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Silver "Got It So Wrong" Says Trump

Silver Responds

Silver Reply Thread

  1. There's a vaguely similar sentiment expressed here. However, the point of that passage was that Trump's win actually *wasn't* much of a surprise based on the polls, at least according to 538's model. Why FiveThirtyEight Gave Trump A Better Chance Than Almost Anyone Else
  2. If you want to read about why 538 consistently *did* give Trump a decent chance in 2016 when almost nobody else did, we go on at great length about that in this series. The Real Story Of 2016
  3. One other slightly weird aside: the fact that there's been a fairly abrupt 3-point swing toward Biden shows that late polling swings still can occur and so might make you slightly wary of the notion that Biden's had this all in the bag the whole time.
  4. What if there had been a 3-point swing toward Trump instead? Then we'd be at Biden +4 nationally, and likely at Biden +1/+2 in the tipping-point states. That's a very competitive race, obviously.
  5. Ordinarily a major national poll showing a candidate 12 points ahead would be huge news, but it's just sort of par for the course these days. A mini-thread with a couple of quick observations, though. [Mish Comment: Main thread ends at point 6. Mini-thread starts at point 7]
  6. Also, it's worth noting that Biden is now at 52% in national polls and at 50-51% in PA/WI/MI. And there are few undecideds left. So Trump either needs something *major* that causes decided voters to re-evaluate Biden, or a *big* polling error.
  7. Biden's lead in our national polling average is up to 10.3 points. There's no sign that things are getting better for Trump; the ABC/Post poll showing him -12 postdates his leaving the hospital. The USC tracker has also been getting worse for Trump.
  8. One silver lining for Trump: the state polls still mostly seem to be in line with an 8-9 point deficit, rather than 10-11 as in national polls. But, there's also been a real lack of high-quality state polls for the past several days, so that may just be a matter of time.
  9. Our *forecast* of the popular vote is Biden +8.2. That's mostly based on state rather than national polls. And it still prices in a tiny bit of tightening/mean reversion.
  10.  However, Biden's win probability (now 86%) will continue to rise unless we begin to see tightening soon. My guess is that in an election held *today*, the model would have him with a 90-95% chance. It's a big lead that would be pretty robust to some pretty serious polling errors.

Revisionist History?

I panned Silver on numerous occasions in 2016.

Key Points

On August 4 I commented, "Supposedly, Trump had a 50.1% chance of winning in November on July 31, just four days ago!"

On August 7, I commented 

Silver is clearly taking the news of the day and projecting it out to November when voters clearly have a time span of about three days. Social Mood is clearly in control here. 

Silver is totally clueless about what social mood will be in November, just as he was totally clueless about social mood the entire Republican nomination process.

Silver does not understand social attitudes. He does not know how to put attitudes into his model, and his wildly changing numbers prove that statement.

I do not know what the odds are, but I do know they are not (at the moment) 83.1% for Hillary as Silver projects today.

Silver underestimated Trump's chances every step of the way.

538's Final 2016 Forecast

Silver did have many words of caution in his Final Election Update on November 8, 2016.

Our outlook today in our final forecast of the year. 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. 

So what’s the source of all the uncertainty? 

First, Clinton’s overall lead over Trump — while her gains over the past day or two have helped — is still within the range where a fairly ordinary polling error could eliminate it. 

Second, the number of undecided and third-party voters is much higher than in recent elections, which contributes to uncertainty. 

Third, Clinton’s coalition — which relies increasingly on college-educated whites and Hispanics — is somewhat inefficiently configured for the Electoral College, because these voters are less likely to live in swing states. If the popular vote turns out to be a few percentage points closer than polls project it, Clinton will be an Electoral College underdog.

The track record of polling in American presidential elections is pretty good but a long way from perfect, and errors in the range of 3 percentage points have been somewhat common in the historical record.

In three of the last five presidential elections, in other words, there was a polling error the size of which would approximately wipe out Clinton’s popular vote lead — or alternatively, if the error were in her favor, turn a solid victory into a near-landslide margin of 6 to 8 percentage points.

In our national polling average, about 12 percent of voters are either undecided or say they’ll vote for a third-party candidate. While this figure has declined over the past few weeks, it’s still much higher than in recent elections. Just 3 percent of voters were undecided at the end of the 2012 race, for example, according to RealClearPolitics. 

If there’s a 3-point error against Clinton? That would still leave her with a narrow lead over Trump in the popular vote — by about the margin by which Gore beat Bush in 2000. But New Hampshire, which is currently the tipping-point state, would be exactly tied. Meanwhile, Clinton’s projected margin in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Colorado would shrink to about 1 percentage point, while Trump would be about 2 points ahead in Florida and North Carolina. It’s certainly not impossible that Clinton could win under those circumstances — her turnout operation might come in really handy — but she doesn’t have the Electoral College advantage that Obama did in 2012

I suggest that is excellent analysis except for quibbling over Silver's 71-72 odds of Hillary.

I Backed Trump in 2016

Please recall I openly supported Trump in 2016.

Hillary, Not Comey, Casts Cloud Over Election

Please recall my November 1, 2016 post Hillary, Not Comey, Casts Cloud Over Election

Once again, and at the last minute, this election may come down to a one swing state differential.

The setup now is quite similar to the setup heading into the first debate. Trump needs all the must-win states plus one more. He cannot afford any mistakes now. 

Realistically, I still have Hillary ahead if the election were held today. One week from now, that story may look different. 

Go Trump!

I expected Trump to lose in 2016, but I had things much closer.

Social Mood

I am willing to make an assessment of social mood and where mood will will be at election time. 

Scroll to Continue


That is something Silver does not do, and it causes all kind of accusations against me.

I was accused of being an "Obama Loving Socialist" just because I predicted he would win. 

I did not vote for Obama.

This time, as a Libertarian, I cannot stand either Trump or Biden and will not vote for either of them. 

Trump Will Easily Be Defeated in 2020, Perhaps a Landslide

Please recall my December 30 2019, post Trump Will Easily Be Defeated in 2020, Perhaps a Landslide

That call was based on social mood. People do not like Trump.

He won in 2016 because people disliked Hillary more.

Still, it took a last second Hail Mary pass by Comey for Trump to win.

This Is Not 2016

Trump keeps sticking his foot in his mouth over Covid. In general, women generally cannot stand him. 

Importantly, whereas the polls in 2016 were within margins of error, this time they are not. 

And the number of undecided voters is a mere few percent now vs 10% in 2016.

Silver Has This One Correct

Add it all up and Silver has this one correct.

Trump has about a 13% chance of winning and if the election was tomorrow it would be about 5%.

Things can happen. Biden could keel over. But it's more likely Biden gets over 400 electoral college votes than he loses.

Not an Endorsement

I expect Biden to win, easily. That is not an endorsement.

I did not like the candidates in 2016 but I disliked Hillary so much that I did endorse Trump.

I don't like the candidates in 2020 either. This time I am voting Libertarian.

Trump's trade policies, war-mongering, threats against allies and enemies alike, narcissism, and military spending are too much for this Libertarian to take. 

What a pathetic set of candidates, again.