Electoral model: Trump has at least an 87% chance of winning

From: hotair.com,  by Allahpundit,  on Oct 21, 2016


Not the only “fundamentals”-based model to show a likely Republican victory this year. Alan Abramowitz’s “Time for Change” model also pointed to a probable GOP win based on things like the state of the economy, the president’s job approval, and whether the party in power has been there for two terms or just one. Abramowitz disowned his own model’s prediction this summer, though, on the theory that it only explains whether a generic Republican should defeat a generic Democrat or vice versa. When you have a nominee who’s not at all generic, who in fact much of the public deeply dislikes and has deemed unfit for office, then don’t be surprised if that affects the results. In other words, the “Time for Change” model doesn’t say who will win the election so much as which party should have won it. And therein lies the tragedy for Republicans in 2016.

This model, called the “Primary Model,” looks at different factors than “Time for Change,” although the amount of time that the incumbent party has been in power is relevant in both. Unlike Abramowitz, though, the man who developed it is sticking to his guns.

Helmut Norpoth has been predicting a Trump victory since early this year. His model currently projects a win for the Republican with a certainty of 87 to 99 percent…

Instead of opinion polling, Norpoth relies on statistics from candidates’ performances in party primaries and patterns in the electoral cycle to forecast results. The model correctly predicted the victor in every presidential election since 1996, according to the Daily Mail.

Running the model on earlier campaigns comes up with the correct outcome for every race since 1912, except the 1960 election.

Here’s what Norpoth wrote a few days ago at the Hill:

To start with something basic, opinion polls are really about “opinions,” not actions. At their best, they can tell us how people feel about political issues and personalities. Do voters, for instance, like or dislike candidates such as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump?

Yet having an opinion and acting on it are two different things. Barely 6 in 10 voting-age American citizens turn out for presidential elections. Ascertaining the opinions of 100 citizens is just a start. Now you have to determine which 60 of them actually take the time to mark a ballot. They are the “likely voters.” They are the only ones that count. But to find them is no easy chore.

It is ingrained in all of us that voting is civic duty. So nearly all of us say, oh yes, I’ll vote, and then many will not follow through. Miscalculations of which respondents will turn out to vote can easily screw up a poll prediction, so would it be sure thing if we just dealt with actual voters?

He’s suggesting, in other words, that turnout on Election Day might look very different from how most pollsters seem to believe that it will. Maybe many Americans who only tepidly support Hillary will stay home and/or many who strongly support Trump but don’t usually vote will show up. That argument should be familiar to you by now — it’s the “undercover Trump voters” theory, that there are lots of people out there planning to turn out for Trump this year who aren’t showing up in polls for whatever reason. Either they’ve been left off of voter lists used by pollsters because they’ve registered to vote only very recently or they’re embarrassed to tell pollsters they’re supporting Trump so they lie and say they’re for Hillary or Gary Johnson instead. Anything’s possible, but pollsters are aware of the possibility that Trump will bring out “unlikely voters” who haven’t voted much in recent years and have spent the campaign trying to incorporate them into the data. The Clinton campaign has a sophisticated data operation that’s desperate to identify these people, I’m sure, so that they know how to allocate their resources in the final few weeks. If there are 200,000 white rural votes sitting out there for Trump in Pennsylvania that none of the public pollsters know about, Team Hillary will be doing everything it can to uncover them and then adjust its ground game and ad spending accordingly. Needless to say, with so many pollsters now pointing to a comfortable Clinton win, to miscalculate the number of likely voters so badly that a six- to seven-point polling advantage suddenly disappears on Election Day would be the most catastrophic failure in the history of American polling. A lot of statistical brainpower has gone into averting that humiliation and getting turnout expectations right.

In fact, the first inklings from early voting point more to the polls being right than wrong:

More than 3.3 million Americans have already voted. And among that group, Democrats have improved their position in North Carolina, Nevada, Arizona and even Utah compared to this point in 2012…

Democratic early turnout has stayed steady in North Carolina compared to 2012, while Republicans have dropped by about 14,500. In Nevada, Democrats have a smaller early voting deficit today than they did at this point in 2012. And Democrats are slightly ahead in Arizona in the early vote so far, though they are lagging Republicans in the tally of how many Arizonans have requested ballots.

Perhaps most surprisingly, Democrats improved their position in conservative and Mormon-heavy Utah, where recent polls have shown a tight race. At this point in 2012, Republicans led Democrats in early voting by more than 22,000 voters. But so far this year, the GOP advantage is only 3,509.

By Nate Cohn’s estimates, Trump has a five-point lead in North Carolina among absentee voters right now, which sounds good until you know that Mitt Romney had a … 33-point lead at the same stage of the 2012 election. Trump is way off the traditional pace. The early-voting numbers look much better for him in Ohio and Iowa, but that’s consistent with the polls too. Those two states have been his strongest battlegrounds all year. His path to 270 begins with winning those two, but he’d also need Florida and North Carolina to have any shot at the presidency — and as noted here, the early numbers in NC don’t look good.

As for the “Primary Model,” if I understand the methodology correctly, Norpoth is essentially extrapolating each nominee’s relative strength from how they did in the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries. Trump won both comfortably but Clinton got blown out in NH before coming back big in SC. The idea, I guess, is that the candidate with the most enthusiastic base wins in November. Two problems with that, though. One: The New Hampshire primary was basically a home game for Bernie Sanders, who lives next door in Vermont. Hillary looked weaker there than she did in most other Democratic primaries this year because of his regional advantage. Two: Although both parties have partly fractured over their nominees this year, most polls at this point show Clinton winning more Democratic votes than Trump winning Republican ones. He’s the one dealing with the deeper party schism, especially since his “Access Hollywood” tape and the sexual-assault accusations started trickling out. I’m not sure how the “Primary Model” accounts for that. Trump’s supporters may be more motivated to vote than Clinton’s supporters, but if Clinton’s party — with plenty of “soft” supporters — is more motivated to vote on balance than Republicans are, what does that do to the model? And what about the data that shows, er, that primary turnout means nothing for the general election?

Incidentally, Norpoth notes in his column as an argument against trusting the polls that (a) the exit polls in 2004 were famously wrong in suggesting a 51/48 Kerry win and (b) Gallup was famously wrong in 2012 when it predicted Romney as the winner in its final national poll. Both of those points are true — but only partly. The preliminary exit polls in 2004 did indeed go bust, but the final exit polls saw a Bush win and got very close to capturing the final margin. Gallup’s failure four years ago is well known, especially to conservative bloggers like me who clung to their numbers as evidence that Romney had a real chance. But that’s why data nerds are constantly nudging people not to focus on individual polls but rather on poll averages. You can’t put too much stock in any one pollster, even one as esteemed as Gallup, since their sample may produce an outlier by chance or its turnout model may be flawed. The poll average, which incorporates many samples and many different turnout models, is likely to be closer to the eventual result. The nerds will also tell you to follow state polls more closely than national ones since, after all, Election Day is 50 separate state elections, not one national election. And in fact, the state polling averages were almost perfect four years ago in calling the outcome, pointing to the correct winner in every state except Florida. Saying that all polling is unreliable because of Gallup four years ago seems to me a bit like saying that you can’t trust the stock market because Enron went bust. The answer to that problem is diversification, not hoarding money in the mattress.

Incidentally, thanks to Marco Rubio’s poor performance in the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries, the “Primary Model” gave Hillary Clinton an 86 percent chance of defeating him in the general election. Show of hands — who thinks Trump will finish with a higher share of the vote next month than Rubio would have?


According to many (but not all) polls, Hillary has the election in the bag. I’m reluctant to get very enthusiastic about Mr. Norpoth’s prediction or even another one by Professor Allan Lichtman of American University in Washington, D.C., who says that based on his formula, Lichtman also believes the November 2016 election will go to Donald Trump.

I got snookered in 2012 in believing that all of the polls were wrong and Mitt Romney would dethrone Barack Obama – it was not to be.

But I’ll admit that seeing predictions that forecast Trump winning do help to keep the dreaded specter of a President Hillary Clinton in the shadows and that’s a good thing.

We hear it from a few knowledgeable pundits; the national polls mean nothing. The only ones that might be indicative are those in the battleground states. And in those states, it doesn’t look good.

Clinton leads Donald Trump by 5 points or greater in Colorado, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. If Hillary wins those six states, plus all the other reliably Democratic states President Barack Obama captured in both 2008 and 2012, she would eclipse the 270-electoral-vote threshold and win the presidency.

Even if Trump ran the table in the remaining battleground states — Florida, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio — he would fall short of the White House if he can’t flip another state where Clinton currently leads in the polls.

At this late date, all we can do is VOTE (once) and PRAY (lots).



Categories: Political

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13 replies

  1. >>”A lot of statistical brainpower has gone into averting that humiliation and getting turnout expectations right.”

    That’s the thing. The people who stake their credibility and livelihoods on polling try as best they can to account for all of the things that might skew a poll, so they tend to be reasonably accurate within a couple-point margin of error. That means that in a very close race it could go either way but we don’t have a close race today by nearly all accounts. With the media in the tank for Hillary and with her camp having a superior ground game and ad campaign, I don’t see any way for Trump to turn this around short of a miracle.


    • What you say is true, BUT polls have been wrong before – I’m hoping (maybe wishful thinking) that the three that have Trump winning are the accurate ones and the mainstream media polls are just static.


  2. My only comment is that I hope the 87% chance is right. Sweatin’ this one out.


  3. The Fat Lady ain’t sung yet. John Zogby, one of THE most reliable and accurate pollsters in the country:



    • Yeah, I think his main point (and it’s true) is that we don’t REALLY know WHO is going to vote. Taking responses from those who don’t end up voting is not only wasteful, it skews the poll results and that is the problem with polls – identifying those people who will actually vote.


  4. Polls can be slanted and sometimes the questions are so convoluted the participant thinks he’s answering one way when he actually answered the opposite.

    I’m skeptical of all polls and doubtful that they factor in the massive voter fraud we saw happening in 2012 and we’re seeing take place again this year. It was brought to light, but just barely since the main media ignored it and so far as I’ve seen it has not been addressed or corrected by anyone in the FEC.


    • While given a choice, I’d prefer to see my candidate waaay ahead in the polls, the polls don’t mean anything anyway – look at Brexit if nothing else – the Remain vote was winning before the actual vote (albeit by a small amount) while the actual Exit vote won by 4 points. A net swing of about 5 points. I could say, as confidently as the British pollsters did, that Trump will win – if we only applied a 5 point plus factor to the current U.S. results of the major pollsters. In the end, nothing else matters until November 8.


  5. In my circle I’m regarded as kinda the “go-to guy” on political issues, and I have a pretty good record on predictions of trends and outcomes. Everybody’s come to me and asked me to analyze this race and predict who’s going to win. As I tell them, I just don’t know. I’ve never, ever seen anything like this in my life.

    The aspects that make prediction so hard are these. This is the first time I’ve seen an election in which neither candidate has a strong base of support. Look at the numbers on their personal qualities. Both are regarded as pretty repulsive candidates. The result is that the voters going to the polls aren’t voting FOR anyone. For the most part they’re going there to cast votes AGAINST someone else. I have no idea how to factor such a phenomenon into a quantitative assessment, and I don’t think anyone else does, either.

    As noted in the article, polls are dependent on people answering pollsters honestly. But what happens when a large number of people are embarrassed about their actual opinion, and lie? It skews things, and again we have the uniqueness of an election in which both major candidates are an embarrassment for a lot of people to admit to supporting.

    Polling results can be “pushed” by the phrasing of questions asked. There’s absolutely NO doubt that the MSM, which sponsor most polls, have committed themselves to Clinton. They haven’t even tried to hide it this time. So how has that affected the polling questions they’ve formulated, and the consequently skewed results, leading to inaccurate conclusions? Again, hard to quantify.

    The majority of the people voting FOR Clinton (as opposed to AGAINST Trump) are the party faithful, and they’d vote for anybody who won that party’s nomination, and quite happily. But that’s not at all the case with Trump. Those who actually want to vote FOR him (as opposed to AGAINST Clinton) managed to essentially take over the GOP nomination process and force him down the party’s throat. It was a populist uprising. A revolt. Many are party members, or former members, but many are people who feel that the GOP – and probably both parties – haven’t represented their interests for a long time. They joined the GOP to support Trump into the nomination, but they’re not committed to that party at all. How can they be categorized, and consequently polled?

    There’s an “enthusiasm” aspect which pollsters have started to acknowledge in recent years that
    has an effect on poll turnout, and that turnout can have a major impact on election outcome. But again, in a race between repulsive candidates, how can you quantify that “enthusiasm”? Will one’s enthusiasm to vote FOR a candidate be more meaningful than another’s “enthusiasm” to vote AGAINST that same candidate?

    There are other factors, too, but I think these are the big ones. That’s why I think the results of this race are still up in the air. I don’t find any of the current polling, or predictions, to be persuasive, frankly. It could be a squeaker either way; it could be a landslide blowout, either way. I just don’t have a clue, and I don’t think the pollsters do, either.


    • Good stuff, Brian. The polls: they don’t mean crap right now, in fact, they don’t necessarily mean crap anytime. Unless you see the internals (including the questions), the public results could have been “adjusted” by the wording of the questions and the sample size of those questioned. Like so many, I’ve never been polled and don’t expect to be – what with caller ID and voice mail, answering machines, etc. who are the respondents and how accurately are they answering? It doesn’t help that some of the poll organizations are clearly in the tank for Hillary – are we to believe that they can/will be objective?

      And as Zogby said, it’s too early for any of the polls to be accurate anyway.


  6. I sick of both of them, and can’t wait until it is over.

    Hillary should have Articles of Impeachment passed during the lame duck, win or lose!

    Hey, she wants to be a first! That’s one that has never been done.

    She should also be under indictment on multiple counts, but that won’t occur unless Trump wins.

    Comey should likewise we removed, and likely Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Kagan & Sotomayer.


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