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The Political Polarization of Abortion

August 7, 2020

It wasn’t that long ago when Republicans and Democrats generally agreed on when a woman could obtain an abortion. Like most issues in the U.S., politics made us reconsider the issue in a partisan way.

In the 1972 presidential election, Richard Nixon saw a potential way to attract Catholic votes. At that point in our history, Catholics were the most anti-abortion group. So he began a campaign strategy to take anti-abortion positions to attract them and also social conservatives.

In the 1972, Nixon won the election and carried a majority of Catholics. With that success, Republican strategists began to apply this strategy to Congressional races, using coalitions of evangelic voters around the abortion issue.

At this point, both Republican and Democratic rank and file voters we in near agreement on when an abortion should be legal. As an example, from 1977 though 1985, with the exception of 1978 and 1985 were they tied, more Republicans supported an “abortion for any reason” than Democrats, as shown below.

      YEARDEM % YESREP % YES
197732.939
197830.830
198037.338.6
198235.237.9
198326.635.5
198431.837.2
198533.833.4
ABORTION IF A WOMAN WANTS FOR ANY REASON (General Social Survey)

But the tide turned at the end of Ronald Reagan’s second term. In the 1980 election campaign, Reagan made it a campaign promise to appoint anti-abortion judges. His position on abortion slowly seeped down into the rank and file beliefs, as shown in the table below, the percent of voters saying yes that a “woman should be able to have an abortion for any reason” declined among Republicans and increased with Democrats.

YEARDEMOCRATS % YESREPUBLICANS % YES
19884029.6
198941.232.8
199042.836.6
199142.141.3
199348.333.2
199447.238.8
199649.237.3
199843.327.7
200039.327.4
200245.428.5
200446.529.3
200648.527.7
200844.433.2
201049.931.3
201251.826.2
201453.629.5
201862.429.1
ABORTION IF A WOMAN WANTS FOR ANY REASON (General Social Survey)

As you can see, the big change occurred in 1988, where Democrats overtook the Republicans in their support of woman’s right to have an abortion for any reason.

In the chart below, using the data from our table, you will see how the division between Democrats and Republican changed in an exponential way.

ABORTION IF A WOMAN WANTS FOR ANY REASON % YES
Blue line = Democrats / Red line = Republicans

In 1990, partisan voters went their separate ways. The Republican support has leveled off around 29%, while the Democrats have continued to increase their support for a woman’s right to have an abortion, with over 60% now supporting this view.

Are woman more pro-choice than men? You might expect a woman to be more pro-choice than a man but that assumption would be wrong. Using the most liberal of reasons for an abortion, that a woman should be able to decide an abortion for any reason, it turns out that both men and woman agree on this issue, as shown in the chart below.

ABORTION IF A WOMAN WANTS FOR ANY REASON

The two lines nearly strangle each other and the average difference is only 1.3%. Obviously, these men are married and know when to agree.

Women and Men Percent Yes on Abortion for any Reason

1977 – 1918

women % Yesmen % Yes
3536.5
30.733.3
40.437.8
37.738.5
3132.9
35.338.6
3537
35.739.5
35.434.3
36.840.9
41.341.7
3844.1
41.843
45.343.6
42.742
38.537
36.737.4
38.341.4
36.139.3
37.339.2
39.141.1
39.944.1
43.140.1
42.346.2
43.244.4
48.649.4
38.8040.12
GENERAL SOCIAL SURVEY DATA

Donald Trump has carried on the Republican tradition of appealing to pro-life voters by announcing during the 2016 campaign that he would appoint only judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade. And so we are now back to the basic strategy started by Richard Nixon in 1972. Somethings never change…Be safe.

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Partisanship and Voting Choice: The Myth of the Reasoning Voter

August 5, 2020

If there was one book I would recommend for a serious student of political behavior, it would be the The American Voter. ( A., Converse, P. E., Miller, W. E., & Stokes, D. E. (1960). Published in 1960, it laid the foundation for all studies on political behavior since.

The cornerstone of their analysis was the concept of partisan identification. Their understanding of party identification goes beyond group attachment like a membership in a club or group, but a psychological identification, “which can persist without legal recognition or evidence of formal membership and even a consistent record of party support.”

In other words, partisanship is a social identification such as religion or an ethnic group, which when invoked can sometimes cause emotional reactions. My mother told me when I was a young to “never to discuss religion or politics” with friends. And she was right.

Most scholars agree that party identification is formed by socialization in your youth, primarily from your parents. There are some recent studies testing the genetic aspects of political behavior, with experiments with identical twins. Although the results are interesting, it does not yet show a significant correlation but likely will in the future.

In an attempt to demonstrate the impact of partisanship on candidate choice, I have collected voting data from 13 presidential elections, 1968 through 2016. Below is a chart of how many voters chose the Republican candidate by their party or non-party affiliation.

Presidential vote for Republican candidate by party identification. Data from General Social Studies survey.

The top line (grey), represents Republican voters percentage for the Republican candidate. For example in 1976, 84.4% of Republicans voted for their party’s choice. The Democrats (darker blue, bottom line) in that same election, only 15.1% chose the Republican candidate. The middle line (light blue), shows how many independent voters selected the Republican.

The average Republican vote for the Republican candidate over these 13 elections was 87.8%. The average Democratic vote for the Republican candidate was 14.5%, an average difference of 73.3%.

There a couple of interesting deviations in this chart. In 1992 and 1996, all three group’s percentages for the Republican candidate declined significantly. In 1992, Bill Clinton defeated George H. W. Bush by almost 6% in a three was race with Ross Perot.

Bush’s last approval rating was 32% just prior to the election. It’s actually amazing that 75% of Republicans voted for him and it illustrates the power partisanship, even though some obviously defected from their standard bearer.

The Republican vote rebounded in 2000, with 94.2% voting for George W. Bush. After that they stayed the high range with an 88% vote for Donald Trump.

Independents also took a dive from Republicans in 1992 and 1996, but rebounded in 2000, splitting their vote for Bush and Gore. Over the 13 elections, they averaged 43.1% of the vote, which means they voted for Democrats by nearly 47%. That would imply that they lean slightly toward Democratic candidates.

The effect of partisanship is most apparent from polls of Trump’s Job Approval ratings. In the latest national survey by Civiqs of registered voters, shows that Trump’s current job approval rating is 41% (56% disapprove), which is consistent with other major polls.

TRUMP JOB APPROVALAPPROVEDISAPPROVE
Democrat3%95%
Republican95%9%
Independent39%55%
Missing values “don’t know”

If we break down that rating by party identification, it reveals that his approval rating from Republicans is now 87% (9% disapproval). For Democrats it is 3%, a difference of 84% ! That is a real partisan divide.

This partisan divide suggests that Trump’s path to victory will have to come from Republican and Independent voters and forget about winning enough Democrats to swing his way. It is likely that he would need 90% or more of the Republican vote to have any chance of winning the National vote.

The author’s of the American Voter demonstrated that most voters had likely decided on which candidate to vote for in 2020, when he or she graduated from High School ! They just didn’t know about it yet. With the possible exception of independents, the idea of a free thinking American voter has always been largely a myth. Be safe…

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Have the Democrats and Republicans lost their Convention Bump?

August 1, 2020

When I was growing up, the Party Conventions decided the nominee through a series of votes by delegates who were wheeling and dealing for influence. It was a pageant that would put any of today’s reality shows to shame.

I remember watching it with my father on a black and white TV, staying up longer than my mother would normally allow. It was both a spectacle and an education for a young boy watching delegates cutting deals with each other on live television. I loved it.

But that was a long time ago, and modern conventions now provide a platform to introduce their nominee, already decided by party-primary voters, before a national TV audience covered in a rally like demonstration of party unity, balloons and all.

But the conventions still provide a significant function by writing platforms, introducing the vice-presidential nominee and showing party unity after a sometimes contentious primary campaign. If successful, the warring candidates and their supporters, end up hugging each other and that maybe it’s most important contribution to the party’s nominee’s success, as Clinton’s campaign discovered in their 2016 Convention.

But what maybe the most important aspect of a successful convention is what academics and political observers call the “the Convention bounce.” This is the increase in the nominee’s polling numbers following the convention.

Previous studies on a convention’s impact before 1988, have shown that the difference between trial heat polls prior to the convention and after are typically around 6%. (The Convention Bump, American Politics Quarterly, July 1992).

But Covid-19 has changed the rules for this year’s conventions. No longer will a wild and enthusiastic crowd waving signs, festooned with descending balloons broadcast on national TV, and interrupted occasionally by celebrities and party leaders.

Instead, the plan for the Democrats is to conduct a “virtual convention,” which means the state delegates will be voting from their homes for the already decided nominee, Joe Biden. No pageantry and no balloons. Joe Biden will make an acceptance speech in Milwaukee, but not in front of screaming delegates acting like teenage girls as if Joe was Justin Bieber. (I will miss this part.)

Donald Trump has given up on his Party’s convention in Jacksonville due the out of control virus in Florida. He says he will accept the nomination back in Raleigh, North Carolina, after pulling out of that state because of pandemic restrictions (masks?). The details are still, at this point, a little murky but I’m sure it will be broadcast on national television.

But these changes provide an opportunity to see if the pageantry of the previous party conventions really make a difference in the degree of a ” convention bump.”

But first we need to see how previous conventions effected their party’s nominee in the trial heat polls. Below is a table of how previous conventions effected the presidential candidates from 1980 through 2016.

YEARDEM.% GAINREP.% GAINWINNER
198025   REP
198436   REP
198877   REP
1992170  DEM
199458  DEM
199685  REP
200004  REP
200852  DEM
201234  DEM
201622  REP
         AVG5.24.3
Red = Republican Candidate / Blue = Democratic Candidate

This table and chart shows the percent change in the party’s nominee’s trial heat polls in the Gallup survey two weeks prior to the convention as compared to the first Gallup poll after the convention. For example, in 1980, the Democratic candidate, Jimmy Carter, gained 2% in the post convention poll (a 2% bump). Ronald Reagan had a gain of 5% between his prior convention poll and the post convention poll (a 5% bump).

In 1992, Bill Clinton made his first campaign for president against incumbent President H. W. Bush. In the month before the convention, his polling share of the averaged 25%.

He was practically an unknown until the convention, but he was charismatic and he could “feel your pain.” When the dust settled after that convention his percent of the two party vote went from 40% to 57%!

The final column lists the party winner in each campaign. In our 1980 example, the winner indicates the Republican party nominee the winner (Ronald Reagan).

The average convention bump for all 10 election cycles for Democratic candidates was 5.2% and for Republican candidates 4.3%. No candidate in this time period had a negative result and two candidates had a net gain of zero.

Out of the ten election conventions, the candidate with the largest poll increase won six elections, suggesting that a positive convention develops some momentum.

In 2016, Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump had identical convention bumps of 2%, which may have foretold a close election.

Now that we have examples of previous “convention bumps” we can measure the changes caused by an abbreviated convention format.

If after the convention the bump is still within the average of previous election cycles, we can conclude that the changes had no effect on the election bump. If, however, it is significantly lower than previous conventions, we can conclude that having a more traditional convention is politically advantageous.

We will have to wait for the two conventions before we can calculate the impact. I don’t know about you, but I’m betting on a convention dud. Be safe…

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A TALE OF TWO INCUMBENT PRESIDENTS FIGHT FOR REELECTION

July 29, 2020

George W. Bush’s first term started with an approval rating of 60% and after the terrorist attacks on 9-11, it reached as high as 92%. But from that time on, his approval rating slowly deteriorated until it reached a low in May of 2004 at 46%, just five months before his reelection against John Kerry.

Both Bush and his political consultants at the time, understood the importance of the approval rating. No incumbent president had won reelection with a rating less than 48% since Truman. Bush’s father was defeated in 1992 with a 34% rating and now he faced defeat himself.

As the table below shows, out of the past 10 presidential reelections, only three were defeated and all three had ratings less that 48%.

ColumnYearJune of reelection yearFinal measure before electionWon reelection
  % Approve% Approve 
Obama20124852Yes
G.W. Bush20044948Yes
Clinton19965554Yes
G.H.W. Bush19923734No
Reagan19845458Yes
Carter19803237No
Ford197645n/aNo
Nixon197259n/aYes
Johnson196474n/aYes
Eisenhower19567268Yes


But George W. Bush’s approval rating reached the magical number just prior to election day, and he defeated Democrat John Kerry by a whopping 2.4% and 286 electoral votes.

It’s now the end of July and the latest national polls put Trump down by an average 9% and a current job approval rating at 42% (Gallup has him at 38%) with only a little more than three months till election day. The chart below shows both Bush and Trump’s approval ratings during the same time period.

Bush rating blue line and Trump rating red line.

Only Obama was able to increase his rating by 4% between June and November. Even if Trump manages that increase, it still only gives him a rating of 46%.

So forget about the trial heat polls, just look for the last job approval rating before the election. If Trump hit’s 48%, call your bookie and put it all on Donald J. Trump. Be safe…

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Another Metric that can Predict the Presidential Election Winner?

July 26, 2020

When I was doing research on how bookies make odds on elections, I found an article that noted how some bookies use favorability ratings of presidential candidates to calculate their odds. I personally have used these ratings in local and state surveys and found them to be quite useful at that level.

So I decided to see if these ratings had any impact on presidential races in the past. From Monmouth University’s monthly blog, I found data from their surveys going back to 1984, that included favorability ratings.

Their question gives voters three choices: favorable or unfavorable for Democratic candidate, unfavorable or unfavorable for Republican candidate, or neither candidate favorable. This question is strictly a popularity measure, but likely contains some perceptions of job performance.

The table below shows how voters ranked Democratic and Republican presidential candidates from 1984 to 2016 (this question wasn’t asked in 2008).

YEARDEMOCRAT
FAVORABLE %
REPUBLICAN
FAVORABLE %
NEITHER %WINNER**
20163324350
2012474150
2004414661
2000373650
1996393670
1992423390
1988383750
1984344631
WINNER1 = REP0 = DEM

What jumps out at is the 2016 election, where 35% chose neither! Monmouth says they have not seen this kind of reaction since using this question. But this was an unusual pair. Both Trump and Clinton had the lowest favorable ratings of all presidential candidates since 1984.

But is there a relationship between favorable ratings and winning the election? Monmouth did not address this question but my curiosity forced me find out.

To test if candidate ratings effect the election, I have added a column for the winning popular vote candidate, where 1 represents the Republican candidate and 0 the Democratic candidate. It does not measure the Electoral College vote.

In all of these eight elections, the popular vote was won by the candidate with the more favorable ratings, even if it was as little as 1%.

The average of Clinton’s favorable ratings is 38.9% and Trump at 37.4%, a difference of only 1.5%. This difference isn’t great, and a test of the mean differences suggests that the means are are equal to or greater than each other (p=<.001).

So how do Trump and Biden favorable ratings compare at this point in the campaign? Using Real Clear Politics average of recent favorable ratings (July/June), shows Trump with an average ratings of 39.5% and Joe Biden with an average rating of 45.5%, a difference of 6%.

Like most polls, Job Approval ratings, betting odds, Job Approval ratings, and now this Favorability rating, all give Biden, at this point in time, a significant chance of winning at the national level. This does not include the swing states and the Electoral College.

Remember, we still have over three months until the finish line. Polls are most accurate when nearer election day. Go ahead place your bets, but don’t bet your house on it just yet.

In a later post, I’ll explore the favorability ratings in the swing states, which if Trump is going to pull out a victory it will likely occur there by winning the Electoral College vote. Be safe…

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Do Likely Voter Polls Benefit Donald Trump?

July 22, 2020

The trend among most pollsters has always been to use a sample of all residents or registered voters early on in the election campaign and switch to likely voters as the election nears.

The reason for this protocol was explained to me by an early leader in modern campaign polling, Bill Hamilton, when we both taught at the University of Florida.

He explained that voters need some time to absorb the effects of the campaign and the competing candidates. Using a likely vote screen early on, leads many voters to fib about their likelihood of voting in an election still months away. And besides, he would say. “it’s cheaper.”

As we get closer to the November election, almost all polling firms will be utilizing likely voter screens.

But in the polling and campaign business, there are some who believe that the method of interviewing registered voters rather than likely voters early on, is an intentional method to under-report Trump’s real support in the polls.

This argument suggests that the more liberal public polling firms, by calling only registered voters is an intentional effort to increase Biden’s poll lead.

John McLaughlin, well known Republican pollster, commented how many pollsters are skewing the results by using registered voter samples.

The refusal to screen for actual likely voters is creating an under-polling of Republicans and therefore Trump voters. It seems intentional. It’s exactly what the media did in 2016. Let’s prove them wrong again.” ( ElectionsPolls & SurveysPress Releases, June 8, 2020)

For me, this argument begs the question, what are the polling differences between a registered voter sample and a so-called likely voter one.

The idea that Republican voters are more likely to vote in elections and Democrats less likely, has been asserted for many years. The argument goes like this, Republicans are better educated, wealthier and older. These are attributes that contribute to voting.

In 2010, the website FiveThityEight concluded that registered voters surveys favored Democrats by 5% over the actual election results and likely polls favored Republican candidates by 1%.

Oddly, the academic studies have not focused directly on this issue. It is true, that the opinion of pollsters and campaign consultants are all in agreement that more likely voters identify with the Republican Party and, of course, likely to choose a Republican candidate over a Democrat.

To address this issue on whether likely voter polls do favor Trump and registered voters Biden, I devised a way to test these assertions statistically by comparing two series of recent national surveys conducted by public polling firms.

The first group includes 22 polls of registered voters only. The second group includes 22 likely voter polls only. Both survey groups were completed in June and July with similar end dates. The polls asked the identical question of choice for president.

When comparing Trump’s percent only in both registered and likely voter surveys, the results showed a small difference between the two groups. The chart shows how likely voters tended to support Trump more than the registered voter surveys.

Blue line = Likely Voter surveys /Red line = Registered Voter surveys

As you can see the per survey differences weren’t substantial, with a mean difference of only 1.73%, in Trump’s favor.

LV.TRUMPRV.TRUMP
4041
3741
3940
4037
4040
3739
3937
4040
4139
4140
4939
4137
4440
4239
4242
4440
4141
4138
4340
4340
4440
4444
mean 41.5mean 39.7

But that’s only half of the story. This table and graph only shows the changes in Trump’s percentage without Biden. When you look at the percent difference between Biden and Trump in each poll, it reveals a completely different picture. After all, Trump isn’t running against himself (no comments, please).

The best way to measure the differences between two candidates is subtracting one percentage from another, creating a net difference variable. In this example, I’ve subtracted Trump’s results from Biden’s. The table below shows the net percentage difference between Biden and Trump by whether the sample was of registered (RV) or likely voters (LV). Positive numbers indicate a net percentage gain for Biden.

RV % DifferenceLV % Difference
812
89
154
104
912
89
154
134
88
1114
7-4
64
912
48
119
56
1210
810
99
811
710
123
RV mean = 9.2LV mean = 7.6
Biden / Trump Net % Difference in Registered Voters and Likely Voters

All the differences are positive except one likely voter survey with a minus 4%, which means that Trump had 4% lead over Biden in that one survey only. As the means for the two different modes show, Biden’s lead among registered voters is 9.2% and a 7.6% for the likely voter poll. In other words, Trump performs better in the likely voter sample by an average difference of 1.6%.

But is this modest difference real or just a random variation. To determine whether the differences are not random, I used a one sample T-test, which compares the mean of your sample data to a known value. In this case, is the mean of registered voters versus likely voters?

Without boring most of you with statistical data, the answer is yes, and the differences are statistically different at a P value of <.0001.

The individual differences between individual polls can sometimes be substantially larger than others. By comparing the results of two separate sets of polls, the differences are averaged out.

Notice that in this example, there are some polls showing Biden leading by 12% or even 14%. But when you combine those outliers with other polls, we average out those differences. (Remember the wisdom of the crowd.)

An example of that is an ABC News / Washington post poll released last Sunday. To their credit they used both registered and likely voters in the same survey. The registered voters had Biden at 55% and Trump at 40%, a 15 point differences. In the likely voter sample, Biden had 54% and Trump 44%, a 10% difference. The pattern is the same, Trump does better when the poll uses a likely voter sample, but the difference is based on only one survey.

This analysis confirms that Trump on average, does do better in likely voter polls than with traditional registered voter samples. It’s not at the level of the recent ABC / Washington Post Poll showing a 10% difference. This is not the case when we average a series of public polls in the same time period, using identical sampling methods.

With most recent public polls showing substantial leads for Biden, an average difference of 1.6% won’t help much. With almost four months and two Presidential debates to go, this campaign is just getting started. Stay tuned and stay safe…

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Is There a Better Way to Predict Who Will Win the Presidential Election than Polls?

July 19, 2020

Probably most viewers of this blog keep an eye on the latest Biden vs. Trump poll numbers. That and Trump’s job approval ratings are the only metrics we can use to see who is winning and losing before the election itself.

But there is another measure of how well the candidates are doing and is possibly more accurate than polls (or what your neighbor believes).

But first I need to describe why this metric works. In 2004, James Surowiecki published a book entitled The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations.

The book describes how the aggregation of information in groups increases prediction accuracy. As a real life example, he describes how a crowd at a county fair accurately guessed the weight of an ox when their individual guesses were averaged. The average of the guesses were significantly closer to the ox’s true butchered weight than the estimates of most crowd members.

His conclusion is that a diverse collection of independently deciding individuals is likely to make certain types of decisions and predictions better than individuals or even experts.

Although he doesn’t combine his insight with statistical sampling, the parallels are apparent. Surveys are, after all the aggregation of political opinions from a random selection of average voters.

The difference, of course, is that a traditional survey asks the voter who he or she will vote for and not who will win and by how much. Polls also become more accurate as the sample size increases (increasing the crowd). It is also the reason why combined polling averages can be more accurate than single poll as well.

In recent years, a number of prediction markets have appeared on the internet. These markets allow people to bet on the outcome of specific events such as elections. The concept of these markets is to allow people with or without expertise to make a bet on a specific event’s outcome, such as a presidential election.

The market prices indicate what the crowd thinks the probability of a certain event occurring. Market bets range from 0 to 100%, so the amount of the bet represents what betters expected probability that the event will occur. For example, if a person bets 62 cents a share on a certain candidate winning, that tells us that person believes that the odds of that candidate winning is 62%.

To test the viability of a prediction market, I will be reporting the market odds of Biden and Trump winning the November election. I have chosen a Predictit, a prediction market that specializes in political events such as presidential elections. Don’t worry, it’s completely legal because it’s a not-for-profit associated with a university.

On this site you can bet on not only the national presidential election, but also individual states as well. As of July 16th, the best national election offer for a Biden share was 63 cents. In market terms, that indicates a probability for Bidden winning at 63%. Donald Trump, on the other hand, the best offer for Trump is 39 cents per share or a 39% chance of winning.

The change in price for Bidden share since July 10th was only three cents (3%). For Trump his per share order has declined two cents (2%) in the same period. In other words, the market currently believes the odds of Biden winning is increasing and for Trump decreasing.

The rational of predictive markets is based on the economic theory of the efficient-market hypothesis, which states that prices reflect all available information. In other words, the market price includes all information that is necessary to make a predictable outcome.

In the case of a presidential election, that would obviously include polls, but also other information such as news reports, pundits on talk shows, the Covid pandemic and even friends and neighbors opinions.

The table below displays the battleground states and the corresponding share bets (cents) for each state. It also includes the current two month average of the latest poll results over the past two months.

SHARE SHARE
STATEBIDEN BETTRUMP BETBIDEN POLL%TRUMP%DIFF%
FLORIDA          633949.443.55.9
PENN            75264943.25.8
WISCONSIN       732847.842.45.4
OHIO            465647.744.7-3
MICHIGAN        752649.242.17.1
ARIZONA         643647.544.33.2
NORTH CAROLINA  584247.6452.6
GEORGIA         47544647.6-1.6
IOWA            445746.247.9-1.7
MINNESOTA       832052.341.311

Using Florida as an example, it shows that the current market bet on Biden winning is 63 cents a share. For Trump its 39 cents a share. In other words, the market believes the odds for Biden winning Florida is now 63%. At the same time, the latest polls show Biden with 49.4% and Trump at 43.5%, with Biden leading by 5.9%.

The data shows that market believes that Trump will only win three of the battleground states: Ohio, Georgia and Iowa. As you can see, their is also a consistency between the latest polling averages and the betters bets.

Why are people choosing on one candidate over another? To answer that, you have to remember that this is a for profit game, where winning is a financial gain and losing costs you money.

So the financial incentive should be paramount and not who you want to win. That should mean even Trump supporters could and are bidding on Biden, even if in their heart they would prefer the opposite outcome.

But that’s the very basis for the underlining wisdom of the crowd theory. It’s not who the better supports, but who he or she believes will win based on all available information.

The bidder calculus is based on the probabilities and the final payoff. Let me explain, if you bid 62 cents a share on Biden winning and he wins, your payoff is one dollar a share less the bid amount. Since you bid 62 cents, your net profit is 38 cents a share. If you bought a 1,000 shares, it cost you $620. Your profit is $380.

Now let’s say you think Trump can pull it out because the percent poll differences between the two candidates aren’t that great and he won that state in 2016. So instead of bidding on Biden, even though he is currently ahead, you buy 1,000 shares on Trump winning at a price of 32 cents a share for a total cost of $320. If he wins, your gross profit is a $1,000 less the $320 expense of purchase, for a net profit of $680, $300 more than the safer bet.

This scenario, however, only works if the bid price for a share is significantly lower than Biden’s, like the current bid price on Trump winning the national popular vote, which is currently at 38 cents a share. At the battleground state level, bid prices are usually higher due to their tendency to vote for both parties.

Do bidders use this scenario of bidding on the underdog to increase profits? Apparently they do when they think the polling differences aren’t that great or Trump is even leading.

Below is a regression graph showing how Trump bets per share in swing states increase as the poll differences decrease.

In the graph, the small circles are Trump bets on swing states. As the net percent polling difference increases in Biden’s favor (positive values), the number of Trump shares declines.

The sweet spot for Trump bets happen when the difference (% losing) is within the 3 and 7% difference in Biden’s favor. In that betting zone, is where the bulk of Trump bets occurred at prices they considered reasonable (25 cents to 42 cents a share).

Arizona is a good example. At this point, Biden leads Trump 3.2% and the best offer for Trump winning is 36 cents a share.

Although Arizona is suffering from a serious spike in new Covid-19 cases, the Republicans have won the last five presidential elections. The political website 270 to Win, has it as a toss up state. At 36 cents a share, for many betters this would be good buy, considering the potential payoff. (Now that I’m writing this, I’m considering buying a couple of Arizona Trump shares.)

When Trump is leading in the polls, some betters are willing to pay a premium for a share since they consider it a safer bet, such as in Georgia and Iowa, where Trump leads in the polls by 1.6% and 1.7% respectively. The current price is 54 cents and 57 cents a share.

Many of the Trump betters are using the strategy outlined in the national poll scenario, making bids less than 27 cents a share in a couple of cases when the polling percent differences are within 7%. If you win, your profits increase significantly.

Betting markets can provide us with another metric on who is winning and losing based on free market forces, but it doesn’t replace polls in my judgement. When all the votes are cast, I’ll evaluate how well it did compared to other methods.

In 2016, Predictit shares also predicted Hillary Clinton would win. The day before the November 7 election, the going bet was 81 cents a share she would win. A lot of people lost money that day…be safe.

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“Biden Opens Up Largest Polling Lead of the Year Over Trump …” Bloomberg News

July 16, 2020

I’m sure by now you have heard how Biden is extending his lead in the latest polls. The media has blasted that headline on every website and newspaper in the country. Although Bloomberg’s headline is correct, it’s not the whole story, which I think is even more interesting.

In the Chart below, we see how Biden’s net lead over Trump has increased over the past seven months.


Each bar represents the monthly average of all public polls with the trail ballot question between Biden and Trump. In January, Biden’s lead was 5%. By June it had increased to 12%. Statistically, that’s an 82% increase in six months.

Now let’s look at Biden’s and Trump’s share of the two party vote in the same time period in the chart below.

Biden Monthly Percent = Blue Line / Trump Red Line

Biden’s average percent in January was 49.8%% and his average in July was 49%, a 0.8% difference in seven months. Yet his average lead over Trump increased to 12%. In the chart above, notice the blue line (Biden) moves steadily along the 49% line, and takes only minor deviations from that line.

So how did Biden’s lead increase to 12%? The answer is that his numbers didn’t change but Trump’s declined, increasing Biden’s net gain even though his share of the vote hardly changed at all. In other words, there are not more for votes for Biden but less for Trump.

So where did all those votes go? They go where all voters go when they can’t make a decision: the undecided/don’t know category.

What does that mean? Simply put, these votes are now up for grabs by either candidate, but I would rather be Biden than Trump at this point. Some of these voters may not vote at all, which means they are contributing to Biden’s victory anyway.

If you are a Biden supporter, don’t go out and party just yet (bars are closed anyway). There are the Conventions and debates still ahead. Research suggests that many voters don’t start making up there mind until after labor day. The finish line is still a ways to go…Be safe.

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Can Donald Trump Win the 2020 Election through the Swing States Again?

July 13, 2020

Donald Trump’s only path to another term in the White House is through the swing states and not the national popular vote. In other words, he has to repeat his wining strategy in 2016 where he lost the popular vote by 2.1% but won the Electoral College by 74 votes. (I eliminated the 7 faithless electors.)

Both his national polling numbers and job approval ratings suggest that without the help of divine intervention, his winning the national vote is highly unlikely with only four months and a pandemic.

But does this strategy have any chance of working at this point? To discover the answer to this question, we need to look to the past to see a possible future: 2016, 2012 and 2008 presidential elections.

In this analysis, I have included the three past presidential elections from ten swing states: Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Arizona, Georgia,, North Carolina, Iowa and Minnesota. In the last three presidential elections, each of these states, except Arizona, voted for two different party candidates in separate elections.

In 2016, Donald Trump carried all but Minnesota, for a total of total of 131 electoral votes. Of all these swing states Clinton, the first woman to run for president from a major party, carried only one: Minnesota. The table below shows each of the swing states two party percent of the vote and the percent difference of votes cast and a graph of the data below it.

Column2Column3Column4Column5
2016CLINTONTRUMP% DIFF
FLORDA          47.849.02-1.22
PENN            47.548.2-0.7
WISCONSIN       46.547.2-0.7
OHIO            43.651.7-8.1
MICHIGAN        47.347.5-0.2
ARIZONA         44.648.1-3.5
NORTH CAROLINA  46.248.5-2.3
GEORGIA         45.350.4-5.1
IOWA            41.751.2-9.5
MINNASOTA       46.444.91.5
AVERAGE %45.6948.672-2.982
TABLE 1 2016 SWING STATE RESULTS

The average percent difference between the two candidates for all ten states was nearly -3%, the percent Clinton lost by in these 10 swing states. Not much, but enough to put Hillary Clinton’s name in the history books with an asterisk. In Elections, unlike horseshoes, being close doesn’t matter.

In 2008, we had two non-incumbents facing off for the ultimate political prize. John McCain, the U.S. Senator from Arizona. McCain started the Republican primary season as an underdog, but made a comeback when he won the New Hampshire primary by defeating future nominee Mitt Romney.

Through out the general election campaign, McCain was considered an underdog against the first African-American candidate to run for president, Barack Obama.

And it showed in our ten swing states, where John McCain almost matched Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss. The Table below, shows both Obama and McCain’s percentage of the vote in each state.

2008OBAMAMcCAIN% DIFF
FLORDA          50.948.222.68
PENN            54.544.210.3
WISCONSIN       56.242.313.9
OHIO            51.546.94.6
MICHIGAN        57.340.916.4
ARIZONA         44.953.4-8.5
NORTH CAROLINA  49.749.40.3
GEORGIA         46.946.90
IOWA            53.944.49.5
MINNASOTA       54.143.810.3
TABLE 2 2008 SWING STATE RESULTS

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The only state McCain won was Arizona, his home state. Nationally, he lost to the country’s first Black American president by 5.9%. Another asterisk in probably the most monumental election in history.

The 2012 presidential election pitted Obama against Mitt Romney, the first Mormon presidential candidate to run for the highest office in the land. (A lot of firsts in these three elections!) In the Table below, you can see that Romney won three of these swing states.

012OBAMAROMNEY% DIFF
FLORDA         50.0149.130.88
PENN           51.146.64.5
WISCONSIN      52.845.96.9
OHIO           50.747.73
MICHIGAN       54.244.79.5
ARIZONA        44.553.5-9
NORTH CAROLINA 48.3550.4-2.05
GEORGIA        45.553.3-7.8
IOWA           51.946.25.7
MINNASOTA      52.644.97.7
AVERAGE %50.16648.2331.933
Table 3 2012 Obama vs Romney Swing State Results



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Of the three election cycles, Romney did better than either Clinton or McCain. He only lost by 1.9% in all of these 10 swing and carried Arizona, Georgia and North Carolina.

The question is whether Trump can repeat his 2016 swing state victories in 2020? This question will likely be determined by two variables: voters overall appraisal of his job approval and their comparison of Joe Biden as an alternative.

At this point in the campaign, our best gauge of how either candidate is doing in each swing state are the latest polls conducted there. Using the average of state level surveys conducted since June 1, 2020 from Real Clear Politics, I have added it to each swing state’s data, as seen in Table 4 below.

STATEBIDEN %TRUMP %DIFFERENCE %
Georgia48453
Pennsylvania48.5426.5
North Carolina47.544.23.3
Florida47.542.85.7
Arizona47.244.44.7
Wisconsin48.5426.5
Michigan4840.57.5
OHIO 44.744.70
 MINNASOTA 584216
IOWA44.546-1.3
AVERAGE %48.2443.364.88
TABLE 4 BIDEN VS TRUMP POLLING SINCE JUNE 1st

Biden is behind Trump in only one state, Iowa by a -1.3% and tied with him Ohio. That doesn’t mean Trump can’t win any of the swing states, but it suggests the road to victory through the swing states is going to be a rocky one.

The other problem for Donald Trump is that Joe Biden is not Hillary Clinton. By that I mean his unfavorable ratings are significantly less than her’s were in 2016 prior the general election.

Real Clear Politics unfavorable average for Clinton right before the 2016 election was 54.4%, compared to Biden’s current average of 46.1%, over 8 points less than her negative ratings in 2016. Donald Trump’s current unfavorable rating is 56%, some 12 points higher than Biden’s unfavorable rating.

So to sum up, if Trump is unable to win the popular vote he will have to again rely on the swing states, many of which he won in 2016. But the times have changed and I will repeat again, he doesn’t have Hillary to help him this time. In recent swing states polls, he is upside down in all but Iowa.

He has four months to make up some ground on Biden. He has the convention bounce and of course, the Presidential Debates and maybe some good news on the pandemic. I will be returning to swing states again as we get closer to the election. I love politics, don’t you….Be safe.

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Trump Supporters Don’t Despair (Yet)

July 11, 2020

In previous posts, I have stated that no incumbent President has won re-election with an approval rating less than 48% on the last poll before the election since Truman.

The reasoning for this statistical fact is based on the theory that the approval rating gauges both the president’s popularity as well as his job performance. In essence, the job approval of a incumbent president is a referendum on his performance. Most scholars consider this rating the best single measure for reelection, but only within a couple of months of the election.

It’s no secret that Trump’s approval ratings have been low for sometime. His rating has averaged 42.9% over the last six months, 5% less than it should be on election day. But how does this compare to other president’s ratings at the same period in the past? And does he still have time to recover?

I decided that the 2012 election would make a good comparison since Barack Obama also suffered from a job approval deficiency during much of his final year before his reelection.

In a comparison of Trump and Obama’s job approval rating from January through June of their final year in office. In Table 1 below, are the approval ratings of both candidates’ from polls conducted on the same dates — but, of course, from different years: 2011 /2012 for Obama and 2019 / 2020 for Trump.

TRUMP SURVEYTRUMPOBAMAOBAMA SURVEYPOLL
End DateAPPROVEAPPROVEEND DATEDIFFERNCE
6/30/202038486/30/201210
6/4/202039466/4/20127
5/13/202049465/13/2012-3
4/28/202049484/28/2012-1
4/14/202043474/14/20124
3/22/202049473/22/2012-2
3/13/202044483/13/20124
2/28/202047452/28/2012-2
2/16/202049462/16/2012-3
1/29/202049461/29/2012-3
1/15/202044461/15/20122
12/15/2019454112/15/2011-4
11/14/2019434411/14/20111
10/31/2019414310/30/20112
10/13/2019393810/13/2011-1
9/30/201940419/30/20111
9/15/201943399/15/2011-4
8/30/201939398/30/20110
8/14/201941418/14/20110
7/31/201942437/31/20111
7/12/201944467/12/20112
6/30/201941446/30/20113
6/16/201943456/16/20112
5/30/201940475/29/20117
5/12/201942505/12/20118
4/30/201946464/30/20110
4/9/201945454/9/20110
3/10/201939473/10/20118
2/18/201943512/18/20118
2/10/201944472/10/20113
1/27/201937491/27/201112
1/10/201937481/11/201111
TABLE 1: 2012 / 2016 TRUMP AND OBAMA JOB APPROVAL RATINGS

The survey dates are identical for both series to keep the comparison in the same time frame prior to the next election. The only difference is the year of the poll.

The last column shows the two candidate’s approval differences. Positive numbers indicate that Obama’s ratings were higher and the negative values shows that Trump’s ratings were higher (Obama rating ,- Trump rating).

During these two campaign time frames, Trump’s average approval rating is 43% and Obama has an average rating of 47%. The final two approval ratings for Trump in this series were his lowest at 37% each and trashed his average. In comparison, that gave Obama a 17% rating lead over Trump. The figure below shows how the two candidate’s approval ratings varied in the respective time periods.

Red line Trump Approval ratings / Blue Obama Ratings

Obama (blue line) started out higher during this time period, but then took a dive around August and didn’t recover until October of 2011. Trump was doing better see-sawing closer to the 50% mark, his highest ratings of his presidency.

But in last two July polls, his ratings collapsed by 20 points. His falling approval rating is likely caused by the rising cases of Covid-19 and his response to the crisis. If that is the case, his approval ratings may not bounce back anytime soon, if at all.

In the November of 2012, Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney with 51.1% of the popular vote. His last approval rating before the election was 47.9%. (OK, its not quite 48%).

Donald Trump could still increase his ratings in the next four months, but time is running out and the virus is again raising its ugly head.

I know most folks are watching the trial ballot polls between Trump and Biden, but we should keep an eye on the job approval ratings as well. Be safe…