The least volatile election ever?

Good morning, Disagreeables.

Back on May 31, both inuyesta and yours truly posted predictions for how the November presidential election would turn out. I posted this map:

And inuyesta posted a map that looked similar, with just one exception being Florida:

Of course we were using quite a bit of polling data to make these guesses, so it was no surprise that when Nate Silver finally started daily updating his electoral predictions we were pretty much in agreement with him.

Here is Nate Silver’s election forecast as of 3:01 AM EST (Silver apparently never sleeps) this morning:

Nate Silver’s Forecast for presidential election as of July 26

As of right now, Silver has Florida as barely leaning (51.2%) Romney. Silver currently gives President Obama a 65.0% chance of winning re-election, which is actually down from a high of 68.0% chance five days ago. The polls over the last few days have been very favorable for Mr. Romney, causing the shift.

While Silver’s map seems to agree more with my prediction than inuyesta’s, the vote distribution graph shows something different:

Silver’s vote distribution graph as of July 26

That large spike in the center is at 332 Obama electoral votes and represents a result that would match inuyesta’s chart, whereas the smaller spike on its left represents  my 303 electoral vote projection for Obama. The spike on the right represents inuyesta’s chart plus North Carolina for the president, and is actually “more likely” than my prediction.

As an aside, the spikiness in the chart is there because electoral votes are allocated in discrete chunks, state-by-state. Our brains want to fill in the areas between those spikes to produce a nice smooth bell curve, but resist that, because it gives an incorrect impression that Obama is more favored than he actually is. That “huge” spike at 332 EV represents only a roughly 10% chance that the election will play out that way. So while the chances of Obama receiving exactly 332 EV is about 10%, the chances that he receives exactly 331 EV is about 0%.

But here’s the more interesting (or uninteresting, as the case may be) graph that Silver produces:

Chance of winning over time, as of July 26

This is a graph of what Silver’s model has predicted since he began running the projections on (coincidentally) May 31st. Pretty flat there, folks. Nothing to see, move along. Obama’s best showing in the model was July 21st at 68.0% and his worst chances of victory was back on June 2nd with 59.0%. As I said earlier, he’s dropped 3.0% in the last 5 days, which might just be noise or it might represent Romney momentum. (Mittmentum?)

That last chart is something to remember when the latest news cycle is filled with breathless reporting about Obama’s latest gaffe or Romney’s tax return scandal. None of that sturm und drang is making any real impact on what all the polling shows will be a close election. There aren’t many Romney supporters who are dropping him because of his tax returns and there aren’t many Obama supporters who were willing to take his “you didn’t build that” comments out of context, as much as the Romney campaign has tried. This blog’s repeated insistence on referring to Mitt Romney as an Etch-a-Sketch will not be the deciding factor in this election. Although, maybe if I say it one more time… Nope, still no effect.

People are pretty much settled on who they will be supporting in November. It’s going to come down to turnout, which makes the GOP efforts to pass voter registration restrictions targeting Democratic-leaning groups so infuriating. Obama has a very good chance of re-election because the swing states that Romney absolutely need to win (Virginia, Ohio, Florida) are polling better than the country as a whole for the president.

This lack of volatility seems different than previous elections, but we only have Silver’s projections for one other election in 2008, which was just a completely different election because it was a non-incumbent election and because of extraordinary circumstances like the financial meltdown. That election had Silver’s projections swinging wildly back and forth between McCain and Obama before settling definitively on Obama in early October.

Maybe it’s just too early and we will see some wild swings when Romney picks his veep or after the conventions, or maybe Greece will exit the Euro and the economy will meltdown again, but this election is reminding me of 2004, where George Bush was despised by the opposition who ran an electable-but-not-beloved politician from Massachusetts who failed to motivate independents to make a switch. It’s not what I’d prefer, but I’ll take it if it means keeping the White House.

Author: Wiesman

Husband, father, video game developer, liberal, and perpetual Underdog.

1 thought on “The least volatile election ever?”

  1. I just came across this post today, November 8th. Your title appears to be *completely* justified by events, and I think any analysis of why the election came out the way it did has to focus on the fact that *nothing happened*. The dog did nothing in the night-time — and it cost well over a billion dollars.

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