There’s a nerd fight going on between Nate Silver and several other analysts about how to interpret the Presidential election polls. Silver is projecting Clinton as having about a 65% chance of winning. HuffPo and Princeton are projecting her at 98%. I have some thoughts over at my personal blog:
Put aside everything you know about the candidates, the election and the polls. If someone offered you a 50-to-1 or a 100-to-1 bet on any major party candidate winning the election, would you take it? I certainly would. I would have bet $10 on Mondale in 1984 if it was a potential $1000 payoff. And he lost by 20 points.
It seems a huge stretch to give 98 or 99% odds to Clinton, considering:
- Clinton has never touched 50% in the poll aggregates.
- There are still large numbers of undecideds and third party supporters who will doubtless vote for one of the two candidates (and Trump’s recent surge has come from fleeing Johnson voters).
- We have fewer live interview polls now than we did in 2012.
- As Nate Silver noted, the average difference between final polls and the election has been about two points.
Basically, I think Wang and HuffPo are not accounting enough for the possibility that the polls are significantly off. In the last 40 years, we’ve had one Presidential election (1980) where the polls were off by a whopping seven points. That’s enough for Trump to win easily (or for Clinton to win in a landslide).
HuffPo’s analysis seems kind of bizarre to me, actually. They currently have Clinton up 5 points in the polls. There is not a single national poll that as Clinton up by that much right now. The average polls advantage for Clinton is two points. Silver estimates that corresponds to a real advantage of three. If he’s right, Clinton has an advantage but any outcome is possible.