FiveThirtyEight’s Prediction Model Is Failing in the Clinton-Trump Race — That’s According to Its Guru, Nate Silver

Trump’s path is precarious and not one other professional election handicapper records the seismic shift in Trump’s chances that FiveThirtyEight does.


Author:Arun Gupta/Raw Story

Emphasis Mine

Telling political junkies to stop obsessively is likely to be met by the same hollow-eyed stare from a lab rat that spends its day clicking a lever for bumps of cocaine.

(N.B.: that’s me)

The internet venerates the website’s founder, Nate Silver, as “America’s Chief Wizard” after his statistical polling model correctly predicted the results of the 2012 presidential contest in every state and the District of Columbia. But Silver’s fans are freaking out as Trump’s chance of winning has tripled in two weeks.

However, the wild swings toward Trump are more a sign that an orange-furred monkey wrench has jammed FiveThirtyEight’s soothsaying machine than a candidate who is detested by nearly 60 percent of voters is suddenly floating to the top of the 2016 shitshow. Trump can win and possible hacking of the electoral process increase unpredictability, but his path is still precarious and not one other professional election handicapper records the seismic shift in Trump’s chances that FiveThirtyEight does.

To Silver’s credit, he’s cast doubts on his poll-based forecasting this year. He mentions the lag time in how polls react to dramatic news such as the FBI’s email bombshell. He highlighted a survey showing little movement in voter preferences since January 2016. FiveThirtyEight also notes, “Trump supporters are more likely than Clinton voters to make it through the likely voter screens, indicating they are more vocal and enthusiastic in their support.” In other words, it’s likely Comey’s ill-advised letter about Clinton’s emails has depressed pro-Clinton respondents in polling more than it will at the voting booth. On the flip side, after Clinton’s average lead stretched to 7.1 percent in mid-October, this was likely affected by Trump supporters shunning pollsters, particularly after Trump’s rants about a rigged media, rigged polls, and a rigged election.

If you’re hell-bent on checking FiveThirtyEight constantly (as I still do), then it’s worth keeping in mind reasons why a Clinton victory is likelier than Silver’s model predicts.

The main issue is FiveThirtyEight works best when electoral coalitions are well-defined and change slowly as they have been since Bill Clinton was in office. Trump has scrambled all that, however, and analyzing polls cannot account for rapid demographic shifts. Trump’s bastion of working-class white men includes significant numbers of Democrats who’ve crossed over since 2012. But he’s alienated typically Republican college-educated whites and spurred LatinosAsians, and Muslims to mobilize in record numbers to defeat him. And the gender gap is wider than ever, with women favoring Clinton over Trump by an average of 16 points in October polls. The focus on Trump’s working-class support also misses one crucial aspecta majority of the white working class is female, and they began rejecting Trump after the Access Hollywood tape scandal. This overlaps with remarkable geographic shift in which Democrats are quickly gaining ground in Sunbelt states that were a redoubt of Reagan conservatism, while traditional Democratic strongholds are crumbling in Midwest regions that are older, white and working class.

These groups are huge at a national scale, but fine-grained detail disappears in polls of a thousand respondents. FiveThirtyEight apparently doesn’t include polls that could clarify the picture by zeroing in on groups such as Latino voters, who favor Clinton by an astonishing 48-point gap. Most public polls are marked by shoddier methodology that amplify small swings as opposed to internal campaign polling that show more stability.

Two other significant reasons why FiveThirtyEight overestimates Trump’s chances is early voting and get out the vote. More than 35 million Americans have already voted, which is 28 percent of the total vote in 2012. In nearly every battleground state early voting is outpacing last election, meaning Clinton banked millions of votes when her numbers were peaking. One poll of early voters indicates Clinton is ahead by enough 5 points, which is enough to tack on a 1.3 percent advantage in the final election results.

Many of these factors are evident in Nevada. FiveThirtyEight shows Trump neck and neck with Clinton, but Silver says early voting shows a six-point gap favoring Democratic voters. This discrepancy is consistent with FiveThirtyEight’s failure to predict Harry Reid’s 2010 Senate re-election and its underestimate of Obama’s 2012 victory margin. Six years ago Reid edged out Tea Party kook, Sharron Angle, thanks to an extraordinary turnout machine he’s built after more than 30 years in public office. Nevada also has its own election oracle in reporter John Ralston, who correctly called the two races Silver flubbed. Ralston’s dive into 622,000 votes already cast, which already accounts for 61 percent of 2012 totals, bears grim tidings for Trump even in best-case scenarios.

If Trump loses Nevada, Silver says he wins in only 9 percent of scenarios. That’s a far cry from the 35 percent mark Trump just touched. Trump’s campaign looks to be treating Nevada as a lost cause as he eyes richer electoral prizes like Michigan and Wisconsin that are even further out of his grasp. Even if Trump wins Ohio, Florida, Iowa, Arizona, North Carolina, and New Hampshire, he still loses the election. So he needs to wrestle a Midwestern state away from Clinton.

That’s unlikely as Trump is paying the price for outsourcing get-out-the-vote operations. GOTV is warfare through electoral means and requires a command staff, hundreds of offices, tens of thousands of paid staff and volunteers, and coordination both strategic and minute with the campaign. Trump has none of that. A month before the election, FiveThirtyEight counted 2.5 Clinton field offices for every one of Trump’s. His campaign is also plagued by chaotic websites and offices listed in demolished buildings. Field offices can’t be thrown up like lawn signs, and in battleground states a ground game could add as much as three to five points.

Clinton’s GOTV is robust enough to target strongly Democratic but low-propensity voters. Silver points out polls can’t factor this in. For example, one organization in Florida has dispatched 500 paid canvassers to the field for months to activate a pool of 384,000 Latino voters. Trump is also outmuscled by unions spending hundreds of millions of dollars and deploying thousands of full-time canvassers for Democrats. These efforts are yielding dividends among Latinos in Arizona and Asian-Americans in Nevada. And Michigan’s Arab-American and Muslim-American firewall will easily keep Trump at bay there.

Democrats are hand-wringing over declining African-American turnout, and this has put North Carolina and Ohio in peril, but the surge from women, college-educated, and racial minorities from Virginia to Nevada will offset this deficit. Republicans are already embroiled in civil war, which is damaging Trump in Wisconsin and Utah. Democrats are united and feature a stellar array of surrogates on the hustings, such as the Obamas, Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, Tim Kaine, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and an A-list of celebrities. Donald Trump has the Pharma Bro, an underwear model, a disgraced baseball star, and a felonious “Real Housewife.”

There is also no evidence of “shy” Trump voters that polls allegedly fail to register. And Trump’s attempts to activate whites who normally don’t vote looks to be a dud as well. An analysis of newly registered and “missing” voters favoring Clinton. Even if there is a hidden upsurge for Trump, it’s unlikely to overcome all these obstacles.

Silver cautions as well that the history of presidential elections and scientific polling is so scanty in terms of data that it’s dicey to draw any broad-based conclusions. For instance, conventional wisdom says as goes Ohio, so goes the nation. But Trump looks set to win Ohio and lose the general election, a first in 14 straight presidential races.

(N.B.: not so fast – our ground game may win Ohio)

FiveThirtyEight’s model worked fantastically well when the sailing was smooth, but it is foundering in the violent seas of 2016. The Cook Political Report, the brainchild of  the dean of election forecasting, Charles Cook, observes that despite Clinton’s eleventh-hour woes, “The race has tightened to its ‘natural resting place’ with a 2-4 point lead for Clinton,” while Trump’s “path to 270 electoral votes remains decidedly and almost impossibly narrow.”

The best prediction of how the 2016 campaign ends is likelier to be a metaphor than math: Hillary Clinton’s near-collapse at the September 11 memorial where her entire team mobilized to shield her and carry her over the finish line. And no statistical model can predict a moment like that.

Arun Gupta is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in New York and has written for dozens of publications including the Washington Post, the Nation, The Progressive, Telesur English, and the Guardian. He is the author of the upcoming Bacon as a Weapon of Mass Destruction: A Junk-Food-Loving Chef’s Inquiry into Taste (The New Press).


Fear Not: More Americans Support Bernie Sanders Than Donald Trump — No Matter What TV Says

Sanders, who is supported by more voters than Trump, has received just 10 minutes of network airtime throughout the entire campaign — which translates to 1/23 of Trump’s campaign coverage.


Author:Travis Gettys

Emphasis Mine

(N.B.:Rather than blame minorities for their problems those who feel left out should blame the actual culprit: capitalism, and join Unions and support Bernie). 

As the Donald Trump campaign turns from farce to tribulation, it’s worth noting that millions more Americans support Bernie Sanders than the Republican frontrunner.

Trump’s level of national support is 30.4 percent of GOP primary voters, according to the average calculated by Real Clear Politics, while Sanders remains in second place among Democratic primary voters with a 30.8 percent average level of support.

However, as the Philadelphia Daily News‘ Will Bunch points out — there are considerably more Democrats than Republicans.

The most recent Pew poll shows 32 percent of Americans identify themselves as Democrats, compared to 23 percent who describe themselves as Republicans — so that suggests far more people support Sanders than Trump, based on party identity and both candidates’ levels of national support.

Polling guru Nate Silver, who operates the website, cautioned that all the candidates’ poll numbers are misleading at this stage in the election cycle because most voters still aren’t paying attention.

Trump, the real estate tycoon and reality TV star, entered the race as a celebrity and has gobbled up a disproportionate share of media coverage that has, in turn, helped him maintain a healthy lead over his GOP rivals.

The Tyndall Report, which tracks coverage on nightly network newscasts, found that Trump has hogged more than a quarter of all presidential race coverage — and more than the entire Democratic field combined.

Hillary Clinton — who enjoys the most voter support, by far, of any candidate in either party — had received the second-most network news coverage.

Sanders, who is supported by more voters than Trump, has received just 10 minutes of network airtime throughout the entire campaign — which translates to 1/23 of Trump’s campaign coverage.

That has distorted perceptions about Trump’s true level of support, which Silver has estimated as 6 percent to 8 percent of the electorate — or roughly “the same share of people who think the Apollo moon landings were faked,” the pollster said.

Trump’s continued success remains mystifying to many observers, and his anti-Muslim proposals are so alarming that his rivals and mainstream media organizations are openly comparing him to Nazi leader Adolph Hitler.

But some of those horrified observers might take comfort in realizing that Sanders, the democratic socialist, has earned more voter support than Trump — the fascist fabulist.


Nate Silver: ‘Stop Comparing Donald Trump And Bernie Sanders’

Source: Daily Kos

Author:Lawrence Lewis

Emphasis Mine

Nate Silver took a look at the media’s comparisons of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders and found them lacking. He makes ten points, each of which are blockquoted below and followed by my own reactions, but you’ll have to click through to read the entirety of Silver’s analysis.

1. Trump is “winning” (for now), and Sanders isn’t.

Silver thinks there is reason to believe Trump’s lead won’t hold. I’ve tended to agree, assuming that as the ridiculously large GOP field gets narrowed, supporters of mainstream Republicans will coalesce around another mainstream Republican. But I’m no longer sure that will matter. Ben Carson is now second in many polls, and when you add his numbers to those of Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and Ted Cruz, it appears that there may be enough unhinged GOP voters to carry Trump, after all. This shouldn’t frighten Democrats now eyeing the head-to-head general election polls. Most Americans know the personality, but not his politics. Most Americans don’t like bigotry and misogyny. My guess is that if Trump is the GOP nominee, Democrats could bring back Michael Dukakis and still win.

2. Sanders is campaigning on substantive policy positions, and Trump is largely campaigning on the force of his personality.

This is the big one, and if we ended up with a Sanders/Trump general election, it would become even more apparent. Trump is an ignorant blow-hole, and Sanders has a long, deep, and wide history of substantively analyzing and taking stands on issues. The guy is a wonk. Trump is an affectation.

3. Sanders is a career politician; Trump isn’t.

To the GOP base, that’s a big plus for Trump. For voters who want a president that knows what he or she is doing, that’s a big plus for Sanders. It’s also another fundamental difference between the two men. Sanders is the real deal, while Trump is a fake tan and a bad toupee.There’s more below.

4. Trump is getting considerably more media attention.

This says everything about the media. Silver looked at Yahoo News and found that over the past month, Trump has received more media “hits” than Sanders and Hillary Clinton combined. Of course, the media find it much easier to cover personalities than policies. It’s their basic mode of operation.

5. Sanders has a much better “ground game.”

Sanders has a professional campaign apparatus in place, while Trump is more of a TV phenomenon. That can make a huge difference when it comes time for people to vote.

6. Sanders holds policy positions of a typical liberal Democrat; Trump’s are all over the place.

Sanders is not some whacky outsider trying to elbow into the Democratic base: He actually supports Democratic Party positions overwhelmingly often. This means base Democrats will like him. He even voted the same as Hillary Clinton 93 percent of the time when they served in the Senate together. Trump’s positions align well with the GOP base on some issues, but are anathema on others. That will make it easier for Democrats to want to vote for Sanders, and harder for Republicans to want to vote for Trump.

7. Sanders’s support divides fairly clearly along ideological and demographic lines; Trump’s doesn’t.

This one may better serve Trump, whose support is ideologically widespread among Republicans. Sanders appeals primarily to white, liberal Democrats. That’s not a secret, and it’s where Sanders will have to expand his support if he’s going to make a serious run at Clinton for the nomination. However, polls do show that Democratic voters who don’t prefer Sanders as their first choice are fine with him as their second choice. As is the case in reverse—it’s not that Clinton’s supporters don’t like Sanders, it’s just that they like Clinton more.

8. Sanders’s candidacy has clear historical precedents; they’re less obvious for Trump.

Silver compares Sanders to previous insurgent Democratic candidates, such as Bill Bradley, Howard Dean and Eugene McCarthy. They all gave the mainstream candidate a scare, but ultimately fell short. But Trump is more openly hostile to the GOP than were previous insurgent Republican candidates. Given how much the GOP base hates all things government, that may actually help Trump in the primaries.

9. Trump is running against a field of 16 candidates; Sanders is running against one overwhelming front-runner.

The diluted Republican field has prevented the GOP establishment from rallying behind just one of their own, and has helped Trump jump to his current lead. I will add that it also means Trump’s lead is a relatively small plurality, which may or may not grow as other candidates drop out. See my comment on Silver’s point No. 1. But were the Democratic field as diluted, Sanders might also enjoy a plurality lead.

10. Trump is a much greater threat to his party establishment.

Sanders is an outsider. But because he has aligned with Democrats so often, if he were to win the nomination the Democratic establishment base wouldn’t have a lot of trouble aligning behind him. The Republican establishment would have a much tougher time rallying behind Trump. His open hostility to the party, his animosity toward right wing media, and his apostasy on some key Republican issues means that if he did win the nomination, the GOP establishment might not even mind if he lost. The GOP establishment does not like not being in command. As Silver says:

A Trump nomination would be more of an existential threat to the Republican establishment.

Could Trump win without it? Not likely. It’s even less likely given his inattention to the ground game, which would make him particularly dependent on the party’s. Sanders would have the entire Democratic establishment behind him and he’d have his own ground apparatus. He’d have his long experience both with the politics of politics, with understanding and articulating his understanding of the issues, and he’d have stands on the issues that are much more aligned with those of the electorate than are Trump’s.The media love a simplistic narrative, and for them equating the outsider candidacies of Trump and Sanders is too easy. But as is so often the case with narratives promoted by the major media, this one is also absurdly wrong.