The Legions of the Not

In a previous post, I commented that there appears to be a sizable chunk of survey respondents who choose not to select either of the presidential candidates the two main American political parties are choosing to nominate for the office of President of the United States of America.

In that previous post, I used the figures from three polls to highlight the rather large number of undecided voters. A Roanoke College survey from May showed that 24% of the Virginia respondents chose neither Donald Trump (Republican Party) nor Hillary Clinton (Democratic Party). A Quinnipiac poll in May in Ohio showed 17% would not select either major party candidate. Minnesota respondents, according to a Star-Tribune poll in April, all showed that 17% of survey-takers were undecided about how to cast their vote for.

While I ended that post by asking a series of questions such as “Who are the “undecided”?”,  “What is their demographic breakdown?”, “What do they want?”, and “What will it take to make them decide one way or another (or a third way to a third-party candidate)?”, this post will come nowhere near to answering those inquiries.

Instead, I want to look at the number of undecided voters that have been surveyed and compare them with the last presidential election.

Since the start of 2016, there have been sixty-three polls taken in the ten of the thirteen states that comprise my Swing State Symphony. The missing three states are those whose latest polls are from 2015 (Colorado, Nevada) or who have not had a poll taken since the 2012 presidential election (New Mexico). The ten states that I have polling from are Florida (10 surveys), Iowa (2), Minnesota (2), Missouri (2), New Hampshire (11), North Carolina (11), Ohio (7), Pennsylvania (7), Virginia (4), and Wisconsin (7).

From these sixty-three surveys, I collected three sets of numbers.

One) The percentage of respondents who said they choose Donald Trump in a hypothetical election between himself and Hillary Clinton,

Two) The percentage of respondents who said they choose Hillary Clinton in such a hypothetical election

Three) The difference between the number 100 and the sum of Clinton supporters and Trump supporters.

As an example, the May 2016 Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey in North Carolina (as previously seen here on Swing State Symphony) showed 47% supporting Trump and 43% supporting Clinton. This means that my third category would be the number 10 (100-(47+43)), which is the percentage of respondents who chose neither the candidate from the Democratic Party nor the candidate from the Republican Party.

Now, this third category is a catch-all for my purposes in this post. Different surveys had different categories for the respondent who chose neither Trump nor Clinton. Regardless of whether the response was “undecided”, “unsure”, a named third-party candidate, or “refused to answer”, I am lumping all the neither-R-nor-D responses into  one giant bucket I am calling “Not”.

These are the folks who are Not-Clinton and Not-Trump.

One question I wanted to answer was what is the percentage of Not respondents in these sixty-three surveys. Of these polls, the number of people who chose neither of the major party candidates ranged from a high of 36.9% (Dartmouth poll from New Hampshire in April; link to previous post here) to a low of 7% (NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll from Pennsylvania from April; full results here).

The median number of Not responders was 15%. The median is the number where half of the data points are above that figure and half is below that figure. I like the median better than the average (which, in this case, was 14.79%) for these types of situations because that’s just the type of person I am.

This median number for the Nots checks out because, from the same sixty-three polls, the median number of the percentage of respondents who would vote for Clinton is 45% and the median percentage number of respondents who would vote for Trump is 40%.

45+40+15 = 100

There’s such balance in math.

So now we have a median number of Not responders of fifteen percent. But how does this compare with an actual American presidential election?

I grant you that I will only be providing one example, but my answer to the above question is, “Not very well.”

In the 2012 American presidential election, only 1.7% of the voters made their selection for someone other than the candidate from the Republican Party (Mitt Romney) and the candidate from the Democratic Party (Barack Obama). Less than two percent cast their vote for the candidate from the Libertarian Party, Green Party, Constitution Party, Peace and Freedom Party, Justice Party, and America’s Party.

Barring any last-minute entrance from a well-known political figure, I am working under the assumption that the 1.7% figure from the 2012 election will hold for the 2016 election. What this means to me is that the 15% of Nots being tallied in swing state polls since the start of this year is fair game for both Trump and Clinton. I have not done a drill-down analysis that breaks down the demographics of the Nots to determine who would they be most likely to support. Though I don’t have the time, I would bet that data-crunchers within the Democratic Party and Republican Party organizations are being given all the time and resources they need to find out who the Nots are, where they are, how best to reach them, and what do they want.

That 15% will whittle down to between 1%-3% between now and November and the next occupant of the Oval Office may be the person who can get most of the Nots on their side.

I would call it a Not-y situation, but this blog is above such frayed pun-ditry.

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Georgia: Not so Peachy

I have written before about the state of Georgia (link here) and how the surveys that have been taken since the start of 2016 show it underperforming in terms of the Peach State’s average margin of victory for the Republican Party during Ameican presidential elections.

Granted, the four polls (analysis from Real Clear Politics (RCP) here) taken since January 2016 have all shown a Trump victory, but the average margin of victory from the four polls tracked by RCP show a Trump victory of 4.3 percentage points. Since 2000 (the last four American presidential elections), the average margin of victory by the Republican Party presidential candidate was 9.78 percentage points. The difference between 4.3 and 9.78 is why that earlier post about Georgia talked about underperformance.

This post is not so much about underperformance, but to look into why the presidential candidate for the Republican Party for the 2016 American election, Donald Trump, has declined in popularity since the start of 2016.

In February, SurveyUSA released a survey (1,261 likely voters, margin of error 2.8 percentage points, crosstab results here) showing a Trump victory over his opponent, Hillary Clinton, the presidential candidate for the Democratic Party, by a margin of 50%-41%.

In May, Opinion Savvy, in conjunction with FOX 5-Atlanta, released a survey (587 likely voters, margin of error 4 percentage points, full results here) showing a Trump victory over Clinton by a margin of 44%-41%.

The May survey still shows a Republican win, but given the margin of error, the percentages could easily be Clinton 45%, Trump 40%. So how did a decisive Trump victory in Georgia in February become a statistical draw in May?

If you’ve been reading this blog for any period of time, you know I have my usual suspects so let’s look at them.

The breakdown between the two surveys is not a one-to-one relationship, but I think it serves our purpose. In February, the SurveyUSA poll showed that of the Republican Party respondents, 91% of those who identified as “Strong Republican” and 80% of those who identified as “Republican” supported Donald Trump. In May, the Opinion Savvy poll, showed that only 72.1% of the respondents who classified themselves as Republican supported Trump. This 72.1 number is even after the Indiana Republican primary when Trump’s two other challengers, Ted Cruz and John Kaisch, dropped out of the race. In a news cycle talking about the Republican Party rallying around Trump (sample articles here, here, and here for your reading pleasure), the opposite seems to be the case in Georgia.

Gender also plays a role here. In February, 54% of male voters backed Trump. In May, that figure drops to 44.3% (-9.7 percentage points). Trump’s appeal among female voters also declined, but not by the same amount. In February, 48% of female voters supported Trump while, in May, that number dropped almost four percentage points to 43.9%.

Another core demographic for Trump, voters over 65, also falters in their support for the Republican Party presidential candidate. In February, 58% of that age bracket supported Trump. In May, while still (barely) a majority of those over 65 support Trump, that number is now 50.3% (-7.7 percentage points).

Trump’s support among White voters also decreased from February to May. In the second month of 2016, Trump received 69% of the White vote. Three months later, only 57.5% (-11.5 percentage points) of the White vote would select Trump.

Those four demographics (Republican, male, over 65, White) all took away their support from Trump in a period of three months. Given the fact that Clinton’s share of the overall vote remained steady at 41% between the February and May surveys, where did the former Trump supporters go?

The answer is to the third-party candidate.

In the February survey, SurveyUSA only asked respondents to choose between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Those who wanted a third option could only respond with “Undecided”. In May, the folks at Opinion Savvy asked respondents to choose between Clinton, Trump, and “a Libertarian or Independent candidate” (without providing a specific name such as Gary Johnson or Jill Stein).

Let’s go back to the four demographics that fled Trump.

In February, 6% of those who identified as “Strong Republican” and 12% of those who classified themselves as “Republican” choose to be undecided rather than select Trump or Clinton. In May, only 4.4% of Republicans selected “Undecided” while 11.4% of GOP respondents chose the third-party candidate.

A scant 7% of male voters were undecided in February and that figure drops to 3.8% in May. Also in May, 15.2% male voters select the Libertarian or Independent candidate. Since Clinton’s share of the male vote only decreased from 39% in April to 36.7% (-2.3 percentage points) in May and Trump saw his share of the male vote drop by 9.7 percentage points (54% in February, 44.3% in May), it is fair to say that more male voters moved from the Republican candidate to the third-party option than moved from the Democratic Party choice to the Libertarian or Independent candidate.

When speaking of the over-65 set, Trump’s loss in that demographic is a more an effect of Clinton gaining support and less from the inclusion of a third-party option. As stated above, Trump’s support among the 65-and-over set drops from 58% to 50.3% (-7.7 percentage points). In those same three months, Clinton’s share of that demographic increased  from 34% in February to 41.4% (+7.4 percentage points). In February, 8% of those over 65 are undecided and in May that figure dwindles to 3.9% with 4.4% choosing the Libertarian or Independent option.

Trump’s drop in support among White voters is a mix between the gains of Clinton and the addition of a Lib/Ind candidate (with the third-party option receiving more of the credit). As shown above, Trump’s share of the White vote declined 11.5 percentage points in three months (69% in February, 57.5% in May). Clinton saw her support of White voters increase 3.4 percentage points during that same time frame (22% in February, 25.4% in May). As for those who could not make up their minds, 9% of White voters chose “Undecided” in February while only 4.5% made that selection in May. Also, 12.6% of White voters went with the third-party option. It is fair to say, given those numbers, that White voters who were for Trump in February migrated to Clinton (a little) or to a third-party (by a bit more).

As always, here are my caveats. These are just two polls and the November election is still far away. The party conventions have not been held in Cleveland and Philadelphia. The debates between Clinton and Trump have not been scheduled. A great many things can (and will) happen.

Can Trump turn around the Peach State and make its sixteen votes in the Electoral College less of a battlefield? Can Clinton make more inroads among certain demographics to keep Georgia as a place that the Republican must expend resources?

I’m tingling to find out.

North Carolina: Civitas: May 2016

In the past week, two polls have been released documenting the presidential preferences of the citizens of North Carolina. In a lovely quirk that dovetails perfectly with this blog’s love of analysis, both organizations that released survey results this month also ran polls in April.

I wrote about the April and May results from Public Policy Polling (PPP) earlier in this post (link here), so now let’s dive into the second survey.

Civitas released a survey (600 likely voters, margin of error 4 percentage points, press release here, crosstab results here) that shows in a three-way presidential race between Donald Trump (Republican Party), Hillary Clinton (Democratic Party), and Gary Johnson (Libertarian Party), Trump wins the Tar Hall State by a margin of 39%-36%-8%.

However, those percentages, I believe, need to be modified a smidge.

In this survey, respondents were allows to respond that were “leaning” towards one of three candidates. The initial support figures of 39% for Trump, 36% for Clinton, and 8% for Johnson do not take into account the “leaners”. There were an additional 4% of respondents who said that they were leaning towards one of the three presidential hopefuls. When the leaners are added to each candidate’s total (9 leaners for Trump giving him a total 243 supporters, 14 leaners for Clinton giving her a total of 229 supporters, and 3 leaners for Johnson giving him a total of 49 supporters), the percentage breakdown in this survey is now Trump at 40%, Clinton at 38%, and Johnson stays at 8%.

Last month, Civitas released a survey whose results that I have discussed before (link to previous post here) that showed Hillary Clinton definitively defeating Donald Trump by a margin of 49%-40%.

So what happened in a month to drive Clinton’s share of support down by 11 percentage points (49% in April compared to 38% in May), keep Trump’s share of North Carolinans stable at 40%, and turn a decisive Clinton win into a Trump victory?

One immediate answer is the question that asked in both surveys. In the April survey, Civitas only asked respondents to choose between Trump and Clinton. The only other options respondents had were “Undecided” (6%), “Someone Else” (2%), and “Refused” (2%). In May, respondents were given the Libertarian option of Gary Johnson and eight percent of the polled population took that option.

This additional option cut into Clinton’s support between the two surveys. In the April poll, Clinton won 82% of the voters who identified themselves as members of the Democratic Party. She also took 42% of those voters who identified themselves as Independents. Come May, and Clinton’s Democratic support falls to 61% (-21 percentage points) and her Independent support falls to 30% (-12 percentage points). For the Republican candidate, when Johnson is thrown into the mix, Trump actually sees his Republican support jump three percentage points (69% in April, 72% in May) and his share of the Independent voters only drops by four percentage points (38% in April, 34% in May). In the May survey, Johnson took 6% of the respondents who identified themselves as members of the Democratic Party and 15% of those who saw themselves as Independent.

Johnson’s addition in the May survey cut into Clinton’s support from Independent voters, but only slightly with Democratic voters. Where did the rest of Democratic voters go?

They threw their support for Trump.

In the April survey, Trump won 11% of respondents who identified themselves with the Democratic Party. A month later, Trump’s share of “party-jumpers” climbed six percentage points to 17%.

Party affiliation is another reason for Trump’s stability in his poll numbers and for Clinton’s free fall. As mentioned four paragraphs ago, Republicans increased their support for their party’s presidential nominee by three percentage points (69% in April, 72% in May) and Democrats decreased their level of support for their party’s presidential nominee by 21 percentage points (82% in April, 61% in May).

The gender demographic was another pitfall for Hillary Clinton. In April, Clinton (in the hypothetical two-way contest between her and Trump) took 41% of the male vote and 56% of the female vote. For comparison, Trump in April took 42% of the male vote and 32% of the female vote. A month later, and with the inclusion of presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party, Clinton only wins 27% of the male vote (-14 percentage points) and 44% of the female vote (-12 percentage points). For comparison, Trump’s gender support increases slightly with 46% of the male vote (+4 percentage points) and 33% of the female vote (+1 percentage point).

Most of Clinton’s losses among men and women go to Johnson. Some “party-jumpers” went to Trump, but Clinton loses her support among the genders to the Libertarian Party candidate.

The young also flock to the Libertarian Party candidate. In April, Clinton wins 53% among voters 18-25 (Trump wins 28%). In May, Clinton’s share of that age bracket falls eighteen percentage points to 35% (Trump drops five percentage points to 23%). Gary Johnson, in May, wins 11% of the youngster vote, taking most of his share from Clinton’s bucket.

To me, this analysis brings home the point that polling organizations should stop asking respondents to only pick between Party D and Party R. Polling organizations should take more time and research who will potentially be on the ballot come November and then ask respondents to choose between all of those candidates. Yes, it will potentially mean asking people to choose between the candidates of the Democratic Party, Republican Party, Libertarian Party, Green Party, Reform Party, American Constitution Party, etc., but the benefits should outweigh the cost. S

Since more than two candidates is the reality voters will face on Election Day, why shouldn’t polling organizations (even this far out from the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November) reflect this reality?

 

269-269

In an American presidential election, the contest is decided not by the popular vote, but by an entity known as the Electoral College (for more about the Electoral College, jump on over to here). Currently, there are 535 votes up for grab in the Electoral College during an American presidential election. The winner, and the person who becomes the President of the United States of America, is the candidate who can win a majority (270) of those votes.

Each state in the Union, plus the District of Columbia, has a number of votes in the Electoral College equal to the representation that state has in Congress. A state gets one vote for each Representative and Senator they have. The more populous states, having more Representatives, have more votes in the Electoral College (see Texas and California). States with fewer citizens, and less Representatives, have fewer votes in the Electoral College (see Rhode Island and Hawaii). The District of Columbia, despite not being a State, has three votes in the Electoral College courtesy of the Twenty-Third Amendment to the United States Constitution.

As stated above, the winner is the candidate who can amass 270 (or more) votes in the Electoral College.

Has it ever happened that no candidate has won a majority of the votes in the Electoral College. Yes, that situation has occurred once before in the American presidential election of 1824.  In that year, there were four presidential candidates (Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, William H. Crawford, and Henry Clay). Oddly enough, all four candidates were running under the banner of the Democratic-Republican Party. More oddly enough, two of the candidates (Jackson and Adams) both had John C. Calhoun as their choice for Vice-President.

But even more and more oddly enough was the end result.

After the popular vote, Jackson had 99 votes in the Electoral College, Adams had 84, Crawford had 41, and Clay picked up 37. As there were 261 total votes in the Electoral College, the number to beat was 131. Since no candidate had that magic number, the election was thrown over to the House of Representative as mandated by the Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Under that amendment, only the top three vote earners from the Electoral College make into the contingent election (that’s the official name). In a contingent election, each State gets one vote regardless of how many Representatives that State has. Delaware and Illinois, for example, only had a sole Representative so that vote was easy. For a more populous state like New York (with 34 Representatives), the presidential candidate that won a majority of that state’s Representative votes would win that State’s vote. To win a contingent election, a candidate had to win a majority of the States. In this election, there were only twenty-four states in the Union, so the magic number was thirteen.

When the votes in the House were counted, John Quincy Adams won thirteen of the States to Jackson’s seven and Crawford’s four.

The election of 1824 was the only time in American history that a president was elected who had lost the popular vote (Jackson 151,271 to Adams 113,122) and the Electoral College (Jackson 99 to Adams 84).

But the election of 1824 was a one-off, wasn’t it? Could such an event happen again in these modern times when there are only two serious major party candidates running for office instead of a quartet?

Of course it can’t.

Until it can.

Given how unpredictable this election cycle of 2016 has proven to be so far, it’s really not that far of a limb to travel upon to state that there could indeed by a 269-269 tie in the Electoral College in a presidential contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Let me show you how this could work out.

Below is my baseline tally showing the states that I classify as “Solid” (dark blue, dark red), “Mostly” (lighter blue, lighter red), and “Leaning” (really light blue, really light red) towards one of the two political parties (blue for Democratic Party, red for Republican Party…did I really need to spell that out?)

270ToWin_SolidMostlyLeaning

When all the states are filled in, there are eight states I classify as a tossup. This means that, at the moment and based on my analysis of previous presidential election trends, either candidate could win these tossup states. With eight “either-or” binary situations, this means there are 2-to-the-eighth-power combinations. Put another way, there are 256 possible outcomes to this map with eight tossup states.

For a 269-269 tie to occur in the Electoral College, the candidate for the Democratic Party has to win exactly 28 more votes out of the 90 possible and the candidate for the Republican Party has to win exactly 62 of the tossup Electoral College votes. Given the number of votes each state has, there are only three possibilities that contain a 269-269 stalemate.

The first one is where Clinton wins the trio of Colorado (9 Electoral College votes), New Mexico (5), and Virginia (13). Trump then takes the remaining quintet of Florida (29), Iowa (6), New Hampshire (4), Nevada (6), and Ohio (18). That map looks like this…

269_269_One

Tie Scenario Number Two requires Clinton to only win Colorado and Ohio . Trump then has to take the remaining six tossup states of Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, and Virginia making the map as follows…

269_269_Two

The third way that a 269-269 finale could occur is if Clinton only wins the New states (New Mexico, New Hampshire) and Ohio leaving Trump to be the victor in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, and Virginia. That map would look like this…

269_269_Three

Okay, okay, these are all pretty graphics and such (and, once again, thanks to the great folks over at 270towin.com for their interactive maps providing hours of geeky, wonky fun), but can either of these trio of outcomes truly happen?

The short answer is, “Yes.” The longer answer is “Yes, but not likely.”

Each 269-269 scenario detailed above requires the Republican Party presidential candidate to win Florida, Nevada, and Iowa. At the moment, based on the current analysis done by electiongraphs.com, not one of those states is in Trump’s corner.

Things may change and there have certainly been many a’strange thing since this election cycle started, but I highly doubt that a contingent election will be one of them before all is said is done.

That’s too bad, because I have lived through a presidential resignation, a presidential impeachment, and an election decided by the Supreme Court. I really wanted to add a contingent election to my collection of political experiences.

North Carolina: PPP: May 2016

A new poll from Public Policy Polling (PPP) has been released documenting the presidential preferences of the citizens of North Carolina. The candidate for the Republican Party, Donald Trump, wins in this survey over the candidate of the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton by a margin of 47%-43% (928 registered voters, margin of error 3.2 percentage points, full results here).

The 47-43 result mentioned above is when the presidential contest is a two-person race. PPP also asked respondents who they would vote for in a four-person contest. In that scenario, Trump takes 43% of the vote, Clinton drops to 41%, Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson earns 3% of the vote, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein wins 2% with 11% answering “not sure”.

Oddly enough, in the two-person race, only 9% respond with “not sure.” It’s odd that when more choice is given (i.e., four presidential candidates), more people declare that they are unsure. Maybe this the “paradox of choice” phenomenon coming into play.

However, my main point in this post is to discuss Trump’s resurgence in the Tar Heel State.

In April, PPP ran a similar survey (960 registered voters, margin of error 3.2 percentage points, full results here) and the results were a 43%-43% tie.

So what has changed in a month?

One demographic that has changed their tune toward Trump has to do with party affiliation. Back in April, 77% of Republican respondents said they would vote for Trump in a two-person contest between him and Clinton. In May, that number has increased 11 percentage points to 88%. Last month, 11% of Republican said they would vote for Clinton over their party’s nominee. Now, that figure dropped to 6%.

Likewise, those who identify as Independents are coming out for Trump in North Carolina. In April, 44% of Independent voters supported Trump (versus 39% for Clinton). In May, 51% (+7 percentage points) of Independent voters would vote for Trump (versus 30% (-9 percentage points) for Clinton).

In terms of gender, there was no net gain between the two candidate when it came to the female voter. In April, Trump took 37% of the women’s vote compared to Clinton’s 46%. In May, each candidate saw their share of the female vote increase by four percentage points (Clinton 50%, Trump 41%). Among male voters is where a difference can be teased out. Trump saw his share of the male vote increase 3 percentage points (April 51%, May 54%) while Clinton saw her share of male vote decrease 7 percentage points (April 43%, May 36%). For those who really care, the number of men who were unsure who to vote for increased 4 percentage points in a month (April 6%, May 10%).

[Insert your own joke about the undecisive male here]

Race is another area where Trump saw gains. In April, White voters supported Trump over Clinton 53%-32%. In May, White voters supported Trump over Clinton 58%-31% (Trump +5 percentage points, Clinton -1 percentage point). For African-American voters, Clinton’s share increased 2 percentage points from April to May (83% to 85%) while Trump’s share of that demographic decreased by the same amount (April 14%, May 12%). However, in the category of “Other”, Trump saw his slice of that demographic increase from April’s 30% to May’s 40% (+10 percentage points). Likewise, Clinton’s slice of that demographic fell from April’s 64% to May’s 47% (-17 percentage points).

Trump also saw increases in his support when age is taken into consideration. In the PPP surveys, age is broken up into four buckets (18-29, 30-45, 46-65, Over 65). In the first three buckets, Trump saw his support increase. For the 18-29 set, Trump saw his support increase 9 percentage points (April 27%, May 36%). Clinton still won that group in May with 45%, but her support fell 5 percentage points from April. From the 30-45 age group, Trump’s support grew by four percentage points (April 43%, May 47%). Clinton lost this group in May with 46% of the 30-45 vote when she won that group in April with 44%. Voters between the ages of 46-65 increased their support for Trump by four percentage points (April 46%, May 50%). Clinton against lost this group in May with 43% after taking 45% in April.

It is only with the senior set where Trump lost ground…but not by much. In April, Trump earned 51% of the Over 65 group, but that number dropped to 50% in May. Clinton lost this subset both months as her support was at 40% in both surveys.

As I have said before, it is only one poll and it is trends that matter.

However, over two polls, a month apart, taken by the same organization, Donald Trump has seen gains in North Carolina (and its fifteen votes in the Electoral College) with Republicans and Independents, men, Whites, Others (hey, that was PPP’s nomenclature, not mine), and everyone under 65.

I’ll finish off with this numerical coincidence. From April to May, Trump’s overall support increased 3 percentage points (April 44%, May 47%). In April, 33% of the respondents said they had a “favorable” opinion of Trump. In May, that number jumped (you guessed it) three percentage points to 36%.

Of course, Clinton’s “favorable” numbers also jumped in a month from April’s figure of 34% to May’s number of 38%. Since her overall support numbers actually dipped from April to May (44% versus 43%), just forget what I said in the last paragraph concerning Trump.

The Starting Blue Line

I could find no recent polls to opine about today, so let me discuss the map of the Electoral College instead.

For my starting point for today’s post, I will use the starting point of the Democratic Party and where they stand as the 2016 American presidential elections begins.

The map below, courtesy of the wonderful folks over at 270ToWin.com, shows the states (in blue) that have voted for the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party in the past four elections (since 2000).

270ToWin_SameSince2000_Dem

These nineteen states (plus the District of Columbia), as the map shows, bring in 242 votes in the Electoral College. From this starting point, the candidate of the Democratic Party only needs 28 more votes to win the White House. Put another way, if Hillary Clinton can just keep the 19 states (plus DC) that have voted consistently for her party since 2000, then all she needs to do to become the first female president is take…

270ToWin_SameSince2000_DemPlusFL

…Florida.

That’s all. Just one state above and beyond the consistent set of Democratic Party states and Clinton will have 271 votes in the Electoral College.

But just how possible is this specific map?

For my baseline tally, I separated states into the categories of “Solid”, “Mostly”, and “Leaning” towards each political party. There was another category for the tossup states. Of the nineteen states (plus DC) that have voted for the Democratic Party since 2000, fourteen of them are rated as “Solid” and provide 179 Electoral College votes. That “Solid” group is California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. Nothing short of a failure of the ludicrous sort will flip these states to the Republican Party.

My two “Mostly” states are Michigan and Oregon (a combined total of 23 votes in the Electoral College) and both of them are on this map shaded in blue. Polling done since the start of 2016 show Clinton winning Michigan by an average of 8.8 percentage points (see analysis here courtesy of electiongraphs.com) and the only poll taken in Oregon in 2016 shows Clinton defeating her Republican Party opponent, Donald Trump, by 11 percentage points.

So far, these fifteen states (plus DC) and the 202 votes in the Electoral College they control look to be firmly under the sway of the Democratic Party. Put another way, at this point in my analysis, without lifting a finger, the presidential candidate for the Democratic Party is nearly three-quarters (74%) of the way towards winning the 270 votes needed in the Electoral College.

Well, what about the remaining three states, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. I identify these states as “Leaning”, meaning they could vote for the other party with a little prodding and pushing (read: advertising and campaign stops). How close are they to leaning Republican?

For Minnesota, two polls have been taken since January of 2016. One poll shows Clinton winning by 5 percentage points and the other has her the victor by 13 percentage points (click here to find links to those polls) for an average margin of victory of 9 percentage points. The Gopher State (and its 10 votes in the Electoral College), for the moment, looks to remain blue.

For Wisconsin, there have been seven surveys taken since the start of the year. In all those polls, Clinton wins and her average margin of victory is 10.6 percentage points (click here to find links to those surveys). The Badger State (and its 10 votes in the Electoral College), for the moment, looks to remain blue.

The eyebrows start to raise when you get to Pennsylvania. Since January of this year, there have been seven polls taken. In six of them Clinton is victorious and one of them was a tie (click here to find links to those polls). All told, Clinton’s average margin of victory is 6.4 percentage points. The Keystone State (and its 20 votes in the Electoral College) looks to remain blue except that the three most recent polls show a tie, a Clinton victory of 15 points, and (the most recent) a Clinton win by only 1 point.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Pennsylvania in not a sure thing for the Democratic Party and take it off the map. If we also exclude Florida (still a tossup state), then our starting map for the Democratic Party looks like this…

270ToWin_SameSince2000_DemMinusPA

The team in blue now has 222 Electoral College votes in the bank. It’s less than 242, but it is still eight-tenths (82%) of the way to finish line before the starting gun even goes off.

For comparison sake, let’s add to the above map (the one that shows Democrats at 222 votes) those states that have voted Republican since 2000.

270ToWin_SameSince2000_MinusPA

From this map, you can see that the presidential candidate for the Republican Party starts off with 180* votes in the Electoral College from states that have voted for the Grand Old Party in the last four American presidential elections. The Republican Party, with its starting bank of solid votes is two-thirds of the way to winning the election.

With the map above, there are eleven states and 136 votes in the Electoral College up for grabs.

The Democratic Party still has the advantage from this starting point. Clinton only needs 48 more votes in the Electoral College (or 35% of the remaining total of Electoral College votes) to hit the 270-mark. She can do that by winning Pennsylvania (20 votes and already leaning Democratic) and Florida (29 votes), a state that, at the moment (analysis here) is also leaning Democratic.

There are other combinations that Clinton can put together to gain the extra 48 votes she needs even without Florida and Pennsylvania. For example, if Clinton only wins the four states of Ohio (18), Virgina (13), North Carolina (15), and New Hampshire (4), she will amass 271 Electoral College votes.

For the Republican Party candidate, the path to victory is more narrow. Trump needs 90 (or two-thirds) of the remaining 136 Electoral College votes to win. In addition, to win, Trump must win Florida or Pennsylvania. Losing both states means a Clinton victory.

As it stands now, the folks at electiongraphs.com show that of the eleven tossup states seen in the last map above, only two of them are leaning towards Trump (Colorado and Indiana…for a total of 20 Electoral College votes). The other nine states (including Trump’s must win states of Florida and Pennsylvania) and the 116 Electoral College votes they possess lean towards Clinton.

The two parties are not starting off an equal footing when it comes to the Electoral College.

However, as the saying goes on television advertisements for financial institutions, “past performance is no guarantee of future results.” Just because Michigan has voted blue since 2000 does not mean it can’t turn red this election cycle. It’s not impossible, only hard.

However, however, there is also the saying that “what’s past is prolouge.”**

Come November, we’ll see which proverb is correct.

 

*Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District voted for Barack Obama in 2008. Nebraska is one of two states (Maine being the other) where votes in the Electoral College are awarded on a proportional basis – two for the winner of the popular vote in the entire state and one for the winner of the popular vote in each congressional district. Technically, there are only 179 votes in the Electoral College that have voted for the Republican Party since 2000, but for simplicity’s sake, I awarded Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District vote back to the Republicans.

**The Tempest (Act II, scene i) by William Shakespeare

Ohio: A Tale of Two Polls

In the (merry, merry) month of May, two polls have been released documenting the presidential preferences of the citizens of Ohio.

One poll (Quinnipiac, 1,042 registered voters, margin of error 3 percentage points, results here) shows the presidential nominee of the Republican Party, Donald Trump, defeating the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, by a margin of 43%-39%, a difference of four percentage points.

The other poll (CBS News/YouGov, 992 likely voters, margin of error 3.7 percentage points, results here) shows Clinton defeating Trump in Ohio by a margin of 44%-39%, a difference of five percentage points.

Two polls in the same month in the same state providing different results. What gives?

This is the point of the post where we talk about what the concept of “margin of error” means. For a more thorough definition, hop on over to this link which will take you to the Wikipedia article on the subject.

Basically stated, the margin of error of a poll gives the range of results that will happen 95% of the time when the survey is given multiple times. For example, in the Quinnipiac poll, the stated result for Trump is 43%. However, given the margin of error of 4 percentage points, this actually means that if the same survey was given 100 times to a different random set of 1,042 registered voters, 95 of those surveys would show support for Trump in the range of 47%-39%. Likewise, Clinton’s level of support in this same poll ranges from a high of 43% to a low of 35%.

Read this way, the Quinnipiac poll could show a Trump blowout by a margin of 47% (Trump’s high range) to 35% (Clinton’s low range), which is a win of 12 percentage points. However, it can also show a Clinton victory of four percentage points by a margin of 43% (Clinton’s high range) to 39% (Trump’s low range).

Read the same way, the CBS News/YouGov survey could show a close Clinton victory by subtracting two percentage points (within the poll’s margin of error of 3.7) from her total (giving her 42% support) and adding two percentage points to Trump (giving him 41%). The margin of error also allows for a Trump victory in Ohio in this survey by giving him a total of 42.7% (his base 39% plus the 3.7 percentage points in the margin of error) while Clinton only wins 40.3% of the vote (her base 44% minus the 3.7 percentage points in the margin of error).

It is no so much that the these two polls provide vastly different results (a Clinton win versus a Trump win), but this pair of surveys show that both results are falling within the margin of error. If organizations run these polls enough times (and if the margin of error holds), they will show both Clinton victories and Trump wins until Election Day when the only count that matters takes place.

The Buckeye State is still quite a tossup state and its eighteen votes in the Electoral College are there for the taking.

Virginia: Roanoke College: May 2016

The folks over in the Old Dominion have a new poll out documenting the presidential preferences of people with phones who call Virginia home.

Roanoke College surveyed 610 likely voters and found, with a margin of error of 4 percentage points, the respondents split down the middle 38%-38% between Hillary Clinton (Democratic Party presidential candidate) and Donald Trump (Republican Party presidential candidate) (article here).

Since the start of 2016, there have only been two other state-wide polls that I could find. One, from last month, from Christopher Newport (and written about in this blog here) showed Clinton with a nine-point margin of victory (44%-35% over Trump). The first Virginia poll of this year, from Roanoke College in January, showed Clinton defeating Trump by seventeen points (52%-35% over Trump, 524 likely voters, margin of error 4.3 percentage points, PDF file to crosstab results here, PDF file to topline results here).

While a breakdown of the voter demographic to help explain why the Democratic Party candidate has dropped fourteen percentage points or an analysis as to why the Republican Party candidate has increased his vote share by three percentage points is not the main point of this particular post, I will make the following observations.

–Among female voters, Clinton saw her share of that demographic decline from 52% in the January Roanoke College poll to 43% in the May poll.

–Clinton saw her share of the younger vote also decrease. The May polls shows that 44% of the voters between the ages of 18-29 would vote for Clinton as opposed to the 50% that would support her when voters between the ages of 18-34 were asked their presidential preference in January.

–Trump’s “loyalty gap” vanished. In January’s survey, only 67% of Republican voters would vote for Trump. In May, that figure is 81%. In January, 26% of Republican voters said they would vote for the Democratic Party nominee. In May, only 4% said they would jump to the other side.

What is interesting about this poll (and my main point of this particular post) is the number of folks who will take a pass on either Clinton or Trump. In this latest survey from Roanoke College, just a shade over three-quarters (76%) of the respondents would select either of the major party candidates for president. Eleven percent said they would vote for another candidate. An equal amount (11%) said they were “unsure” who they would vote for in a two-person contest between Trump and Clinton. Finally, 2% said they would not vote if Clinton and Trump were the candidates on the ballot.

That’s nearly a quarter (24%) of a voting population that would choose neither of the major party candidates for president.

This appears to be a trend where a sizable chunk of poll respondents take a pass on both Trump and Clinton.

In the latest CBS News/YouGov poll from Florida, 15% did not show a preference. A Quinnipiac poll this month in Ohio had a figure of 17% not pulling the lever for either of major party candidates. An April poll from the Star-Tribune about the attitudes of voters in Minnesota shows 17% of the voters are “undecided”.

I have not done a full analysis of all the polls in tossup states executed since the start of this year, but it would be fascinating to see how many “undecided” voters there are. Even at a level of ten percent, that amount of voters on the fence could possibly sway a state (and its votes in the Electoral College) one way or another.

Who are the “undecided”? What is their demographic breakdown? What do they want? What will it take to make them decide one way or another (or a third way to a third party candidate)?

If I knew the answers to those questions, I would be a political consultant instead of writing a blog.

National Polls: Just Stop

Over a period of 24 hours, two national surveys were released documenting the results of a hypothetical two-person presidential contest between Donald Trump (Republican Party) and Hillary Clinton (Democratic Party).

Two different polls with two different results.

One, from ABC News/Washington Post, shows a two-point margin of victory for Trump, 44%-42% over Clinton (829 registered voters, margin of error 3.5 percentage points, full results here).

The other, from NBC News/Wall Street Journal, shows a Clinton victory over Trump by a margin of 46%-43% (1,000 registered voters, margin of error 3.1 percentage points, article here).

Both survey results are within the margin of error so both of these results are a statistical draw.

It is at this point in my posting that I would usually dive into the numbers to suss out any meaning from the figures and data buried within.

But not today.

This post is rant against the stupidity of nationwide presidential polling.

Polling the presidential preferences of one thousand people in the continental United States of America gives no clue as to who will win the White House.

An American presidential election is not one giant nationwide election.

An American presidential election is not a popularity contest.

An American presidential election is fifty-one separate and local elections.

The next occupant of the Oval Office is the person who can win 270 (or more) votes in the Electoral College. Period.

A sampling of 1,000 Americans who live in the lower-48 gives no indication as to how the citizens of Flordia, Ohio, Wisconsin, or Virginia will vote.

A sampling of 1,000 Floridians is an indication as to how the citizens of Florida will vote.

A sampling of 1,000 Ohioans is an indication as to how the citizens of Ohio will vote.

A sampling of 1,000 Wisconinites is an indication as to how the citizens of Wisconsin will vote.

A sampling of 1,000 Virginians is an indication as to how the citizens of Virginia will vote.

And so on.

The only purpose that nationwide polling serves is to act as click-bait and attention-grabbing headlines to make the presidential race seem closer than it is. Mentioning the close numbers documenting in national polling allows for writers to create headlines with words such as “nailbiter” and “neck-and-neck“.

Of course, writing about the “horse race” of the Trump-Clinton contest and how much of a “nailbiter” it is is tons more exciting than writing about the reality of the race. When one looks at each state and how it is leaning, the contest becomes less of a “nailbiter”. Larry Sabato has this political prediction map that shows a Democratic Party victory of 347-191 in the Electoral College.

The 270towin.com website has a map that shows how each state is leaning right now based on the current polling. As of this writing, it shows Clinton with a 207-35 lead in the Electoral College.

Electiongraphs.com has a state-by-state analysis that shows, at the moment, that the BEST case scenario for Trump is a Clinton victory of 308-230 in the Electoral College.

Polling on a national level is inane.

As an example, let me use history. In the 2012 election, President Barack Obama won 51.1% of the popular vote. His challenger, Mitt Romney, won 47.2% of the popular vote. This 3.9 percentage point margin of victory in 2012 in the popular vote translated into a 332-206 victory for Obama in the Electoral College. In percentage terms, Obama won 62% of the Electoral College vote to Romney’s 38%.

Just for the record, 62%-38% is not a “nailbiter”.

Also just for the record, nation-wide polling is a waste of time and effort and serious news organizations need to stop it.

Florida: A Tale of Two Polls

In the span of a day, a pair of polls came out documenting the presidential preferences of the citizens of Florida (and of the 29 votes in the Electoral College they hold).

One poll shows a nearly definitive win for the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton.

The other poll shows a statistical tie between Clinton and her opponent, the presidential candidate of the Republican Party, Donald Trump.

The first poll, from Gravis Marketing (2,542 registered voters, margin of error 2 percentage points, full results here), shows Clinton besting Trump by a margin of 46%-42% (12% undecided).

The second poll, from CBS News and YouGov (995 likely voters, margin of error 4 percentage points, full results here), shows the Democratic Party candidate beating the Republican Party candidate by a margin of 43%-42% (14% saying “Someone else/Don’t know” and 1% replying “Probably won’t vote”).

We have two polls, a day apart, asking the citizenry of Florida the same question of who would they vote for in a two-person presidential contest. Those two polls almost come to the same conclusion (a Clinton victory), but not quite.

Why the difference (albeit a small difference)?

The answer lies within the questions, “Who did you ask?” and “How many did you ask?”

I have written earlier that a voter demographic that support Trump is older voters (examples are here and here). In the Gravis survey that showed a 46-42 Clinton victory, 19% of the respondents are over the age of 65. However, in the CBS News/YouGov survey, almost a quarter (24.9%) of the poll participants were over the age of 65. While the Gravis poll, sadly, does not break out presidential preference by demographics, the CBS News/YouGov poll does. That survey shows that those over the age of 65 prefer Trump by a margin of 49%-43%. If that margin holds true for the Gravis survey (and why shouldn’t it?) and fewer voters in that age range were polled in the Gravis survey, it would mean that the Gravis survey polled fewer elder voters as to their presidential preference. Fewer older voters surveyed would mean fewer Trump voters surveyed, which could help explain why the overall Trump numbers are lower in the Gravis survey than in the CBS News/YouGov poll.

A similar thing occurs with race. One of Clinton’s core demographics is the non-white voter (examples in my blog of this statement can be found here and here). In the CBS News/YouGov survey, 12.5% of the respondents are Black. In the Gravis survey (the one where Clinton does better), 16% of the respondents are African-American. More Black voters being polled would translate into a higher number of Clinton voters. This could explain why Clinton does better in the Gravis survey.

Another demographic that does not have equal representation among the two polls are Tea Party supporters. I have not mentioned in this blog whether Tea Party supporters lean towards Trump or Clinton, but in this posting here and now, I will state that Tea Party supporters would line up for Trump. The CBS News/YouGov survey validates my assertion as 76% of those who claim to be supporters of the Tea Party would vote for Trump (as opposed to the 17% of Tea Party supporters who would vote for Clinton). In that survey, 21% of the respondents identified themselves as supporters of the Tea Party. In the Gravis poll, only 14% of respondents saw themselves as supporters of the Tea Party. Again, if Tea Party supporters lean towards Trump and if fewer Tea Party supporters (as what happened in the Gravis poll) are asked who their presidential preference is, this means that fewer Trump supporters will be counted. The opposite is also true. If more Tea Party supporters are polled (as what happened in the CBS News/YouGov poll), then more Trump voters will be counted.

Sometimes the headline numbers of Trump over Clinton 45-42 or Clinton over Trump 44-41 is not enough. You need to look at who was asked and how many of them were asked.