By Dave Andrusko
One day out, know this for certain. No one but no one can tell you with anything approaching certainty how the presidential election will turn out.
With that uncertainty in mind, before going any further, if you haven’t already voting, be sure you do tomorrow. Never, ever allow media gloom and doom scenarios to convince you your vote is unimportant.
Let me quickly offer five reasons why the difference is razor-thin, then dig into some national and state polling numbers.
You can’t know whether pro-life Donald Trump or pro-abortion Hillary Clinton will prevail because
#1. The all-encompassing, non-stop, almost suffocating media bias against Trump distorts everything.
#2. The outcome will turn on states where the Clinton advantage is tiny or essentially non-existent.
#3. Nobody can possibly anticipate the turnout. There’s been a ton of speculation what the early voting says, but conjecture at this point is all smoke and mirrors. [Speaking of which, CNN, which loathes Trump, just reported “Early voting data suggests Clinton lags in North Carolina compared to 2012.”]
#4. Are there “hidden” Trump votes (or even hidden Clinton votes) and if so, how large?
#5. Finally, from election guru Nate Silver (no fan of Trump), there’s the most prominent variable going into Tuesday–the number of undecideds. [Underlining is mine]:
At the same time, it shouldn’t be hard to see how Clinton could lose. She’s up by about 3 percentage points nationally, and 3-point polling errors happen fairly often, including in the last two federal elections. Obama beat his polls by about 3 points in 2012, whereas Republicans beat their polls by 3 to 4 points in the 2014 midterms. If such an error were to favor Clinton, she could win in a borderline landslide. If the error favored Trump, however, she’d be in a dicey position, because the error is highly correlated across states.
There’s also reason to think a polling error is more likely than usual this year, because of the high number of undecided voters. In national polls, Clinton averages about 45 percent of the vote and Trump 42 percent; by comparison, Obama led Mitt Romney roughly 49-48 in national polls at the end of the 2012 campaign. That contributes significantly to uncertainty, since neither candidate has enough votes yet to have the election in the bag.
To be honest, I’m kind of confused as to why people think it’s heretical for our model to give Trump a 1-in-3 chance — which does make him a fairly significant underdog, after all. There are a lot of ways to build models, and there are lots of factors that a model based on public polling, like ours, doesn’t consider. But the public polls — specifically including the highest-quality public polls — show a tight race in which turnout and late-deciding voters will determine the difference between a clear Clinton win, a narrow Clinton win and Trump finding his way to 270 electoral votes.
Lots and lots of undecideds. According to Silver, only 3% were undecided in 2012. Not only is that number is much larger in 2016, we don’t know how many of the people who are saying they will vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson will wind up voting for Trump or Clinton.
Almost all the national polls show Clinton ahead: by 3 points [Bloomberg], 4 points [Fox News, CBS News, ABC News/Washington Post], and 6 points [NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly].
But the most accurate poll over the last several election cycles–IBD/TIPP—shows Trump up 2.4 points. It ties for Trump’s largest lead during 20 days of polling. (More about this below.)
Likewise the daily Los Angeles Times poll finds Trump up 5 points.
What about the state polls? We’ll only mention a few.
In Pennsylvania, Clinton’s once vast lead is down to two points in one poll [Gravis, 47% to 45% ], four in another [Morning Call , 44% to 40%]. This remains the most fascinating state.
In North Carolina, they are tied in the NY Times/Siena poll [44% to 44%] and Clinton is ahead 47% to 45% in the Quinnipiac survey.
In three polls in Florida, they are tied in one survey and Clinton is up by one and two points, respectively, in the other two.
Better news in Ohio where in four surveys, Trump is ahead by an average of 3.5 points.
In Iowa, Trump is ahead 46% to 39% in the latest Des Moines Register survey.
In Nevada, Trump is ahead of Clinton by one point in one poll, tied in the other.
I am not a statistician nor do I claim to fully understand the intricacies of how polls are conducted. But I do know that across the various polls, there are enormous differences with respect to which candidate various demographic groupings supposedly favor– and by how much.
I also know that according to IBD’s Terry Jones, “Trump and Clinton had essentially been deadlocked for four days through Friday, but Trump moved into the lead Saturday and widened it on Sunday on a steady drumbeat of news surrounding Hillary Clinton’s emails.” What, if any effect, the most recent letter FBI Director James Comey sent to Congress about Clinton’s email, will be fascinating to try to figure out in retrospect.
Stay tuned–and be sure to vote!