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.

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What about Florida? A new poll has der Drumpfenfuhrer two points ahead in Florida. That would make your map scary close.

Yeah, that poll, just out, and I'm not sure about the quality of the source, is not in the calculation, but since there are a couple of other recent polls it probably wouldn't have changed things.

But it does look like a legit poll, and it does underscore the basic problem.

I have only disagreements with you in the details, I think.

Arizona (which usually would not be competitive for Democrats in any case) will be this year I suspect, for two reasons. One is a massive GOTV among Latino voters, and another among Native people (remember that the Navajo Nation is 100,000 people, and even only 30% of them voting in AZ is 1% of the registered voters in 2014, and 3% of the electorate (using the registered voter numbers, 877,000, form 2014).

That's enough to push a close race over the top. But there are also voter turnout generally. As of last election AZ had more Republicans than Democrats (1.02 million to 1.19 million) but assuming a similar voter turnout to 2012 (74%) and if Mi Familia Vota gets 75,000 to register, then the state is likely to flip, even if we assume Latino voter turnout stays at 50% or a little less (which is what it was in 2012).

(I suppose here I am using something like your ethnically based model).

In other states, and in regards to polling generally, the data shows (per 538) the race has actually widened a touch in some states, like NC (not a lot, but a wee bit).

That said, I'd agree that there is a core block of Trump supporters who wouldn't care what he does, just as there are Hillary supporters (and voters) who don't care what she does. But I wouldn't put such hard-core support at 40% of the voters, necessarily. Or rather, since the issue is turnout in many cases, I submit that there are people who will largely stay home. They still like Trump, because he is the Republican, maybe, but won't be as motivated.

Clinton by the way had a similar problem from the get go. A lot of working people don't trust her at all, and still do not. Against any generic Republican she'd be in a very tough race because she is a very bad candidate (this has nothing to do with whether I think she would be a good president). But from a "marketing" standpoint, Hillary is a poor choice, her negatives are too high and if primaries no longer depended on voters (say if we were in pre-1972 politics) she's have been dead in the water, I bet. A Dem operative would have looked at the numbers and said "no goddamned way."

And before anyone jumps on me I am not denying that sexism is a gigantic factor. If anything I would say it contributes to her problems, just as racism fed Obama's. That said, the point I am making is that Clinton has a lot of people that don't like her, but whether they would actively vote against her is I think less likely than staying home, at least among Democrats. This is why Sanders was able to mount such a strong primary challenge, when ordinarily a party outsider like him would have been toast.

Trump tho, has been something of a gift to Democratic GOTV efforts. So I think there are some surprising places where that might help. If Rubio was the nominee that wouldn't be the case.

(As to Arizona, I should add that Fivethirtyeight did a profile of the state in 2008 and predicted some big changes by 2016 or 2020. So... )

Several of the states you list as being close have competitive Senate races: Florida, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. Those are additional reasons to get people voting in those states, even if they don't care for the top line candidate. And the fact that Hillary has a ground game while Trump doesn't can only help Hillary, especially in those states.

New Hampshire and North Carolina also have governor races this year. I haven't seen any polling on these. In NH the seat is open (Gov. Hassan is running for Senate), with Colin Van Ostern as the Democratic nominee and Chris Sununu (son of the former governor and brother of the former senator) for the Republicans. From what I have seen of GOTV efforts here, they are including that race, as well as the NH-01 House race, where the Democrats have a good chance for a pickup (the district has flipped four times in the last five elections, and the incumbent Republican has some ethics issues). In North Carolina, a bunch of people are fed up with current Governor Mike McCrory and are hoping to toss him out as well.

In Arizona, in addition to the factors Jesse lists, there is a substantial Mormon population (as is true of other states bordering Utah). Historically, Mormons have been a strong Republican constituency, but they do a much better job on average than Southern Baptists at living their "family values" talk and are therefore much less willing to vote for Trump. That by itself wouldn't flip Arizona, but together with the other factors Jesse lists it might. The effect in Utah is that Evan McMullin has a decent chance of either carrying the state (which would make him the first third-party candidate since George Wallace in 1968 to win electoral votes) or bleeding off enough Trump votes to flip Utah to Clinton. Trump winning Utah is still the most probable outcome, but it's far from assured, and that is why 538 is now including McMullin in their modeling of Utah. I don't know if Arizona is among the states where McMullin qualified for the ballot (he is listed in at least one state other than Utah, but not in all states).

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 26 Oct 2016 #permalink

Seems that the rally numbers favor Trump.
Kaine only drawing 30 in W Palm Beach seems newsworthy.

B Obama, M Obama, B Clinton, A Gore, J Biden, T Kaine all campaigning against one candidate

(Only Trump and Pence campaigning against Clinton / for selves, unless you count people like Milo and A Coulter...)

So there could be great fatigue at all the rallies against Trump / for Clinton....doesn't seem like enthusiasm is high, though.

Interesting to see how the polls change here as we get closer to the moment the polls will actually be judged against. When their future credibility is on the line, what will they say?

Eric: " the fact that Hillary has a ground game while Trump doesn’t can only help Hillary, especially in those states."

This election is, indeed, a test of the ground game theory, which is a pretty strong theory.

The model I use (and this is true of polls as well) pertains under certain assumptions. One of those assumptions has to be that the parties do what they usually do with the ground game and that the ground game matters.

Having worked on elections where the ground game a) mattered and b) gave us victory, as well as those where we a) nailed the ground game but somehow b) got creamed, I'm not too sure. But, I tend to think it matters a lot.

Yeah, NH will be very interesting, and I'm hopeful for Arizona.

Ron, there was no Kaine rally with 30 people in it in Florida. That was a lie from the get go, spread by the remaining, dim witted, nefarious and truly embarrassing Republicans such as yourself. It is a lie.

B Obama, M Obama, B Clinton, A Gore, J Biden, T Kaine all campaigning against one candidate

You forgot to add "D Trump" to that list...

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 26 Oct 2016 #permalink

FWIW, there is speculation that the marijuana ballot in Arizona will increase turnout among younger voters.

By Obstreperous A… (not verified) on 26 Oct 2016 #permalink

I meant prop 205 (to regulate marijuana like alcohol) not "marijuana ballot"...

By Obstreperous A… (not verified) on 26 Oct 2016 #permalink

Well, OA, you never know. I could be printed on hemp-based paper...

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 26 Oct 2016 #permalink

Well! I'm not printed... The BALLOT is.

(No, I've not been smoking ballots, even the Colorado versions...)

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 26 Oct 2016 #permalink

As much as I'd like to disagree with your points 1, 2, and 3, in all honesty I can't. I'm amazed at how rigid American voting patterns have become over the past 20-odd years.

Is there any danger that the US elections for President might be stopped in its tracks before or on November 8, 2016 by the army? Protect your democracy. Be vigilant. Laren NH, Wednesday 26 October 2016, 23.31 PM Dutch time.

By Gerrit Bogaers (not verified) on 26 Oct 2016 #permalink

Hmm, hemp-based paper. There could be some interesting scenarios arising from that!


About point number three. Undecideds probably won't have much impact at this point. But rather than being liars, from the interviews I've seen, I would surmise that they are very low information voters with short attention spans.

By Obstreperous A… (not verified) on 26 Oct 2016 #permalink

If you think this is a Civilized asshole country you should leave.

By George Petty (not verified) on 26 Oct 2016 #permalink

ron - ordinarily I'd not dignify this, but rally numbers don't mean jack. Jill Stein's rallies are full of enthusiastic people. She is getting less than 3% of the vote on a good day.

Bernie Sanders had big rallies and enthused support. That did not translate into votes, straight up. Ross Perot had rallies big enough and people actually drafted hm to run. How did he do? Not all that great, he got a grand total of zero electoral votes and topped out at ~18% or so of the vote.

Enthusiasm is great for any candidate, but when the rubber meets the road it's at the polling station. 100,000 lethargic, not so happy with the candidate voters trumps (no pun intended) your 90,000 super-revved up voters. Every. Time.

Interestingly, if we had a proportional system Trump would be in better shape, in terms of future political clout.

By the way, speaking as a New Englander (if displaced) -- New Hampshire is unikely to go for Trump at this point. The state has been trending Democratic for some time. And while there are a lot of "natural" trump voters there, it's worth noting that Kelly Ayotte got in some trouble when she failed to divorce herself from Trump enough.

Did he really say Democrats vote on the 8th and Republicans vote on the 28th?

Is there any danger that the US elections for President might be stopped in its tracks before or on November 8, 2016 by the army?

By the army, no. But there is a possibility of over-enthusiastic Trump supporters causing problems in certain polling places. Most of their talk is just talk, but you have to worry about some nut taking that talk seriously, as with any movement that involves violent rhetoric.

There is no central point for disrupting the elections. Each state runs its own elections, and most if not all of them delegate a significant portion of the responsibility to counties and/or municipalities. But there is no way to secure every polling place in the country.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 26 Oct 2016 #permalink

@Eric. "But there is no way to secure every polling place in the country."

Every selection room manned by well-balanced people of the participating political parties, and by high ranked civil servants. Our state (Netherlands) has this standard. In case of doubt and worries it might also be a good idea that responsible behaving people, like members of the civil right movement, and or organizations like Amnesty International and prestigious press (television, radio, new magazins, papers) oberve electionrooms. It would not be wise to neglect this type of advice in these roaring days, where hate prevails over reason. Behave and be vigilant. Success. Laren NH, Thursday 27 October 2016, 9.19 AM Dutch time.

By Mr G.J.A.M. Bogaers (not verified) on 26 Oct 2016 #permalink

Excuse me. I hope your electionrooms, will not be turned into selectionrooms. Having said that I repaired an unwilling Freudian robotremark from my computer in my former post. Laren NH, Same date, 9.25 AM Dutch time.

By Mr G.J.A,M. Bogaers (not verified) on 26 Oct 2016 #permalink

@Gerrit Borgaers-
In the US there just isn't any possibility of this. The only people who think so tend to be far-right conspiracy theorists.

Military coups happen in rather specific circumstances. First, the distrust of established political institutions has to be off the charts. This is usually because of widespread corruption or dysfunction. I'm talking about countries where you basically expect to pat bribes, for example, to every single official you encounter. There is corruption in the US, but it's nothing like that level.

Second, you need an army that sees itself as the guardian of the nation, in opposition to the major political actors like the legislature. In Turkey, for instance, the army sees itself as the protector of the secular nation, carrying on Kemal Ataturk's vision. They don't see the legislature as an equal player there. They've had coups before, too, in the 1990s. That simply isn't the case in the US (not yet anyway).

Third, you need a core leadership in the Army/ military that would support a coup across the armed services. That's not impossible, but in the US it's harder to do. You basically would have to get the chiefs of staff to all agree.

I should add that right wing people love to talk about how a military coup wouldn't work because of an armed populace. That assumes that the military power of the populace matters, and in most coups it doesn't. It's a non-factor. A coup by definition is a political matter, getting decided at high levels far from anything that an ordinary citizen ever sees.

If the army tried attacking polling places that would spark a lot of unrest that they would then have to deal with. ANd unrest doesn't mean riots, necessarily. People simply might not cooperate, and by that I mean not do their jobs. Governments function because of all the paper-pushers coming into work and doing their jobs. If those paper pushers decide to just not do anything when they go into the office, or just say "screw it I am taking the day off" then the whole apparatus comes to a screeching halt. This is why in many coups, by the way, the attacks are on the civil services-- people get fired and replaced with flunkies. So if you were to try and mount a military coup in the US, you'd also need the civil service workers at least tacitly on your side. There's no evidence of that in the US.

None of this i s

#16 certainly living up to the name "Petty" in his post.

How can a Trump supporters wear shirts saying "Make America great again," which implies America is currently not great, then tell critics of the GOP to leave the country if they don't like it as is?

"And, I’m talking about something just shy of 40% of the voters."

'course, there's a lot of not voting.

Because there's no choice. Rightwing or right wing. That's maybe a third of people right there unsupported in political circles: the left.

Every selection room manned by well-balanced people of the participating political parties, and by high ranked civil servants.

Details vary by state, but most polling places in the US have something resembling that standard.

That offers security against such election-theft techniques as ballot stuffing or excessive voter challenges. It's less effective against armed maniacs, of which the US has far too many, and the Netherlands few or none.

I don't expect it to be a problem at many polling places. But even one is too many, and I can't be confident that it won't happen anywhere.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 27 Oct 2016 #permalink

Yeah, as Eric says the ballot room and space is good, for the most part. Indeed, these days, the techniques used in 1981 would not have worked well today in most "urban zones" ... the dudes with the arm bands would be dealt with.

In the Nertherlands in one of our newspapers I read this week a recent comment of Mart Smeets written in New York, translated saying that the Americans wait for electionday with 'samen geknepen billen', meaning 'twitched asses'. I think this is a fair observation. I will watch your elections, hoping that Greg Laden, Jesse and others are right and that the Presidental elelections of 2016 wil not be jeopardized in any way. I light a candle for that. Good luck, guys. Fingers crossed. Laren NH, Satudray 29 October 2016, 19.22 PM. Dutch time.

By Mr G.J.A.M. Bogaers (not verified) on 29 Oct 2016 #permalink

This latest ploy is nothing but another attempt to try and persuade people to turn against Clinton. What I gather from watching Trump is that this man will make peace with no one..All he cares about is himself, to hell with anyone else.He's the type of man that will start a war with another just so he could push that button and you know what! no one will come out a winner. He claims to want to make this country great but he will not do it. He doesn't give a damn about the little people and never will. His motto is If your not white, your not right.