FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Debate Night: Undecided is Everything, Advantage Trump

Likely the best data driven write-up of the state of the race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump heading into the first debate tonight is Nate Cohn’s over at the Upshot. Cohn gives two theories of the race. On one, Clinton is really still quite a bit ahead and polling saying other wise is mostly just a snapshot of noise that will go away as election day nears. The other, and the one that makes more sense of the date I’ve collected, is that the race has in fact substantially tightened, likely into a virtual tie. Clinton’s missteps and Trump’s relatively good behaviour, especially since mid-August when Kellyanne Conway took over as his campaign manager, have erased what was a 6.5% lead on August 9th.

The data that I’ve been keeping assiduously since late August says it’s the latter theory. United Press International was the first to note that how well Trump controlled his tongue has a massive impact on the horse race. My numbers suggest that is the best way to look at things. When Trump re-brought up birtherism, suggested Clinton’s Secret Service detail stop carrying guns and see what happens, and Donald Trump Jr. tweeted out a ridiculous Skittles meme within the space of a few days, Trump’s numbers took a noticeable dive beginning early last week. By the end of the week, and into early this week, Trump made no major blunders and his numbers have rebounded back into a tie or a half point lead for Clinton in polls in the field in the last few days.

One reasonably reliable set of polling numbers suggests that as many as a 1/3 of voters will substantially determine how they vote based on the debates, beginning tonight. Meanwhile, somewhere between 15-25% of likely voters at present are undecided, planning to vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, or have a soft commitment to their current candidate of choice. All of this makes it less than surprising that Clinton’s national lead is hovering between 1-2%, and there are as many as 15 states currently up for grabs. My #10at10 accounting posted daily on Twitter – all national polls in the last 10 days at 10 a.m. – currently sits at 1.6% ahead of tomorrow morning, but Trump briefly took the lead last weekend before his tongue troubles began impacting the polls. Meanwhile, by the same measurement (all polls completing their field work within the last ten days, no adjustments), Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin all see Clinton and Trump within 5.0% points of each other in terms of spread. FiveThirtyEight sees New Hampshire as currently a 2.2% race, while #10at10 figures would peg it much higher for Clinton at a 7.4% gap. Another 4-5 states are somewhere between a 5% and 10% race currently.

Here’s what the numbers look like in graph form:

Nationally

10at10-sept-27-night-before

States

states-10at10-debate-night

States Numerical Chart

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-7-35-52-pm

The tipping point state, the state that would determine who wins if the electoral race is otherwise nearly tied, looks to be Michigan, Colorado, Pennsylvania, or Florida. As of now, Clinton is ahead by 1.0% to 2.2% in all four (neither candidate can likely win without winning at least two of those states). While most poll aggregators still have Trump up in Florida, the very most recent data suggests Clinton has taken a slight lead there while dropping steadily in Colorado, Michigan, Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

The major difference between this way of doing things and all other poll aggregators is that it insists on using virtually all polls (Google 50-state numbers with under 100 for a sample size are totally excluded) while not adjusting them. FiveThirtyEight includes virtually all polls, but adjusts them before its national and state projections. Huffington Post (and following them NYT/Upshot and Sam Wang at the Princeton Election Consortium) and Real Clear Politics exclude many polls. Huffington Post’s criteria much more clear and mostly consistent.

By using just 10 days of data, this model is much more sensitive to quick changes than even FiveThirtyEight’s “Now-Cast.” How soon will we start knowing who “won” the debate in terms of its effect on reputable polling? While the L.A. Times polling is almost certainly consistently biased in favor of Trump by 4-6 points, its methodology has proven very good at consistently capturing the direction of the race before any others. Their numbers out about 4 a.m. on Wednesday, followed by quickly by other daily tracking polls, will give us a sense whether the first debate is going to move the needle much, if any.

Clinton is a known quantity and has a fairly strict ceiling, most likely, of about 44-46% nationally. Trump’s tongue wagging is key to the race. A few errant comments in the debate or the weeks ahead and Clinton could wind up with 350-400 electoral votes. But Clinton does not seem to control her own destiny. An October surprise from Wikileaks or Trump managing his verbal outbursts for another six or seven weeks could very well see him inaugurated next January 20th. Of course, all this assumes that both sides leave the voting machines to do their thing without interference (not at all a totally justified assumption).

More articles by:

Doug Johnson Hatlem is best known for his work as a street pastor and advocate with Toronto’s homeless population from 2005-2013. He is now a film producer and free-lance writer based in Chicago.

Weekend Edition
August 17, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Stewart
Blackkklansman: Spike Lee Delivers a Masterpiece
Elizabeth Lennard
Alan Chadwick in the Budding Grove: Story Summary for a Documentary Film
August 16, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
“Don’t Be Stupid, Be a Smarty”: Why Anti-Authoritarian Doctors Are So Rare
W. T. Whitney
New Facebook Alliance Endangers Access to News about Latin America
Sam Husseini
The Trump-Media Logrolling
Ramzy Baroud
Mission Accomplished: Why Solidarity Boats to Gaza Succeed Despite Failing to Break the Siege
Larry Atkins
Why Parkland Students, Not Trump, Deserve the Nobel Peace Prize
William Hartung
Donald Trump, Gunrunner for Hire
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Morality Tales in US Public Life?
Yves Engler
Will Trudeau Stand Up to Mohammad bin Salman?
Vijay Prashad
Samir Amin: Death of a Marxist
Binoy Kampmark
Boris Johnson and the Exploding Burka
Eric Toussaint
Nicaragua: The Evolution of the Government of President Daniel Ortega Since 2007 
Adolf Alzuphar
Days of Sagebrush, Nights of Jasmine in LA
Robert J. Burrowes
A Last Ditch Strategy to Fight for Human Survival
August 15, 2018
Jason Hirthler
Russiagate and the Men with Glass Eyes
Paul Street
Omarosa’s Book Tour vs. Forty More Murdered Yemeni Children
Charles Pierson
Is Bankruptcy in Your Future?
George Ochenski
The Absolute Futility of ‘Global Dominance’ in the 21st Century
Gary Olson
Are We Governed by Secondary Psychopaths
Fred Guerin
On News, Fake News and Donald Trump
Arshad Khan
A Rip Van Winkle President Sleeps as Proof of Man’s Hand in Climate Change Multiplies and Disasters Strike
P. Sainath
The Unsung Heroism of Hausabai
Georgina Downs
Landmark Glyphosate Cancer Ruling Sets a Precedent for All Those Affected by Crop Poisons
Rev. William Alberts
United We Kneel, Divided We Stand
Chris Gilbert
How to Reactivate Chavismo
Kim C. Domenico
A Coffeehouse Hallucination: The Anti-American Dream Dream
August 14, 2018
Daniel Falcone
On Taking on the Mobilized Capitalist Class in Elections: an Interview With Noam Chomsky
Karl Grossman
Turning Space Into a War Zone
Jonah Raskin
“Fuck Wine Grapes, Fuck Wines”: the Coming Napafication of the World
Manuel García, Jr.
Climate Change Bites Big Business
Alberto Zuppi - Cesar Chelala
Argentina at a Crossroads
Chris Wright
On “Bullshit Jobs”
Rosita A. Sweetman
Dear Jorge: On the Pope’s Visit to Ireland
Binoy Kampmark
Authoritarian Revocations: Australia, Terrorism and Citizenship
Sara Johnson
The Incredible Benefits of Sagebrush and Juniper in the West
Martin Billheimer
White & Red Aunts, Capital Gains and Anarchy
Walter Clemens
Enough Already! Donald J. Trump Resignation Speech
August 13, 2018
Michael Colby
Migrant Injustice: Ben & Jerry’s Farmworker Exploitation
John Davis
California: Waging War on Wildfire
Alex Strauss
Chasing Shadows: Socialism Won’t Go Away Because It is Capitalism’s Antithesis 
Kathy Kelly
U.S. is Complicit in Child Slaughter in Yemen
Fran Shor
The Distemper of White Spite
Chad Hanson
We Know How to Protect Homes From Wildfires. Logging Isn’t the Way to Do It
Faisal Khan
Nawaz Sharif: Has Pakistan’s Houdini Finally Met his End?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail