, for example, if you have good reason to think two candidates are at, say, 60 – 40 in the split among voters, and a tracking poll then tells you that that first candidate has likely lost about 5%, that means that you should take seriously the possibly that it is no longer 60 – 40, but may have moved closer to 50 – 50, without assuming how much closer. That is what tracking polls can give you.

The Los Angeles Times has a well respected tracking poll. This is a picture of it:


Here’s the ABC tracking poll.


This shows the race narrowing to a near dead heat.

In both of these polls, ignore the absolute value. What these tracking polls are telling you is this: Ten days ago, you were jumping up and down happy because Clinton was so far ahead and her lead was expanding. Today, you need to stop jumping up and down and you have to put your nose the grindstone and work on making sure she wins, because, simply put, Trump has a chance.

A third tracking poll, the IBD/TIPP poll, is considered to be highly accurate (has never been wrong in a presidential race) and has put Clinton and Trump in a near dead head for a long time now. IBD/TIPP shows Clinton’s lead expanding a bit.


So, with two tracking polls showing what looks like an emerging reversal of fortune for the Clinton campaign, and one maintaining as an indicator that things are close, those who wish to not have a Trump Presidency should be concerned about two things.

The first thing to be concerned about is your own personal connection to and understanding of reality. A lot of Americans really like Trump, and you didn’t think that was possible and still don’t understand why. Fail to grasp that at your peril.

The second thing, of course, is an actual Trump presidency.

This is the point where most un-realists, those who simply wish Clinton to win so hard that their eyes have become scaled over, make this argument: “But the Electoral College, bla bla bla.”

So, let’s look at the Electoral College. I recently projected a very close race in the Electoral College, that some said was a crazy outlier. But when I looked at the other projections, I found that mine was similar to many others, with only one difference: I projected win/loss for all states, while the others left a lot of states as unknown. In other words, for states where we know the likely outcome, the race is close.

But how close?

Here is a list of the selected sampling of pundit forecasts listed at 270 to to win.


This represents the range of what people are thinking.

Note that in all cases, a) Clinton has more than 270 electoral votes, BUT, in several cases she is within one state of losing that. Note also that Trump is in every case below 270. But, also notice that in all cases (not shown in this table, but visible on direct inspection) there are plenty of unattributed states for either candidate to draw from.

This is the map that is of most concern:


This is the map 270 provides to represent “contested states.” It is not unreasonable. New Hampshiere, North Carolina, Ohio, Georgia, Florida, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Wisconsin, and Iowa are reasonably thought of as contested. In this scenario, neither candidate has enough to win.

Let’s take this map and give Trump the states he is very likely to win if the wind is blowing softly in his direction. We get this:


Still, neither candidate wins.

I personally have a hard time believing Wisconsin will not be blue. New Hampshire has been trending more and more Blue, so maybe it will be Blue as well. Le’ts assume that Maine goes blue as well. If that all happens, Clinton wins by 3 electoral votes.

But it is also not unreasonable to guess that New Hampshire goes for Trump, or that, say New Mexico ends up going for Trump. In that case, Clinton is just below the 270 mark. If Trump then wins North Carlina and Florida, then hello President Trump.

Indeed, in the Election Year From Hell, we may very well expect this nightmare scenario:


If this happens, the vote on November 8th is thrown out and Congress decides who will be president. The House will decide who will be President, and they will pick Trump. The Senate will decide who is Vice President, and they will pick Kaine.

On Election night, I’ll be watching New Hampshire and North Carolina very closely.

Electoral College Prediction: Trump 241 vs. Clinton 297

I’ve got a new set of electoral college predictions. I’m using the same method as before, but with these differences: a) I had to use less than ideal polls (c rating, a few that overlapped with days prior to POTUS debate III) on the last run, this time no such polls are used; and b) there are some new polls added in this time.


The difference is interesting, and somewhat concerning (compare to this result). For example, in this run, Arizona, Virginia, and New Hampshire go for Trump. Most people think of that as unlikely. Personally, I don’t see Virginia doing that. New Hampshire is conservative and is very white (thus potentially Trump-leaning), but is in transition. However, these states are all within a very small fraction of the 50-50 cutoff. Oddly, North Carolina is not that close.

I did a second map (using 270 to win) with the same data but adding ca 3% correction for ground game. Trump seems to not have much of one. I asked a number of colleagues what percentage correction they might use for a good vs. bad ground game. These are people who have ground game experience and a good record. They were all over the place in their suggestions, and noted that any such guess would be iffy this year. So, I picked 3%. North Carolina is actually slightly more tha 3% of the 50-50 line, but I included it anyway in this latest run, which adds New Hampshire, Arizona, Virginia, Ohio, and North Carolina.

I want to remind you of a couple of things about this model. It is indifferent to your opinion as it might be derived from polls. That is the point. This is meant to account for some of that potential observational bias, or at least, ignore it. Also, this model tends to work ver well. However, it is accurate mainly with respect to the percentage of the vote assigned to each candidate in a unit area (a state), not whether the candidate takes the state or not. In other words, we look at this and freak out about a state being blue or red, and the model says, “Who cares about that, I’m trying to tell you the PERCENT of the vote per candidate. So, 49 vs. 51 are two points off, and 81 and 83 are two points off, they are the same, silly human!”

The real meaning of this particular prediction, which uses BETTER DATA POINTS than the last one but FEWER OF THEM, is that it is not a) closing in on a Clinton landslide — that isn’t going to happen and b) it shows the kind of crazy variation over time that should keep us up at night. On the 8th. But not so much other nights, because it is, essentially, impossible for Clinton to lose.

And, to underscore that point, here are the states that my model currently says will go to Clinton, on the stronger Clinton side of the distribution, that are the minimal needed to get 270 votes:


So, that’s how Clinton can win without Pennsylvania or Ohio. And, again, this is the quirky nature of variation near the 50-50 line. Clinton will probably win Pennsylvania (according to everything) and couple of other states, and does not, therefore, need Florida. Probably.

Clinton Vs. Trump: Latest Electoral Prediction

It is fun to look at polls, and using such data, decide which candidate will win which state, and ultimately, which candidate will win the electoral college. A lot of people and organizations do that, and for this reason, I don’t. I do not have access to polls that no one else sees. Were I to use polling data to directly predict outcomes per state, I’d use a method like that used by FiveThirtyEight, and probably come up with similar results. How boring. It would be a waste of my time to try to replicate the excellent work done by Nate Silver and his team.

Back during the Democratic Primaries, I decided that I wanted to get a handle on which candidate was likely to win, fairly early on. The polling based estimates were inadequate because most states simply didn’t have polling data that early in the process. So, I invented an alternative method, which made certain estimates of how voters with different ethnic identities would vote. That method accurately predicted several primary outcomes, outperforming the poll based methods such as those used by FiveThirtyEight.

After a while, enough primaries had been carried out that I could switch methods slightly. Using the same exact model, but primed with the results of prior primaries (that year) rather than my estimates of voter behavior, I used the ethnic distribution data for each state to predict the outcome of upcoming primary contests.

Once again, my method was very accurate, and once again, it out performed the polling based methods.

So, recently, I’ve tried to apply a similar method to estimating the electoral outcome for this year’s presidential race. But, it is impossible to use the same exact method because the entire thing happens all on one day. I can’t use the election results from a handful of states to estimate the likely future outcomes in other states.

I recognize that polling data is very limited on a national level. Things happen during an election season that probably change people’s likely voting behavior, especially among independents. Solid states are rarely polled, and small states, swing or not, are rarely polled. Many polls are of low quality. Right now, for instance, fewer than half of the states have polls that were a) taken fully after the final POTUS debate and b) have an A- or better rating from FiveThirtyEight. If I allow the use of B and occasional C ratings for recent polls, and allow a few polls to include periods of time prior to the last POTUS debate, but only in states that are very strongly in favor of one candidate or the other (and thus likely to not move anyway), I can find 32 states that have sort of usable polling data. Interestingly, states with some of the more controversial changes happening, like Utah and Iowa, are not adequately polled.

In order to apply a model like the one I used in the Primaries to the current election, I used the 32 states for which there was somewhat acceptable recent polling data to inform the model (to calculate the regression coefficients) in order to then, separately, predict the likely voting behavior (Trump vs. Clinton) in all of the states.

Before I show you the map, however, I need to discuss something else.

About a week ago the press, especially the somewhat more left leaning press, and various commenters, seeing much reaction to a series of events beginning with the NYT release of Trump’s tax return and ending with the final POTUS debate, events which sandwiched the sexual assault tapes and accusations, collectively decided that a huge gap between Clinton and Trump was rapidly opening up and the race would end with a double digit spread, an electoral rout, and a big party.

Soon after, I pointed out that this may not be correct. That polling data seemed to show, rather, that there was an expansion of the difference between the two candidates followed by a re-closing of the gap, with Clinton still leading but by about as much as before this temporary shift. To this I added a concern. If too many people assumed that the race was over and in the double digit range, perhaps there could be a GOTV backlash effect, or a funding effect, that would shift things to within shooting distance for Trump.

I was not alone in thinking this, and I was probably right. The GOP sunk, via pacs, 25 million dollars into Senate races in response to the Democrats shifting from the national race to the Senate, which was followed by the Democrats shifting back to the national race in certain states, presumably recognizing that the polls were artificially spread. Indeed, some who criticized (arguing mainly from incredulity and good wishes) my admonition noted, correctly, that some of that narrowing was because a bunch of right-leaning polls had come out all at once. This is true, but it ignores that a bunch of left-leaning polls had made the formation of the Great Gap of GOP Defeat look a lot bigger than it ever really was.

I say all this as part one of my preparation for what I’m going to tell you below, which is not the news you want to hear. Part two is some logic I’d like to bludgeon you with.

Consider these points:

1) True Trump supporters could give a rat’s ass about sexual assault, poor debate performance, or tax forms. Donald Trump was correct when he said, weeks ago, now forgotten, that he could gun someone down on the streets of Manhattan and he would not lose support form his base. These people did not abandon him when he was heard to talk about sexual assault. If anything, they were energized by it. And, I’m talking about something just shy of 40% of the voters. We live in a barely civilized asshole country.

2) Please tell me exactly which Hillary Clinton supporters, who were going to vote for Clinton over Trump all along, are NOW going to pick Clinton (if polled or on voting day) that change from not being Clinton supporters to being Clinton supporters? In other words (this is a somewhat subtle point) which people who hated Trump became True Haters of Trump after the sexual assault thing? Almost none. They were already there.

3) The third category of people, the undecideds (who are only lying about being undecided, in most cases) and the so-called “reasonable Republicans” (of which there are very, very few), who could conceivably shift from Trump to Clinton are going to divide their voting activities between Johnson, a write in (as they are being advised by Republican leaders in some cases) or simply staying home.

In other words, over the last few weeks, no source has emerged that hands Secretary Clinton more electoral votes than she probably had about a month ago, and Trump is not going to have any, or at least not many, electoral votes go away.

Those observations (part one) and that logic (part two) cause me to be utterly unsurprised to find out that an analysis of the electoral map I did on October 16th and one I did today do not show Clinton pulling farther ahead. In fact, the two analyses have Clinton being less far ahead than Trump now than ten days ago. The difference is in Ohio (shifting from Clinton to Trump) which is almost certainly going to happen, and North Carolina (which shifted from Clinton to Trump in this analysis) which seems much less likely to happen, and Arizona shifting from Clinton (that was probably wishful thinking) to Trump.

The point here is this, plain and simple. An analysis using a technique that has worked very well for me in the past shows that the difference between that moment of Maximal Clintonosity and today is plus or minus a couple of state. In other words, not different. Maybe a little worse. Really, about the same.

Here’s the current map:


Obviously, I will be watching for more data over the next few days. I assume there will be a spate of polls as we approach November 8th (the day Democrats vote. Republicans vote on the 28th of November). If so, then there will be convergence between my method of calibration and my method of calculation, and the model will consume itself by the tail and become very accurate at the same time.

But between now and then, perhaps that very small number of polls that are both recent and high quality will grow a bit more and I can do this again and resolve those closer states.

By the way, the “swing states” according to my model, the states where things are close, are Ohio, North Carolina, Arizona, and Georgia of those now in the Trump column. Those are indeed swing states. Numerically, the close states that are in the Clinton column are Virginia, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania.