Tag Archives: Pennsylvania

Iowa: Questioning the Polls

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 19, 2020 — Every political observer remembers that the cumulative polling community incorrectly predicted the Great Lakes states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin in the 2016 Trump-Clinton presidential race, but further research finds additional significant misses in succeeding elections.

Political research reveals that two of those campaigns came in Iowa during the 2016 presidential race and the hotly contested governor’s race two years later. Today, we look at the Hawkeye State numbers with the goal of potentially ascertaining if there is a common polling pattern or consistent error factor.

In October, four polls have been released for the 2020 contest from a like number of different pollsters, two from left of center organizations while the other two are independent entities. The research organizations are Data for Progress, Civiqs for the Daily Kos Elections webpage, YouGov, and Quinnipiac University. Each has conducted one October Iowa survey.

In the presidential race, the polls yield former vice president Joe Biden an average lead of just over one percentage point. The cumulative ballot test mode then finds Des Moines real estate executive Theresa Greenfield (D) topping Sen. Joni Ernst (R) with a margin of four percentage points.

How do these numbers compare to recent polling vs. results electoral history, and is there an inherent Republican under-poll present?

In 2016, the Real Clear Politics polling average from Nov. 1-4 found then-candidate Donald Trump leading former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by a mean average of three percentage points derived from three polls and three different polling firms. On Election Day, Nov. 4, 2016, Trump carried the state by a much larger 9.5-point margin.

Overall, 26 Iowa polls were released during the 2016 election cycle, with Trump recording a cumulative average lead of under half of one percentage point. According to the Real Clear Politics polling archives, 12 firms combined to reach the grand total, including Public Policy Polling (5 surveys), NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist College (5), Loras College (3), Quinnipiac University (3), Emerson College (2), and Selzer & Company for the Des Moines Register (2). The widest spread came from Loras College (Clinton plus-14) at the end of June. The Selzer & Company for the Des Moines Register poll produced the most accurate finding, Trump plus-7, at the very end of the election cycle (Nov. 1-4, 2016).

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The Trafalgar Effect

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 15, 2020 — The Trafalgar Group is the polling firm that came to national political notoriety four years ago when they correctly predicted a Donald Trump victory in both Michigan and Pennsylvania and were the only survey research firm to do so. Since that time, they have forecast at least four other wins when the active polling community was arriving at opposite conclusions.

Yesterday, Trafalgar released its latest Pennsylvania data (Oct. 10-12; 1,034 likely Pennsylvania voters) and finds former vice president Joe Biden leading President Trump 47.4 – 45.1 percent — just over a two-point spread. In October, not counting the Trafalgar number, we see 12 other pollsters returning Pennsylvania data and they average a pro-Biden forecast of just under seven points.

Routinely, Trafalgar’s data shows President Trump in better position than most pollsters because they attempt to quantify what is termed the “shy Trump voter,” i.e., those who are actually voting for the incumbent but won’t admit it to a pollster. In most cases, the Trafalgar calculations, derived from a proprietary algorithmic formula, have been reliably accurate.

From 2016, we remember that, generally, the polling community missed badly in the Trump-Clinton presidential race. While their national count was accurate – predicting a tight plurality for Hillary Clinton (final result: 48.2 – 46.1 percent) – many state projections were off, particularly those in the Great Lakes region.

In the previous presidential election cycle, a total of 62 surveys were conducted in the state of Pennsylvania, and only three found a lead for President Trump, including the Trafalgar pre-election survey. In Michigan, 45 polls were publicly released, and Trump led in just two, one of which was Trafalgar’s final 2016 study. In Wisconsin, 33 polls were taken, and none found President Trump running ahead. Yet, in all three cases, he won the state.

The Great Lakes/Mid-Atlantic region was not the only area where 2016 polling missed the mark. In North Carolina, the margin average looked to be dead even heading into the election, but President Trump won with a 3.6 percent spread. The cumulative polling missed Arizona by two points, and Florida by 1.2 percent. In all of these instances, the Republican voted was under-estimated.

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The Scenario: There’s an Electoral College Tie in the Presidential
Election; What Happens Next?

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 23, 2020 — As we move closer to Election Day, various scenarios are being discussed and theorized about who will win the presidential race and which states will fall to what candidate. A little-mentioned outcome, which is a mathematical possibility, is an Electoral College tie.

A deadlock would occur if each candidate received 269 electoral votes. Based upon the 2016 result, which saw President Trump receiving 306 electoral votes to Hillary Clinton’s 232, a tie would occur if the incumbent were to lose exactly 37 electoral votes from his previous performance.

The easiest way for that to occur is if President Trump and former vice president Joe Biden were to build the same coalition of states with the exception of Pennsylvania, Michigan and the 2nd District of Nebraska going from the Republican to Democratic column. In this instance, the two 2020 candidates, Trump and Biden, would have 269 electoral votes apiece.

If this were to happen, how is a tie in the Electoral College resolved? The answer: in the House of Representatives. The difference between the vote for president and a regular House vote is that individual members do not have his or her own vote for president. Rather, each state delegation has one vote.

Therefore, California, for example, with its 53 House members gets one vote for president. Conversely, the at-large states with one House member, such as Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming, would also each get one vote. So the vote for president skews toward the small states and rural regions.

Interestingly though, the Democrats control the House majority with 232 members and one Democratic vacancy to 198 Republican seats with one Libertarian sitting in what is typically a Republican seat and three GOP vacancies. Yet, if partisanship holds, the Republicans would win a presidential election vote 26 to 23 with one state, Pennsylvania, in a 9-9 split delegation. Assuming that the Keystone delegation would fail to agree on a candidate, the state would not be able to cast its vote.

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Pennsylvania Voting Rules

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 21, 2020 — Pennsylvania’s Democratic controlled Supreme Court changed their state election procedures late last week in a series of rulings on a lawsuit that the Pennsylvania Secretary of State and PA Democratic Party previously filed.

Under the new process, receiving votes after the election is allowed if “no evidence exists” that the ballot was mailed after Election Day, Nov. 3. The deadline for ballot acceptance now moves from 8 pm on Election Day to 5 pm, Friday, Nov. 6. Pennsylvania becomes the 17th state to allow post-election reception for this 2020 election. The ruling increases the chances that we will not have a winner declared on election night.

Additionally, three other rulings will allow drop boxes to be used as ballot receptacles in the various counties, affirmed that poll watchers can only serve in their own county of residence, and Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins’ name was removed from the ballot. The court did not grant the lawsuit motion to allow ballot harvesting, which would permit third parties to deliver ballots to the authorities or ballot drop boxes.

The drop boxes will be placed in various locations around a county and voters can deposit their ballots without using the postal service to transfer their vote to the county election authorities. Hawkins’ name was removed from the ballot because the court said he “failed to comply with the Election Code’s strict mandate” and the attempts to fix the problem “did not suffice to cure that error,” but the specifics were not addressed.

With the large number of absentee ballots expected here and in other states, the trend toward allowing post-election reception, and the laws that some states, like Pennsylvania, have to control when the mail ballots can be counted, makes it less likely that we will see a definitive presidential campaign result on Nov. 3. The same will be true for certain US Senate and House races.

Of the 17 states, now including Pennsylvania, that are allowing post-election ballot reception, seven appear competitive. The others, Alaska, California, Kansas, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia will likely declare a clear winner relatively early in the counting period.

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Why Arizona is So Pivotal

By Jim Ellis

Does Arizona hold the key in a Trump-Biden election?

Sept. 16, 2020 — For several reasons, the Grand Canyon State of Arizona is possibly the most important state on the political map to determine the ultimate presidential election outcome.

Primarily, Arizona is one of five core states that President Trump must win to form a foundation for a favorable remaining state coalition map. The other four, geographically from west to east, are Texas, Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina. Should Joe Biden break through in any one of these five states, he will likely win the national election.

At this point, Arizona appears to be the most precarious of the Trump core states. While the President’s numbers are improving here, the September polls find him trailing Biden in all six publicly released surveys from a range of one to nine points among likely voters, with a mean average of Biden plus-4, and a median of Biden plus-3.5.

The five states are so critical to President Trump, or any Republican national candidate, because, as a unit, they yield a relatively easy remaining victory map. Carrying the five southern sector domains and assuming no leakage in Ohio or Iowa, and even while not winning Nevada or New Hampshire, the GOP nominee then claims the presidency with a victory in any one of the key Great Lakes states: Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, or Wisconsin. For a Democrat to win under this scenario, he or she would be forced to sweep the aforementioned quartet.

President Trump won the 2016 Electoral College vote 306-232, which means he can relinquish a net 36 electoral votes in 2020 and still win the national election. Under the scenario of him taking either Wisconsin or Minnesota, along with keeping Arizona, he would defeat Biden with exactly 270 electoral votes. This model also assumes he wins the 2nd Congressional District from both Nebraska and Maine, the two states that split their electoral votes. He won both in 2016. Under this scenario, Michigan and Pennsylvania would go to Biden.

Arizona, now potentially teetering toward the Democrats, is critical to the president’s prospects because Trump cannot afford to trade it for one of the western Great Lakes States, either Minnesota or Wisconsin. Such a loss would force the president to win two of the four Great Lakes, but only one could be Minnesota or Wisconsin since those two states have 10 electoral votes and Arizona has 11.

Therefore, simply put, losing Arizona because of its 11th electoral vote would mean that Trump would be forced to carry either Michigan or Pennsylvania in addition to one of the other three remaining Great Lakes States. A further scenario involving Trump losing Arizona and replacing it with both of the 10-electoral vote states (MN and WI) could result in the election ending in a 269-269 tie. This would force a tiebreaker to be decided in the US House of Representatives.

Let’s look at the chances of Trump winning Arizona by comparing his current standing to where he was at this point in 2016. Looking at the Real Clear Politics polling archives, we find that 19 Arizona polls were conducted during the entire 2016 election cycle. In 2020, just since the July 4th holiday break, 25 surveys were publicly reported in the Grand Canyon State.

Four years ago, at the end of August through mid-September, two individual polls came from Gravis Marketing (Aug. 25-27, 2016) and NBC News/Marist College (Sept. 6-8, 2016). These surveys yielded Trump four and one-point leads, respectively. Shortly thereafter, the trend began to turn Hillary Clinton’s way. The OH Predictive Insights survey (Sept. 28-30, 2016) found the two candidates tied at 42 percent apiece, while Emerson College (Oct. 2-4, 2016) and the Arizona Republic newspaper poll (Oct. 10-15, 2016) detected consecutive leads for Clinton of two and five points.

Therefore, Arizona did not turn toward Trump for good until the Monmouth University survey in late October (Oct. 21-24, 2016), which put him just one point ahead. Going into the election from that point, and remembering the 2016 election was on Nov. 8, Trump led in the final four polls from a two to five-point margin. He would eventually win the actual vote count by 3.6 percentage points, 48.7 – 45.1 percent, meaning a raw vote margin of 91,234 votes of more than 2.573 million ballots cast.

Because of Arizona’s fast population growth, the state has changed in four years. During that interval, the overall population expanded five percentage points to 7,278,717 individuals according to the Census Bureau’s July 2019 estimate, the latest available.

Minorities, specifically Hispanics and blacks, account for approximately 69 percent of the population gain, thus at least partially explaining Biden’s improved prospects in the state. Overall, Hispanics represent 31.7 percent of the overall Arizona population, and blacks 5.2 percent, as compared to the non-Hispanic white position receding to 54.1 percent.

The population changes suggest that this already tight political state will likely become even closer as we head for Nov. 3.