Election Update October 22

We are now twelve days away from Election Day, or put a more accurate way, we have 12 days until we finally – in theory – finish voting and the states determine the winner of the 2020 federal elections. Those who know me will not be surprised to see me comment on polls again, but I am intrigued by this point in the election, we have begun to add a new, and most valid, source of data.

Up to now, we have depended on three basic types of data: the historical record, what the polls tell us, and what we observe from the candidates’ behavior and our own reactions. It should be obvious from what we see and read, that our conclusions from the first three data types is heavily subjective. Now we are finally seeing actual vote data, and we can apply that to the other data types to confirm, correct or refute prior assumptions.

Before going on, I would like to remind everyone that the media hypes national polls because they are relatively simple and easy to sell as a story. They are also fairly easy to manipulate, should you want to do so, and yes I will say that there are such polling entities. But for here I will simply lay out the landscape with a brief look at the national and state polls, then apply the early vote information we have so far to see what they project. I am not projecting a winner at this time, because there is a lot of time left and many possible twists in the road. I am using the poll data from RealClearPolitics and the early voting data from TargetSmart, for those who want to keep score on their own.

So, starting with the national polls, I will remind everyone that the party affiliation weighting issue continues with national polls, and I believe this will produce embarrassment when the election results are compared to the final polls. I also think we are seeing a groupthink effect from ABC, NBC, CNN, FOX,CNBC, Reuters, YouGov, and NPR. There are only thirteen polls which have run at least 3 polls this campaign and are also posting polls in October – since YouGov produces polls for both CBS and The Economist, over two/thirds of the polls used in RCP’s aggregation are essentially homogenous in sponsorship, methodology, and choice of wording and sequence. That is, they look alike in their results because they are – accidentally or on purpose – selling the same message. They give Biden an average 10.7 point lead.

The other polls in common use which do publish regular polls, IBD, JTN, Rasmussen, and HarrisX, show Biden with a 5.0 point average lead. I wonder how many people pay attention to the difference? Beyond that, I leave the national polls for now, because we have more interesting data to consider.

I have mentioned before that the election does not depend on one single set of votes, but is actually the result of fifty-six discreet elections in the fifty states, the District of Columbia, and five congressional districts between Maine and Nebraska. Don’t worry, I’m not going to work my way through all of them in polls, partly because not every state even gets polled, and also because a lot of the states are not in play. What I mean, is that if we consider states which were decided by 12 points or more in 2016 to be too far from contention in 2020, then the election will be decided by eighteen states and two congressional districts.

But even 18 states is a big chunk to examine. This is where the early voting sheds light. Some of this is bad news for Trump /good news for Biden, and some of this is the opposite. So here they are, in capsule:

Iowa (Trump by 9.5 in 2016): Republicans are up a net 3.5% compared in 2016 in early voting, so this looks good for the President
Texas (Trump by 9.0 in 2016): Republicans are up a net 6.9% compared in 2016 in early voting, so this looks good for the President
Ohio: (Trump by 8.1 in 2016): Republicans are up a net 10.5% compared in 2016 in early voting, so this looks good for the President
Georgia: (Trump by 5.1 in 2016): Republicans are down a net 9.1% compared in 2016 in early voting, so this needs a close look
North Carolina: (Trump by 3.7 in 2016): Republicans are up a net 3.8% compared in 2016 in early voting, so this looks good for the President
Arizona: (Trump by 3.5 in 2016): Republicans are down a net 10.9% compared in 2016 in early voting, so this needs a close look
Florida: (Trump by 1.2 in 2016): Republicans are down a net 7.6% compared in 2016 in early voting, so this needs a close look
Pennsylvania: (Trump by 0.7 in 2016): Republicans are down a net 45.2% compared in 2016 in early voting, so this needs a close look
Wisconsin: (Trump by 0.7 in 2016): Republicans are up a net 6.1% compared in 2016 in early voting, so this looks good for the President
Michigan: (Trump by 0.3 in 2016): Republicans are down a net 2.3% compared in 2016 in early voting, so this needs a close look
New Hampshire: (Clinton by 0.3 in 2016): There is no early voting data for 2016 to consider, so conclusions are unavailable
Minnesota: (Clinton by 1.5 in 2016): Republicans are down a net 0.3% compared in 2016 in early voting, so Trump may be more competitive than expected
Nevada: (Clinton by 2.4 in 2016): Republicans are up a net 6.4% compared in 2016 in early voting, so this looks good for the President
Maine: (Clinton by 2.9 in 2016): Republicans are up a net 1.6% compared in 2016 in early voting, so this looks good for the President
Colorado: (Clinton by 4.9 in 2016): Republicans are down a net 4.1% compared in 2016 in early voting, so this needs a close look
Virginia: (Clinton by 5.4 in 2016): Republicans are down a net 2.2% compared in 2016 in early voting, so Trump may be more competitive than expected
New Mexico: (Clinton by 8.3 in 2016): Republicans are up a net 8.8% compared in 2016 in early voting, so this looks good for the President
Oregon: (Clinton by 10.6 in 2016): Republicans are down a net 10.7% compared in 2016 in early voting, so this needs a close look

In summary, Republicans are out-performing 2016’s early voting results in ten states, there is no 2016 information in one state, and they are under-performing 2016’s early voting in seven states. But keep in mind that Democrats are expected to do better in early voting, while Republicans are expected to do better in Election Day results. So overall this could mean good things for the President.

For now, I’d say Pennsylvania, Florida, Arizona, and Michigan are the states which could go either way, and from them decide the election.

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