On Election Day 2016, at 10:41 a.m., pollster Nate Silver posted a story on his website, FiveThirtyEight.
“Final Election Update: There’s A Wide Range Of Outcomes, And Most Of Them Come Up Clinton,” said his headline.
“[Hillary] Clinton is a 71 percent favorite to win the election according to our polls-only model and a 72 percent favorite according to our polls-plus model. (The models are essentially the same at this point, so they show about the same forecast.) This reflects a meaningful improvement for Clinton in the past 48 hours as the news cycle has taken a final half-twist in her favor. Her chances have increased from about 65 percent,” he wrote.
Silver said his “forecast has Clinton favored in states and congressional districts totaling 323 electoral votes, including all the states President Obama won in 2012 except Ohio and Iowa, but adding North Carolina.” He hedged his bet, saying Hillary could lose North Carolina or Florida especially, so “the average number of electoral votes we forecast for Clinton is 302.”
Clinton lost both (North Carolina by 3.8 percentage points). She also lost Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. In the end, she got crushed in the Electoral College, 304-227.
And now, Silver’s at it again with a brand new prediction: a “Biden landslide is possible.”
This time around, though, Silver has including all kinds of caveats.
Overall — assuming that states that haven’t been polled go the same way as they did in 2016 — Biden leads in states worth 368 electoral votes, while Trump leads in states totalling 170 electoral votes.
But a potential problem for Biden is that Trump could have an Electoral College advantage if the election tightens. Biden currently leads Trump by “only” 6.6 points in the current tipping-point state, Minnesota, but this is narrower than Biden’s 9.2-point lead in the national polls. So while a Biden landslide is possible if he wins all these swing states, so is a Trump Electoral College victory, depending on which way the race moves between now and November.
In his first post on the general election polling averages, Silver noted that former Vice President Joe Biden holds “a solid lead over President Trump nationally, and in most swing states. Biden currently leads Trump 50.5 percent to 41.3 percent in national polls, according to our average — a 9.2-point lead.”
But the pollster again pointed out that national polls don’t matter, as individual states decide elections.
“Joe Biden leads by around 9 points in our national polling average, and that lead has been growing. Of course, national polls don’t really matter. Otherwise, Hillary Clinton would have been president,” he said. “But it’s worth noting that such a large lead is unusual in politics these days. Clinton never led by more than 7 points, for example, and at this point in the 2008 race, Barack Obama led John McCain by around 6 points.”
Silver wasn’t alone in 2016, when nearly every political pollster got it wrong. Not by a little, by a lot. Days before the election, The New York Times said Hillary Clinton had an 85% chance of winning. The Reuters News Agency put her odds at 90%. And the Princeton Election Consortium said Clinton had “more than a 99% chance” of moving into the White House, predicting she’d win 312 electoral votes.
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