Tuesday, September 6, 2016

WaPo-SurveyMonkey All-State Polling for President

The Washington Post teamed up with SurveyMonkey to do polling of all 50 states on the presidential race, and they released the results today. The table to the right shows those results in the column labelled, "2016: WAPO, Sept 6." You can compare this with the 2012 actual state-level results between Romney and Obama, and in the final column, a summary of polling average so far this year (since July). There are very few surprises, although there are some, which I have highlighted. For 36 states, earlier polling (where it's been done) matches WaPo polling, which matches the 2012 election results. There are 14 states where we see some differences. The table is sorted by the WaPo results--Clinton's highest leads are on top, going all the way to her biggest losses at the bottom. Regardless, the 2012 results and the WaPo polls are fairly close, with a correlation of r=+0.92.

First, there are some differences between the 2012 race and the WaPo polling, which I have highlighted in yellow. Not all of these differences are Dems vs GOP, but rather, differences is amount. For example, Rhode Island has no surprises in their choice--Democrats. However, in 2012 Obama won Rhode Island by 27 points, and currently, Hillary is polling at a 10 point lead over Trump. Similarly, in 2012, Romney won Utah by a whopping 47%, but Trump only has an 11 point lead in this WaPo poll. Earlier polling showed his lead at 20 points.

Second, depending on the quality of this WaPo poll, it shows a reversal in a few states, like Mississippi, Arizona, & Iowa. On the one hand, Clinton's 1 point lead in Arizona is within the margin of error, so somewhat meaningless. But on the other hand, Romney won Arizona by 9 points in 2012. Other polling shows a similarly tight race as the WaPo poll, showing Trump with just a 1 point lead. What is more curious is Mississippi, where WaPo shows Clinton with a 3 point lead, and Iowa, which shows Trump with a 4 point lead. Both of these would represent reversals from 2012. I can perhaps buy the Iowa switch--I'm far more skeptical about a Mississippi switch to Democrats. However, earlier polling has already shown Trump and Clinton tied in Mississippi--in 2012, Romney won here by 11 points. Perhaps this GOP stronghold is turning purple?!

Third, there are also a few significant differences in today's WaPo results and earlier polling, although only one is a "switch," Ohio--earlier polling gave Clinton an average of a 4 point lead, while today's WaPo results give Trump a 3 point lead. These results would be within the margin of error, so the differences are largely uninteresting, but similarly, unhelpful in predicting a winner, other than to say, "it's likely to be close." Two states, Colorado and Wisconsin, had Clinton with a 10 point lead in earlier polls, but today's results give her only a 2 point lead. The latter results puts it in the margin of error, so could be a significantly tightening rate there.

Just for funzies, let's use the WaPo results as a blueprint, and see what it would produce in terms of an electoral result (neither Texas nor DC were in this poll--for the sake of argument, let's give Texas to Trump, and DC to Clinton--polling averages give Trump an 8 point lead in Texas). First, if we use it "as is," ignoring margin of error, and leaving out Georgia and North Carolina, where polling has a dead heat (0), Clinton gets 325 electoral votes, Trump with 182--a landslide for Clinton. Second, let's only use states where candidates have a 5 point or more lead--That gives Clinton 224, and Trump 158. At the 5-point cutoff, Clinton doesn't garner enough electoral votes to reach the required 270, although, with a 66 point advantage, we still have a reasonably likely Clinton win. In this scenario, she only needs a couple of the states that Obama won in 2012, like Florida+Pennsylvania. Trump's path is far more difficult--he would need to win most of these 11 states. For example, if he lost both Florida and Pennsylvania, he only gets to 265 electoral votes. Or, if we combine a 2012 Obama with with earlier pro-Clinton polling, say, if Trump loses Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Colorado, Clinton wins. In all, a Trump win is still a statistical possibility, but the path forward for Clinton continues to be far more mathematically obvious.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

US Senate Race 2016

So far my 2016 political analysis has been about the presidential race. Now that all of the Senate primaries are over (except Louisiana--they have that weird "jungle primary," which isn't until election day), it's time to see how the field is lining up. While most Senate primaries were significantly earlier in the year, of the 34 seats up for grabs, 9 weren't until last month, and 2 of those (Arizona & Florida), weren't until August 30th.

Currently the Senate is in Republican hands, with a margin of 54 to 46 (technically, there are two Independents, although both of those caucus with Democrats: Bernie Sanders & Angus King). However, that lead will almost certainly shrink after the November election. Regardless of any purported "drag" effect from Trump, Republicans in this election are defending 24 seats, while Democrats are defending just 10. Historically, it's harder to defend this many seats without losing more than you gain.

This year, Democrats merely have to take 5 seats from Republicans, while holding onto all of their current seats, to gain a slim majority, and so far they have a good chance of doing just that, according to Larry Sabato, political scientist at University of Virginia, who runs the UVA's Center for Politics. His analysis shows that all of the Democrat seats are safe, except for Nevada, where Senate Minority Leader, Harry Reid, is retiring, and that race is currently too close to call. In contrast, of the 24 Republican Senators up for re-election, Sabato says that 2 are "likely" to lose to Democrats (Wisconsin & Illinois), while 3 are "leaning" Democratic (Indiana, New Hampshire & Pennsylvania). While the Indiana race would not have originally been very competitive, with the entry into the race of Evan Bayh, a popular former Indiana Governor, the race is now polling significantly in his favor--the most recent polls have him up an average of 17% over his challenger.

In fact, depending on who wins the presidency, and it strongly looks like it will be Clinton, the Democrats really just have to win 4 seats, since that would give them a tie, and Vice President Kaine would presumably break any ties in favor of Democrats. That means that even if the Nevada Senate seat goes to a Republican, but the rest of the seats go in the direction of current polling, Democrats will technically control the Senate. In any case Democratic hold over the Senate would be tenuous, with either a 50-50 tie, or 51-49 as the most likely scenario.

August polling seems to support Sabato's assessment. The table shows all of the state-level polling since August 10th. Red indicates Republican, blue indicates Democrat. The 3rd column, "Curr," indicates which party currently holds that seat. The bottom section of the table are the seats that Sabato calls "safe." Indeed, most pollsters haven't even bothered to survey these states. The few that have (Colorado, New York, South Carolina & Utah) show that these seats should remain safely in the hands of the current party. The middle section of the table are those seats that Sabato says are "likely" to go to a given party. Polling results, on the right-hand side of the table, are clearly smaller margins than the "safe" seats, but the designation of "likely" also seems fair for both Wisconsin and Iowa, the only two states in the "likely" category for which polling exists since August 10th.

The top section of the table is where Sabato calls the seats "leans," plus the one toss-up, Nevada. The polling in yellow are results that were obtained prior to those state's primaries (designated in the middle column labelled "Prim")--in this case, just Arizona & Florida. While McCain's (AZ) early lead seemed quite large (13%), the only poll since the August 30th primary shows that race is currently tied.

The "lighter" red and blue are polling results that are between 3-5% for Republicans or Democrats, respectively, which I would consider "weak" leads, if at all, since these are likely within the margin of error. The green poll results are within 0-2%, or basically just a tie. My assessment of the polling tends to match Sabato's.

Current state-level polling, and the UVA's politics site both seem to indicate that Democrats have a good chance of taking the Senate in November, either with a tie, or at most, a 51-49 lead. What seems less likely, is the coincident situation that Reid's seat remains in Democrat hands, AND McCain's seat also falls to Democrats. But even then, the Democrat win margin would only be 52-48, a long way from a filibuster-proof majority. And either way, there are few analyses that are predicting a Democratic win for the House, undoubtedly leading to a bitter 2 years (if not 4) of Democratic & Republican wrangling for control of the federal budget & political system.

Presidential Polling: End of August Round-Up

For this election season I've been comparing state-level pre-election polling in earlier presidential elections to who actually won the election. By May, in previous elections, the polls become reasonably predictive, and by late July, polls give us an almost certainty of who will win that state. Even though many polls are, in a scientific sense, still within the margin of error, they have still ended up trending in the direction of the actual winner. As I showed in my last post summarizing the early August polling of the 15 states that are most likely to be called "battleground states," Trump seems to have very little chance of winning this year's presidential election. Historically, or at least since WWII, voters in the US seem to like to switch presidential parties every 8 years. Keeping the same party in power for a "3rd term" is very rare. This year seems like it will break that rule, and not only keep Democrats in the White House, but the drag of Trump at the head of the ticket may give Democrats the Senate, and significantly shrink the Republican's control of the House.

This state-level poll round-up is from August 20-Sept 2, and I have only included the 13 states for which there has been polling which either Romney or Obama won with less than 10% margin in 2012 (except SC, which Romney won with 10.5%, and NM, which Obama won with 10.1%), ie, "battleground" states. The table shows each of the 13 states, their electoral votes, the 2012 Romney-Obama win margins, the early August (2016) polling results, and in the final column, polls since August 20th. In all cases except for Florida and North Carolina, the trend seems to be a shift in Trump's favor. Not nearly enough to win him the election at this point, but all of the states where Clinton was ahead in early August, now show a smaller lead, and the states where Trump was ahead, now show larger leads. In fact, Iowa, while still within the margin of error, has shifted to the Trump camp.

In each of these cases, all of the polls for these 13 states are still showing within the margin of error, except for a few oddities. For example, on August 23rd, two universities generated polls showing incredibly strong leads for Clinton: Saint Leo gave her a 14% lead in Florida, and Roanoke a 19% lead in Virginia. Later polls by other sources gave both states to Clinton with a 1-2% margin. Thus, the size of the Clinton leads shown in this table for those two states should be viewed suspiciously. The outcomes are consistent with each other, and with the previous polling in these states, but not the size of the leads--ie, they all still show Clinton winning these states.

In a similar trend, the polling margin wins are getting closer to the Obama-Romney win margins in 2012. For example, in early August, polls gave Wisconsin to Clinton by 15%, and now by 5%, far closer to the 7% win by Obama in 2012. On the other hand, Trump's polling in these battleground states are still far from Romney's win margins. In each case, even though his lead seems to have grown since early August, he is winning these states by less than 4%, whereas Romney won South Carolina, Missouri, and Arizona by almost 10%.

If there is any trend in this data, it's in Trump's favor. However, all of this was before his Mexico visit + Arizona speech debacle, and his various surrogate crises from just the last few days: a disgraced, lying pastor, the promise of a "taco truck on every corner if Trump doesn't win", and increasingly public abandonment of Trump by the Republican Party leadership, including senators trying to hold onto their jobs. While state-level races seem to mirror the national polling, a tightening of the race, there is still no evidence that Trump can win states that Romney lost in 2012. The problem for Trump has been the same since I started these analyses in July--the presidential race isn't national, it's state-by-state, and most states' electoral votes are already locked into a party by demographics and history. The battleground states that Trump must switch from purple to red, simply are not polling in his favor, and none of his rhetoric, surrogates, or campaign behavior seem to be doing anything but pushing these states away from him.