Sunday, October 30, 2016

Clinton vs Trump.
30 October 2016,
9 days before the election

This post is going to be MUCH longer than usual.  If you just want the numbers, you can skip down to the graphs. If you want to see me take out The Big Ugly Stick on Nate Silver, Bill Gates, Survey Monkey and James Comey, read the whole essay.

Let's take a look at the states where the odds are really close, where the favorite is has a 60% chance or less of winning.

Alaska: 3 EV: Trump 60%, Clinton 40%
Alaska a battleground? I am as amazed to type this as you are to read it. Five polls make up this very surprising result. Two polls, Survey Monkey and C-VOTER International have this race as a sane person would expect, a complete whomping of the Democrat by the Republican, any Republican. But two polls, Google Consumer Survey and Lake Research, say Trump has a slender one point lead and both candidate are under 40%. And then there's Craciun Research, which I pronounce "Crazy One Research", that gives Clinton a comfortable four point lead 47% to 43%. This means the median shows a one point lead, which usually converts to about 60%-40% in Confidence of Victory.

I can only hope a more established polling company will take a crack at this race next week. Suffolk polled Alaska in June and gave Trump a nine point lead. I hope they get hired to go back, whatever the result.

Utah: 6 EV: Trump 52%, McMullin 30%, Clinton 18%
There was some talk early on that Utah might become a battleground because the Mormons disapprove of Trump's lifestyle and he, of course, hearing himself insulted, had to insult the state and the religion right back. Until polls in mid September, there was no sign of any trouble, but Trump, still in first place, was polling at 40% or less. In early October, polls started showing where the missing votes were going, supporting Evan McMullin, a Utah born former CIA operative who started running in August and is on the ballot in only 11 states.

For me, it was kinda fun to break out the algorithm for a really close three way race and the idea of a "favorite son" candidate is pleasantly quaint. That said, there have only been five polls since October 18, the first time McMullin looked competitive, and Trump leads in four of five.  Because of some messy math, I have to use averages instead of medians in my calculations and it is very unlikely the polls will make McMullin the favorite in the next nine days.

Ohio: 18 EV, Clinton 50%, Trump 50%
Ohio is Trump's proudest achievement is the race so far, and it is still a coin toss. In the eleven most recent polls, four of them - done by Emerson, Quinnipiac, Ipsos and Suffolk - have the race at dead even. Four give the advantage to Clinton and three say Trump is ahead.

My system may well rate this a toss-up a week from today. Stay tuned.

Arizona: 11 EV, Clinton 51%, Trump 49%
Polling companies are taking the idea that Arizona is a battleground state very seriously. Ten polls by ten different companies in the past three weeks and Clinton leads in five of them and Trump leads in five. (It's a little odd in a race this close to have no flat-footed ties.) This means the race is this close because it's the average of a Trump victory with a Clinton victory. I can't remember the last state where this was the case.

As older polls leave due to my freshness dating rules, good polls for Trump could swing this around.

Iowa: 6 EV, Clinton 59%, Trump 41%
Clinton's advantage is based on only six polls taken in the last three weeks, a sparse amount of polling for a swing state. She leads in four, one calls the race a tie and Trump is only given a lead by Survey Monkey, a very busy but erratic polling company that favors Trump almost exclusively in the true swing states.

Maine District 2: 1 EV, Clinton 59%, Trump 41%
There's sparse and then there's drought conditions. There have only been three polls in the past three weeks released dealing with Maine's two districts. District 1 is heavily Democratic, but District 2 is closer. This morning, University of New Hampshire released a poll they finished on October 25. One poll says it's tie, the median says it's a one point lead and the last gives Clinton a comfortable advantage.

I would love to see more polling here and in Nebraska's three districts as well, only the one including Omaha has any chance of being competitive.

I have about a week to fish my wish.

Nevada: 6 EV, Clinton 59%, Trump 41%
Nevada is being polled like crazy. Ten polls by ten different companies in the past ten days make up the list I'm working with. Clinton leads in six, three make it a flat-footed tie and Trump leads in one, yet again from Survey Monkey, the most Trump-friendly pollster in the battleground states.

Having mentioned all of these, even if Trump sweeps these races, he has a long way to go. Let's ignore the 2nd District's one electoral vote, which doesn't really help Trump win.  His chance to sweep the vital contests about 1.3%. He also desperately needs Florida and North Carolina, and multiplying those odds together, he gets way below a percent at 0.0487%, better stated as 487 parts per million.

And then he needs to win one more state where his chances are less than 10%, like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire or Michigan.

There are other paths to 269 electoral votes or more. I assume the Republicans are going to keep the House and in a contested race, they will elect the guy their voters really want, not pull some 1824 style shenanigans. But even adding all those up, his chances to win an election held today round to about one hundredth of a percent.

And make no mistake, the election IS being held as you are reading this. Nate Silver's numbers right now put Trump at 21.4%. I assumed his numbers would start to agree with others as the election got closer and his margin of error shrunk, but no. He is peddling horse dung and the public still eat it up. I haven't seen such an undeserved reputation for quality since Microsoft produced its truly awful 1980s software that turned a dozen or so nerds into billionaires.

I programmed for a living in the 1980s. Don't get me started on Bill Gates.

And then there's James Comey. I was on Twitter when the news broke Friday, and I got that numb "oh, crap" feeling I got when Hillary fainted on September 11. Then the news clarified. Comey didn't have a warrant to look at these e-mails, they were likely from Anthony Weiner on his former wife's computer. They were a complete waste of time and Comey comes out looking worse than anybody else in this horrible episode, having more egg on his face than even Weiner or the eager beavers in the House.

I tend to stay with the numbers and report on what they say about the race, but the polling that will come out may not give a clear view of the impact. My best instincts say the impact is minimal. People supporting Clinton will find the news outlets that correctly call this a nothing burger and people supporting Trump already think Clinton should be executed by a combination of hanging and shooting only after being given a slow acting, painful poison, so this will not change their view.

This won't change a lot of minds. Trump doesn't need a bombshell at this point, he needs an asteroid hitting the planet. This is not the asteroid he was looking for.

And now the numbers and the pretty pictures, prettier if you are a Clinton supporter.

Here is the list of states and districts, from most likely to go Trump to most likely to go Clinton.  RED indicates a state moving from one category to another in Trump's direction, while BLUE means the state moved in Clinton's direction.
Solid Trump (more than 95% Confidence of Victory [CoV]): 
Total: 145

Leaning Trump (between 50% and 95% CoV for Trump): MO GA AK UT
Total: 35

Toss-up: OH
Total: 18
Leaning Clinton (between 50% and 95% for Clinton): 
Total: 188

Solid Clinton (more than 95% CoV for Clinton): 
Total: 222

The Current Count


Utah moved from Toss-up to leaning Trump and given that it's a three way race, having more than 50% means a lot. States where Trump is a prohibitive lead got a little stronger for him, notable Texas and Indiana, and a few states where Clinton was a 95% favorite have changed to her being about a 90% favorite. Eventually, some state where one candidate is a 90% favorite is going to switch sides, but it hasn't happened yet in roughly 200 contests I followed in 2004, 2008 and 2012 general elections. (Primary races are a completely different kettle of fish.) So far, the states I've gotten wrong have been where the favorite was no better than 70%. That's why I listed the seven races at the top of the post. With just over a week to go, that's where the action is. If Trump wins all of those, he still isn't president.

And now the overall odds if the election were held today and the fifteen races my algorithm thinks are worth watching.

Here are the 15 states considered this week's by the algorithm.

Trump's non-battleground count of electors: 128

The battleground states ranked by pqn:
(Clinton %, Trump %, electors)
1. FL: 76%, 24%, 29
. OH: 50%, 50%, 18

3. AZ: 51%, 49%, 11
4. GA: 21%, 79%, 16
5. NC: 85%, 15%, 15
6: UT: 48%, 52%, 6 (48% is Clinton + McMullin)
7. IA: 59%, 41%, 6
8. NV: 59%, 41%, 6
9, PA: 93%, 7%, 20
10. MI: 95%, 5%, 16 
11. WI: 92%, 8%, 10
12. AK: 40%, 60%, 3
13. MO: 7%, 93%, 10 
14. TX: 1%, 99%, 38

15. SC: 5%, 95%, 9

Current probability of victory if the election were held today:
Clinton 99.87%
Trump    0.13%

I hate celebrating early, but there isn't time for Trump to turn this mess around. Breaking 200 electoral votes will be a moral victory for him, but 269? Like I said earlier, he needs an asteroid to hit, not a little skipping stone like James Comey's career suicide last Friday.

Back on Saturday with the last weekend, starting with the still close battle for control of the Senate. Frickin' finally.


  1. Happy to live in ME district 1.

  2. Frickin finally indeed!

    I wonder - one thing that could provide a boost to the Democratic base in AZ and NV is the ballot question on recreational marijuana in those states. The yes option, last i checked, is leading all 5 states - the others not being swing states, mind you. NV was already very winnable for Clinton, and it AZ flips to blue, Trump's geese are cooked.

    NC will also be a tough nut to crack for him; more so than FL.

    Sam Wang at PEC is also maintaining his 99% chance for Clinton and has brought up what this Comey thing can do: fire up the Democratic GOTV operation even further. That's something Trump doesn't have much of.

    I think Nate Silver might have marching orders from his ESPN overlords to keep his rear end very well covered, hence the ≈ 22% chance for Trump.

    1. I would like this to be the "nuke 'em from space" option with Clinton outperforming Obama in 2008, but that's a lot of wishful thinking. 358 to 180 is within reason and with an actual Democratic Senate majority, that would be a nice way to spend at least the morning of November 9th.

      I'm always wary of conspiracy theories, but I know multiplication and addition work the same in Oakland as they do in New York. He is either taking Bayesian conditional probabilities to an insane level or he has motives to make it look closer than it actually is.

      If he's wrong, and my numbers say he is, I hope his reputation takes a well-deserved hit.

  3. In your opinion Professor how much of a drop will Hillary take from this bogus e-mails that was drop on us Friday, I pray not a lot.

    Thanks for all the great work you do.

    1. This news has been filtered through partisan lenses on both sides. My best guess is it doesn't make a nickel's worth of difference to anything other than Comey's career.

  4. He also desperately needs Florida and North Carolina, and multiplying those odds together, he gets way below a percent at 0.0487%, better stated as 487 parts per million.....even adding all those up, his chances to win an election held today round to about one hundredth of a percent.

    I think I see a problem here -- the fact that these states aren't independent variables relative to each other. Trump's overall polling rating is based on how he's doing with demographic groups which extend across many states. If he starts doing better with, say, less-educated white women in one state, he's probably doing better with the same group in other states too.

    So I don't think one can simply multiply the low probabilities of his winning each state by each other to arrive at a probability. If he moves closer to winning one swing state, he'll move closer to winning the others as well. I agree that the odds are against him, but unfortunately it probably isn't as lopsided as 99.87% to 0.13%

    1. His odds are no longer countable in parts per million and I understand the notion that the numbers aren't independent, but more involved algorithms don't produce more accurate predictions. Until my method runs into serious glitches, it's my mathematician's nature to keep it as simple as possible.

      Thanks for stopping by.