How did Obama Win Florida and How did Clinton Lose it?

July 9, 2020

Reading a recent article about how Barack Obama won the two terms for president, it made me start to wonder how he managed to win Florida twice and Hillary Clinton lost it in 2016. His victories were close, of course, and his victory over Mitt Romney in 2012 was less than one percent. Hillary’s loss in 2016 was 1.2%.

My curiosity led me to compare Obama’s and Clinton’s Florida county by county results to see why he succeeded and she failed. In Table 1 below, I have listed Obama’s 2012 and Clinton’s 2016 percent of each Florida county vote.

Alachua 5758.97
Baker   20.2916.72
Bay     27.5324.92
Brevard 42.9438.02
Broward 67.1266.51
Calhoun 26.9120.41
Citrus  38.3728.59
Clay    26.6126.13
Collier 34.6235.77
DeSoto  42.2234.95
Dixie   25.8417.63
Duval   47.6747.54
Flagler 45.7738.3
Gadsden 70.0167.92
Glades  40.0329.2
Gulf    28.2623.58
Hardee  3428.34
Hendry  46.5141.52
Holmes  15.2510.02
Indian River38.4136.3
Jackson 35.0230.4
Lake    40.8936.86
Lee     41.3238.27
Leon    61.1360.52
Levy    33.1526.3
Liberty 28.6419.75
Madison 47.8541.46
Manatee 43.2239.8
Marion  41.3235.51
Martin  38.0935.18
Monroe  49.5644.66
Nassau  25.2323.32
Orange  58.5660.39
Osceola 61.7360.95
Palm Beach58.1456.57
Pasco   45.8637.38
Polk    45.9541.3
Putnam  37.1330.48
Saint Joe30.5921.04
Saint Lucie53.4242.73
Santa Rosa23.0647.09
Sumter  32.2529.53
Suwanee 26.8521.2
Taylor  30.2423.16
Union   24.7617.81
Volusia 48.7841.82
Wakulla 35.2128.32
Walton  23.3420.44
Table 1 Obama and Clinton County Percent

Overall, Obama outperformed Clinton by 4.3% in all 67 counties. The chart below displays the counties where Obama either out performed or under performed her (red bars) in 2012.

I subtracted Obama’s percent of the vote from Clinton’s to calculate a net performance rating. In all but six counties (red bars), he outperformed her in the same counties in his 2012 election. Santa Rosa County showed a particular dislike for Obama in 2012, and I’m hesitant to speculate the reason for that anomaly.

So would have Hillary beat Donald Trump in 2016, if she had performed at the same level as Barack Obama in 2012? Realizing that Mitt Romney and Donald Trump are two very different candidates and that Hillary carried her own political baggage, the answer is yes. She only lost by 1.2% and if her campaign had carried the same counties at the same level as Obama, she would have defeated Donald Trump by 3%.

I know what you are thinking, would that have denied Trump’s Electoral College victory? NO… Donald Trump’s Electoral College vote was 304. If you subtract Florida’s 29 electoral votes, that would still leave Trump with 275 votes, five more than needed to capture the White House!

This analysis shows that the small Republican leaning counties still matter when combined together. In other words, if you are a Democrat, you don’t have to win a county as long as you eat away at the Republican vote.

Florida Democrats have long depended on the larger urban counties that traditionally vote Democratic and spent less time and money in the smaller Republican leaning ones.

Obama changed that paradigm, as shown in Table 1. You can still win the big Democratic counties, and at the same time eat away at Republican’s advantage in the smaller, less urban ones.

Hillary Clinton outperformed Obama in most large urban counties such as Broward and Miami-Dade but he outperformed her in almost all of the smaller Republican leaning counties. Yes, both elections were close but that only counts in horseshoes. In the end, the candidate with the most votes wins and not the number of counties you carried. Be safe…


Online vs. Live Caller Polls: Which is Better?

July 6, 2020

I was just beginning my survey career in the 1980’s, just as pollsters were transitioning from in-person interviews to telephone surveys. Gallup finally gave up the in-person survey in 1988, marking the end of public polls using in-person surveys.

Today the new kid on the block is the online poll where interviews are conducted through the internet via computers and cell phones. This change has blossomed for a number of reasons, the most important is cost. A telephone survey is far more expensive to conduct.

The other problem is the response rate, which is the percentage of people who complete a telephone poll. Today that rate has dropped to 6% of voters. This has led some national firms, like Pew Research, to shift most of its surveys to an online format.

But there are downsides to this change. The most important is the lack of randomness that telephone surveys enjoy. The key issue for any poll is that every respondent has an equal probability of being selected and interviewed. Probability Theory mandates that randomness is necessary to make mathematical assumptions as to the reliability of the poll. In other words, whether we have confidence in the results based on expected error.

Opt-in polls are self-selecting and are not random, consequently the results are not testable. That doesn’t mean the results are wrong, but it does mean you cannot use probability theory to estimate the potential error. Some major survey firms that use online polls, compensate for this by using national panels of voters that are recruited via probability methods like the American Trends Panel.

Even with these issues, most national surveys have switched to online polls. The ultimate question is how different are they from live-caller surveys? To analyse this, I have adopted a method called an observational study which does not require the randomization the subjects involved. This is often used in medical, economic and political studies where the randomization of participants is not possible.

In June, most polls started to show Joe Biden expanding his lead over Donald Trump in national and state polls. Taking the results of all surveys conducted in June, I selected national polls using two different survey methods: online and live caller interviews that occurred within two days of each other. The object was to measure if the results of the two methods resulted in significantly different results.

In June there were 10 live-caller surveys and 10 online only surveys. In both mode types, Biden led in every poll ranging from seven percent to fourteen percent. As shown in Table 1 below, the number in each column is the percentage lead Biden had in each survey mode.

Table 1: Biden poll lead over Trump in July

The average percent lead for Biden in the online polls is 8.3%. In the live-caller polls, it is 10.5% or a difference of 2.2%. In the chart below, we see a graphic representation of the both poll methods.


The red line shows the live-caller poll’s percent lead for Biden and the blue line the online-poll percent lead for Biden. Although some results showed both polls with similar outcomes, overall it is apparent that Biden in general has a small lead among live caller surveys. But is there a statistical difference in the two modes?

Using a simple student T-Test, we can confirm if the differences are significant or just a random occurrence.

One-Sample Test
 Test Value = 0                                       
MODE TYPESig. (2-tailed) 95% Confidence Interval of the Difference
TABLE 2 significance level <.0001

As shown in Table 2, the differences are significant (Sig. level =.000) is less than .05, so we have confidence that the two modes are significantly different from each other.

So we have two types of surveys, one group using live callers from a randomized list and another group from online surveys with opt-in panels taken in the same time frame. Both sets show Biden in the lead but the online surveys show the lead significantly less than the live-interviews surveys.

In 2016, there was a similar pattern that showed non-live interviewer polls narrowing the gap after June between Trump and Clinton, but still showing Clinton leading. In the end, the online surveys in many battleground states had the race closer but with Clinton still losing.

Non-live interview firms have always asserted that some voters are more honest about their voting intentions when responding to either an online or IVR (robocall) poll.

This would usually be attributable to what political scientists call social-desirability effects, that is when a voter gives an answer that is considered more acceptable even though they don’t believe in it, when they are talking to a real person. And the online survey mode may give some Trump voters more courage to respond truthfully, since there is no live interviewer.

So what is a poll watcher to do? My advice is to average all the polls for that period and ignore the poll mode. It won’t guarantee the actual results are correct, but it increases the number of surveys and, of course, the total respondents. The “law of large numbers” can increase the accuracy. More on this in a future post. Be safe…


The Changing American Voter

July 1, 2020

It’s one of those laws of the universe, isn’t it? Nothing stays the same. Things change.” – Author: Sam Gayton

Sometimes you become immune to demographic changes. They sneak up on you until one day you wake up and find that the world you thought you knew has moved on and left you with new people and ideas that no one ever mentioned before. This is a good thing and you must grow with it.

People grow old and younger folks take their place, and with them comes a new political environment. The U.S. is now facing such an demographic revolution as the decline of the Baby Boomer generation accelerates. America is becoming more diverse, with new ideas and beliefs.

With the recent exposure of police brutality regarding Black Americans has bared this nation’s history of unequal treatment for many of its citizens.

Some historic and long dead figures in American history, now face new public scrutiny about what they both said and acted on during their life on earth. And Mississippi has finally removed the Confederate symbol from its own flag. As Bob Dylan once sang, “The Times They are A-Changin’.”

Politics are not immune from these changes. White voters who have dominated American politics since the Revolution are starting to show their age. In the following chart, we can see how white voters are declining as a percent of the electorate since 1990, by some 14% in just 28 years.

Source: United State Election Project

Some of this decline is due to deaths, but most of it is caused by the increasing number of other ethnic groups, particularly Black voters. As an example of the increasing voting power of Black voters demonstrated in the 2012 presidential race where turnout for White non-Hispanic voters was 64.1% and for Blacks 66.2%. This is the first time since the Census Bureau began recording turnout numbers that the Black voter turnout was greater than White’s.

This high turnout was due largely to Barack Obama on the ballot, but illustrates the increasing influence on Black voters in election outcomes. This statistic alone should convince the Biden campaign to add a Black woman to his presidential ticket.

The next chart gives some overall perspective of how this change is effecting turnout in recent elections.

Source: United States Elections Project

The blue line in this chart shows the yearly turnout rate for non-Hispanic Whites since 1986 and the red line Black voters. You can see how Black voters have slowly gained on whites turnout rates. In the 2016 presidential election, Black voters fell 5% from the previous presidential election. With the loss of these voters, Hillary Clinton lost the election.

In 2020, the composition of the turnout will likely determine the outcome. Trump voters are still likely to show up and Biden is not Hillary Clinton. Biden’s success will depend on Black voters. If White voters continue to decline, the Republican Party will over time will suffer. “Demographics are destiny” said Auguste Comte. Be safe…


The Polarization of the American Electorate: Part 3

Race and Guns

June 28, 2020

Our continuing series on the differences between Trump and Biden supporters touches on the how the two groups differ fundamentally on race relations and guns, both issues that consume the nation today.

On the issue of whether blacks are have gotten less than they deserve, most Trump devotees strongly disagree, as shown below.

Pro-Trump folks also believe that Blacks need to try harder and Biden supporters disagree with that statement with equal intensity as displayed below.

To reinforce how Trump supporters see Blacks, I have recoded the black thermometer ratings into four categories: 0-25 degrees, 26-49 degrees, 50-75 degrees and 76-100 degrees and compared these categories to Trump’s thermometer ratings, as shown below.

The first bar represents voters who ranked Blacks between zero and 25 degrees, the most negative ratings. These same folks gave Donald Trump a thermometer rating of 85.2 degrees (very warm).

Do Trump supporters like their guns? Boy do they! The Chart below tracks the number of gun owners by how they rate Donald Trump. Gun ownership starts at zero and maxes out at 999 and his ratings rise pretty much with the number of guns they own.

The person with the lowest rating of Trump owns no guns. What is remarkable (at least for me) is that the greater the Trump support, the more guns they own. The strongest Trump rating (99.3 degrees) has almost 1000 guns. I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to mess with a strong Trump supporter!

After seeing how many guns pro-Trump supporters have, I’m not surprised by the following chart, which asks if they are worried about being a victim of a mass shooting.

The Trump devotees are packing and no mass shooter better mess with them! Trump supporters with an average arsenal of nearly 12 guns are ready for that shooter. For the poor Trump supporter guy with only kitchen knife, he should be extremely afraid.

Although much of this is humorous, these charts demonstrate the serious political divide this country faces. Can America still call itself the “United States of America” when a Grand Canyon separates us on key issues? I’m not sure anymore…Be safe.


The Polarization of the American Electorate. Special Series on Trump and Biden Positions on Key Issues

The Immigration Issue

June 24, 2020

I’m sure that you are familiar how America has become polarized over the last decade. This relatively new phenomenon is mainly based along partisan lines. For example, when pollsters show how the public views the economy, Democrats and Republicans have significantly different evaluations when faced with the same data.

With the White House occupied by a Republican president, Republican voters have more positive views and Democrats more negative opinions. It’s like these two groups occupy different countries: the Republic of Republicana and the Democratic Territory of Americana.

This phenomenon is not just based on partisanship alone. Partisan voters also take their cues from party leadership as well, with the occupant of the White House particularly influential. Donald Trump’s suggestion that injecting Lysol could possibly cure the Covid virus caused Maryland’s hotline to receive over 100 calls asking if it was a good idea after he made that suggestion on TV.

Donald Trump has a loyal and almost religious-like devotion from his supporters. To test how that devotion influences their opinions on common issues such as immigration, education and health care. Using Democratic or Republican identity, however would not isolate the Trump voter specifically. We need a better method to measure both the Trump’s and Biden’s supporters opinions and intensity on key issues.

Having published a number of academic political papers over the years, I have used data developed by the American National Election Studies (ANES), that conducts regular surveys of American opinion on hundreds of issues.

One of it’s signature questions is called the Feeling Thermometer, which measures opinions on people or issues by a thermometer rating, where ratings between 50 degrees and 100 degrees mean that you feel favorable and warm toward the person, group, or country. And ratings between 0 degrees and 50 degrees mean that you don’t feel favorable and warm toward a person, group, or country. The higher the thermometer rating indicates greater support intensity for the candidate.

Demonstration Thermometer
Feeling Thermometer Example

In December of 2019, the ANES conducted a pilot study of 3,165 interviews conducted online containing hundreds of political and social questions, in addition to feeling thermometer ratings for Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Since I wanted a contrast between Trump and Biden voters on everyday issues, this data set seemed perfect.

My solution to this problem, was to subtract Trump’s thermometer rating from Biden’s. I call this the Biden-Trump net thermometer rating. The average was for 4,271 values, was a +5.1.

Since we subtracted Trump’s rating from Biden’s, all positive values represent Biden’s net thermometer rating and all negative values are Trump’s. The distribution of these ratings is shown in the graph below.

The graph shows that the data forms a normal distribution, with the bars to the right of the center representing Biden’s net ratings and bars to the left are Trump’s net ratings. The mean is +5.1, meaning a there is a slight net advantage for Biden, but in general, the two sets of net ratings between the two candidates is very close.

Now that we have candidate intensity variable, we can compare how the two sets of voters differ from each other. Let’s start with one my favorite example in this series and see how the net ratings classify Trump and Biden voters on issues as an example.

*Net thermometer ratings: Positive ratings indicate Biden supporters and negative ratings represent Trump supporters. The larger the numerical value indicates their support intensity for either candidate.

The ANES survey asked questions on how much a threat certain countries are to the US security. The responses range from “not at all” to a “great deal.” In this case the country is Mexico.

The five bars have a value ranging from 38.06 for “not at all” to -56.11 for “a great deal.” Since that number is negative, it tells us that most Trump supporters chose this response. A smaller number of Trump supporters chose “a lot.”

Most Biden supporters chose “not at all,” as shown by the +38.06 net thermometer rating. Remember, positive numbers represent pro-Biden supporters and negative values Trump.The larger the number, the more intense voters like either Trump or Biden.

I have to say the responses to this question surprised me. After all, I don’t look at Mexico as a particularly important security risk to the US. The entire Mexican army wouldn’t make good parade in America.

That’s obviously what Biden supporters thought. But Trump supporters were not thinking traditional risks to our security, but about the risks of Mexican illegal immigrants entering the country.

So let’s start this series of Trump vs Biden supporters opinions on important issues facing the nation. Today’s series starts with the subject of immigration. We all know how Donald Trump feels about this issue. Let’s see how his base reacts to this issue, starting with the border wall.

The Immigration Issue

Trump has used this issue of a border wall since the 2016 campaign, so it is no surprise that his base is enthusiastic about this statement. Biden supporters, on the other hand, are in general opposed to the wall.

As for a path to citizenship, Trump supporters are opposed to citizenship, even if they pay a fine and pass security checks. Simply put, they don’t want these immigrants here.

This chart only confirms that Trump supporters just want them sent back to their home country. Biden enthusiasts are generally opposed to sending illegals back.

Even with the Covid-19 pandemic, if we can’t send them back, for Trump devotees putting illegals in detention centers that are overcrowded with bad conditions is an option for them. Biden supporters don’t support this option.

For a Trump supporter, releasing immigrants because the detention centers have no room, even under supervision, is not an option. For Biden fans, releasing illegal immigrants under supervision seems OK to most.

Separating children from their parents rather than keeping them together in detentions centers draws the most differences between Trump and Biden supporters.

I suspect that both sides are taking their cue’s from recent news coverage about the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that separates all illegal immigrants’ children, even infants, and sent them to other federal facilities. Even some Trump followers objected the this policy.

Although not exactly an immigration issue, speaking in public in a foreign language does bother Trump devotees, as the chart below shows.

This series final chart, does suggest that a person speaking Spanish at a restaurant annoys Trump supporters. “A mal…”

In the next series on the polarization between Trump and Biden supporters, I will cover how they feel about experts and scientists advice. This will give you some idea why many people won’t wear masks. Look out for it and stay safe…



June 18, 2020

In my search for new data sources, I discovered a series of polls that included what pollsters call “favorability ratings” prior to and after the 2016 Presidential Election. As a pollster, I have used the favorable ratings in almost every political survey. It is a non-presidential candidate version of the job approval rating. It’s a simple question that usually gives two options: favorable or unfavorable.

Gallup used this question for Donald Trump in the months leading up to his 2016 election. As you may recall, some of the 2016 state polls had some significant errors that led to analysts to underestimate the Electoral College, but the national polls were generally accurate with the Real Clear Politics average prior to the election was 48.2% Clinton and 46.1% Trump. The final results were exactly the same.

Since these favorable ratings are from national voters, I consider them reasonably reliable. The chart below is graphic representation of Trump’s favorable rating from May through December, one month after the election.

The dates above should read from right to left. The data for this graph and the corresponding dates are listed below in Table 1.

Dec 7-11                                             4255N/A
2016 Nov 9-13                                        425545
2016 Nov 1-6                                         346244
2016 Oct 10-23                                       326545
2016 Sep 26-Oct 9                                    336344
2016 Sep 12-25                                       336242
2016 Aug 29-Sep 11                                   336242
2016 Aug 15-28                                       336241
2016 Aug 3-7 34 63                                   346341
2016 Aug 1-14  32 63                                 326342
2016 Jul 18-31  35 60                                356041
2016 Jul 13-17 33 63                                 336341
2016 Jul 5-17  32 62                                 326240
2016 Jun 20-Jul 3  33 62                             336238
2016 Jun 6-19  30 64                                 306434
2016 May 23-Jun 5  31 63                             316332
Trump Favorable Ratings and Poll Percents on Same Dates.

There are two points to notice in this series of Trump favorable and poll numbers. First, his unfavorable rating never dropped below 60% during the last seven months of the campaign, until he was elected.

Secondly, notice how consistent his favorable ratings are, while his percent of the polling vote increases. There is no significant correlation between the two variables, which suggests that liking or disliking a candidate does not seem to effect their vote choice, by itself.

With unfavorable ratings this high, you are probably wondering how Trump managed to lose the national vote by only 2%. Well if you do, you forgot about the other candidate: Hilary Clinton.

When you compare her favorable/unfavorable ratings, the choice is a little clearer. It turns out that both candidates are upside down when you subtract their unfavorable ratings from their favorable ratings (net rating), as shown in the chart below.

The blue bars are Trump’s net (negative) ratings and the green, Clinton’s net (negative) ratings. On average, Trump net favorable rating is a -29%. Clinton’s has a net favorable of -13%. In other words, Clinton has a positive 16% favorable difference when compared to Donald Trump. This is the classic “lesser of two evils” scenario. And Clinton wins.

So how does Biden’s ratings stack up against Donald Trump? You probably got a clue from this posts title. Yes, Donald Trump has never been popular. In the Table below shows both candidates favorable and unfavorable ratings, as well as their net favorable ratings.


6/13 – 6/164356-1353449
6/14 – 6/164257-154850-2
6/11 – 6/154056-164246-4
6/12 – 6/144056-164150-9
6/12 – 6/144154-134448-4
6/2 – 6/34052-1245378
5/28 – 6/24053-133738-1
5/28 – 6/13857-194249-7
5/25 – 5/284256-144651-5
5/13 – 5/144352-947443
5/7 – 5/104554-94550-5
Trump and Biden Favorable/Unfavorable Ratings

Trump’s average net rating is -13.5% and Biden -1.5%, a net difference of 12% in Biden’s favor. So if the favorable ratings were the only reason for voting for president, Biden at this point would win. The Chart below graphically shows the two candidate’s relative favorable positions.

The Blue bars represent Biden’s ratings and the red, Trump. As you can see, Trump’s ratings have all been negative, but Biden has three periods where his ratings were positive. And, of course, his negatives are far less than Trump’s.

It is not unusual for public officials to have negative ratings and that is particularly true of presidential candidates. Partisanship differences color most of our evaluations. That’s why I’m a little surprised that Biden had any positive ratings at all.

More importantly, this series shows that Trump has never been liked, even on the day he was elected. On that day, 62% of voters had unfavorable opinion of him. The next day, some people changed their minds, but most still didn’t like him. As I tell my children, vote even if you have to hold your nose…


The Florida Governor Says Don’t Worry: It’s The Hospitalizations That Matter

June 16, 2020

You may have read or heard that new Covid-19 cases are spiking. We used to think that a couple hundred of new cases were high, now thousands are the new normal. The Governor blames these new cases on increased testings. Obviously, more testing does reveal more Covid cases, but no one knows by how much.

So how can we tell if the virus is expanding? The Governor has cited new hospitalizations, as a better indicator of whether the virus is now spreading. In reality, that is not the case.

New hospitalizations reflect the severity of the virus cases and not the rate it is being spread. That is an important distinction, since many infected people have milder symptoms and never need to check into an ICU hospital room. Unfortunately , they can still spread the virus to more vulnerable people.

So let’s assume the Governor is right and new cases isn’t a good marker for tracking the virus and hospitalizations are.

Daily Hospitalization From March 27 Through June 15

The Chart above shows the daily number of new hospitalizations since March 27th. The average daily rate was 143, with the lowest daily hospitalization was 32 and the highest 265. The last few days it moved lower, but the pattern over time is up and down.

The question isn’t whether the state is in control of the virus, but more if is it capable of handling a significant spike in new hospitalizations, if it happens. Looking at the State’s five largest counties: Palm Beach, Miami-Dade, Broward, Hillsboro and Duval Counties, where most cases have occurred, we can see how prepared we are if faced by many life-threatening cases.

Below is a table with each county’s total ICU beds, ICU beds currently available and the percent of ICU beds available.

BROWARD     35211024%
DUVAL       33010825%
MIAMI-DADE  2582625%
PALM BEACH  3129423%

As you can see, it wouldn’t take much of a spike to fill these remaining ICU beds. A bad traffic accident on I-95 could fill the remaining beds in Mami-Dade, and Hillsboro isn’t much better. Palm Beach County has only 59 beds and it’s averaging over 300 new Covid cases a day.

The chart below gives some perspective to the availability of ICU beds compared to the total number of ICU beds in each county. The tiny gray bars are the available ones.

The Governor maybe right and wrong at the same time. Hospitalizations are not, at this moment, significantly rising. But it won’t take much to overwhelm these large county hospitals in jut a few days. It’s his call and the results could determine his political future. Stay safe…


New York Times Article: “New Numbers Suggest Major Erosion of Trump’s Support” says TheUpshot June 10, 2020

June 12, 2020

“Mr. Biden leads the President by around 10 percentage points in an average of recent of live-interview telephone surveys of registered voters.” The Upshot

I get the New York Times delivered everyday. It’s my morning coffee time and I look forward it. I’ve always considered the “Times” well researched and written. It does have a political slant, of course, but that doesn’t bother me. (I have my own biases.)

In yesterday’s paper, I noticed an article on how Trump’s numbers were “eroding” and that it was an indication of how the pandemic, economy and demonstrations were having a toll on his re-election chances.

The article contained a chart displaying six major polling firms and the increase in Biden’s percent lead against Trump from the same firm done earlier in the spring. Unfortunately, the article didn’t identify the earlier dates made in the comparison.

For instance, they cite a Monmouth poll showing a 7.5% increase in Biden’s lead, but the only two Monmouth polls listed in this time period had only a 1% percent difference.

The same was true of the ABC/Washington Post. They list Biden’s lead difference since the earlier survey was 7%. But the earlier poll had Biden with a 2% lead, and the later poll had him with a 5% lead, for a net difference of only 3%. And all the polls they identified are from the 538 website, the same site I used.

With differences this small it could easily be within the margin of error for both surveys. In other words, random error. So I decided to use a different method to decide if Biden’s lead is deteriorating.

As with the Times analysis, I collected polls from March 18 through June 3, a period which the Covid-19 virus was spreading, the economy collapsing and the killing of George Floyd and the ensuing protests. All polls were retrieved from the same 538 website.

To be sure I was comparing apples to apples, eighteen of the twenty polling firms were ranked by 538 as A or A+ and two a B+.These were national polls with the highest standards.

As in the Times article, all used live telephone interviews and national samples of 700 or more, the Gold Standard for surveys. Of the 20 firms, six were also included in the Times’ analysis.

With all 20 surveys, Biden had an lead of 5.1% over Trump. But this average difference does not tell us if Biden’s lead is expanding, declining or staying the same.

For comparison, I split the polls into two groups: Ten surveys were conducted from March 18 through April 15 and ten from April 29 through June 3. In the latter period, the killing of George Floyd took place, so we would expect Biden’s percent to increase. So my hypothesis is that the later surveys will show an increase in Biden’s numbers.

Biden’s early polls (March 15-April 15) his average lead over Trump was 4.9%. His later polls (April 29-June 3) averaged 5.4%, a 0.5% increase.

Below is a graph that visually represents Biden’s lead over Trump in all 20 surveys. The blue line represents the early polls and the red, the later ones.

As you can see, there is a degree of variability during this three month period. Considering these are America’s finest polling firms using the exact “gold standard” survey methods, it may seem unusual. For me, after conducting hundreds of surveys, it does not.

As I taught my students at the University of Florida, polls are estimates and not a precise representation of all voters. Even the gold standard surveys, produce errors beyond the margin of error, such as wording and question order effects.

An easier representation of the polling data, is a graph comparing both Biden’s and Trump’s percentage from each of these same surveys, as shown below.

The blue line represents Biden’s percent of the two person vote and the red, Trump’s percent. The dates are the same as the previous chart, but interpretation is clearer. As you see, the variation is quite narrow with no significant spike for either candidate. The total difference for all 20 surveys is 5%, but spread over all surveys the average per poll difference is only 0.25%.

But is this lead a statistically significant difference? The best way to test this is with a statistical measure of the means (averages) between the two groups, the early polls and the later polls. The null hypothesis is that there is no statistical difference between the two periods.

I’ll use a statistical method called a paired T-test, which compares the means of the two groups. When applied to the two groups above, the significance level is .140 (T=-1.69), which is not significant and, consequently, the null hypothesis prevails and the differences are not statistically different. In plain terms, this tells us that there no difference between the two time periods.

Using the same type of polling methodology, our analysis does not confirm the New York Times’ analysis that at this time period Biden’s lead is eroding. In fact, the two candidates’ polling is remarkably stable considering the current political and economic environment.

At the national level, the Trump numbers have been upside down almost from the moment he took the oath. For the Trump campaign, what really matters is at the state level. Their plan is to again capture the Electoral Vote and let the national popular vote go its own way. I’ll be watching those states…


Does the Presidential Convention Site Help a Candidate Win the Convention State?

June 8, 2020

You probably have read that Donald Trump has pulled the RNC Nomination Convention from Charlotte, North Carolina, because the the Governor would not guarantee that social distancing would not be required.

The RNC is now scrambling to find another location within three months. They are currently surveying seven cities as for a replacement site. One suggestion that is rumored to appeal to Trump, is a series of traveling rally-type conventions in different cities.

How or where the location or locations occur, there will be certain requirements that conventions will need to make the decision. You would think that at the top of the list, is how important that state is to winning the election, including the host state.

Most observers believe the Party wants a swing state that could make an electoral college difference. A state like Florida, with 29 electoral votes that has since 2000, chosen two Republicans and two Democrats (2000 was a tie) with an average popular vote difference of 0.5%.

Florida is certainly in the mix, and Florida Governor DeSantis is playing cheer leader for the state, with Orlando and Jacksonville as the primary cities for the event.

There are, of course, several other states that could meet the RNC’s need for a state win in addition to hotel rooms, a large convention center and a national airport, etc.. But I have a question, does holding the convention in a state actually help win that state?

As I was writing this post on Sunday, I saw on ABC a brief segment featuring the founder of the FiveThirtyEight website Nate Silver commenting that he didn’t believe the convention location had an effect on whether the party candidate won that state. He used an recent example of a Democratic Convention where the nominee lost the state in the general election (I can’t remember what state but I’m sure he was correct).

To confirm his statement, I looked at past conventions for both the Republicans and Democrats held from 1860 on. A somewhat arbitrary start, but one that eliminates the early conventions that were mostly held in the north east where travel was more difficult.

I split the convention locations into two categories: Republican and Democratic. My initial analysis was to measure how many of the Convention states the party nominee won.

For Republican Conventions, the party nominee won 73% of their convention states. The Democrats not so well, winning with 55% of their convention states.

From 1960 on however, the Republican nominee won the convention state some 67% of the time. The Democrats, on the other hand, won 53% of their convention states. I don’t know what data or time frame Mr. Silver used for his analysis but it wasn’t these two periods.

Where the Republicans and Democrats held their conventions since 1960, hints at what state’s the Republicans and the Democrats consider important. Below is a chart of where the Republican conventions were held since 1960.


As the chart shows, Republicans put 5 of their conventions in Florida and Texas, which have a total of 67 electoral college votes. The Republicans won two of the three Florida elections (barely lost 2012) and both the Texas presidential elections.

Now let’s look at the Democrats choice for conventions since 1960 below.


Like the Republicans, the Democrats put 5 of their conventions in Florida and Texas. Florida makes sense since 1992 they won 3 of the past 6 election cycles and lost the other three by less than 1%.

Texas, on the other hand, has been a safe Republican state since 1976. Perhaps the Democrats wanted to keep the Republicans from taking the state for granted. It didn’t work. Too long a long shot this year.

This year, the Democratic Convention was to be held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but may now be held “virtually.” Wisconsin was a good choice since it is a true battleground state that is presently leaning toward Biden. As for the virtual convention, it’s hard to get excited for an imaginary event. Success with virtual news conferences have been mixed at best.

The Republican Party are almost certain to hold a live, packed and boisterous convention. Good for TV and news coverage and of course, the Covid virus. A win-win so to speak.

My bet on where it will be held: Florida. I just looked up what “swing-state” means in the dictionary and it had Florida’s picture there…


Did the Killing of George Floyd and the Immediate Potests Hurt Trump?

June 7, 2020

“Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live.” -Robert F. Kennedy.

After the horrific killing of George Floyd was broadcast on TV around the world along with the immediate protests throughout the country, I felt sick to my stomach.

But as the days past and I watched as both Black and White Americans mourning together for the first time in my lifetime, I realized that how this tragedy could have planted a seed that could change our nation for the better.

We are in the final months of what will probably become the most historic presidential race in the nation’s history, and I’m wondering what else could happen. My immediate reaction to all of these events, Covid-19, a wrongful death and protests by thousands of citizens standing in the bright light of the White House demanding change, is it will undoubtedly effect the election in November.

That impression starts with what effect the latest events, particularly the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing protests, will have for Donald Trump’s reelection. Specifically, will the fallout from all these events affect his immediate poll ratings.

In this quest, I gathered Trump Job Approval polls prior the death of Mr. Floyd and those polls following his death. My hypothesis is that the his death and the protests that followed will have a negative effect on these later polls. But to be clear, even if there is significant negative effect it doesn’t mean it won’t fade by the time we reach November.

I collected 24 public polls, 12 prior to Mr. Floyd’s death and 12 immediately following the May 25th killing. The dates of the prior surveys are from May 1st through May 23rd and after the killing, May 28th through June 4th.

The average job approval ratings for the prior event polls were 45 approve and 52 disapprove, a negative 7%. The average job approval ratings after Mr. Floyd’s death were 44% approve and 48% disapprove, a 4% difference.

Trump’s disapproval is four percent more and his approval is only one percent less after the killing. To determine if the differences are significant, I used Analysis of the Variance (ANOVA). This a statistical model to determine if two groups are statistically different.

The ANOVA comparison of both polling data prior and after the event is not significant, meaning that Trump’s job approval is statistically the same before and after the death of Mr. Floyd and the ensuing protests.

It is possible that as all of these events sinks in, voters will react more negatively, but for now, in the immediate aftermath of the murder and protests, it has changed no minds about Donald Trump as President.

Since his ratings were negative to begin with, it could have softened the impact of these latest events. In addition, I have found that the Trump’s base is unwavering about his performance regardless of what he does are says.

All of these recent events have made the upcoming election even more important. With or without the Covid virus, this country needs to turnout and cast their vote in November. Don’t complain about who was elected for the next four years, after the votes are cast, if your only participation was watching the vote count on TV. Be safe and vote…