2012 Election | Nate Silver | News

Nate Silver Sees 92 Percent Chance of Obama Win


NYT polling analyst Nate Silver sees a substantial break for Obama in the final hours of this campaign, putting him at a 91.6% chance of winning. He adds:

Ohio remains the largest problem for Mr. Romney, where he has been behind in most polls all year. Mr. Romney might ordinarily take some solace in the fact that Ohio is slightly Republican-leaning, but the auto bailout may have changed its character this year, as there is evidence that Mr. Obama is performing more strongly with working-class voters in Ohio than he is elsewhere in the country.

Mr. Obama could secure the Electoral College by winning Wisconsin, Nevada and Pennsylvania, along with Ohio.

A win for Mr. Romney in Wisconsin would now qualify as a substantial upset. He has not led in a poll there since August, and an increasing number of surveys there instead show Mr. Obama five or more points ahead.

Mr. Obama’s margins have been narrower in Nevada, but Mr. Romney has a different type of problem there: perhaps 70 percent of the state has already voted, and Democrats have locked in roughly a 7-point advantage over Republicans from the vote so far. This margin is down for Democrats from 2008, but Mr. Romney would nevertheless need an exceptional turnout on Tuesday to make up enough ground.

This has led Mr. Romney to make a last-minute play for Pennsylvania, and there is some evidence that the state has tightened slightly.

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  1. Romney is feeling confident about Ohio. Voter suppression has been working well, along with coercion and voter intimidation by employers. There'll be poll watchers and challenges aplenty in minority neighborhoods. But, the final, most important piece has now been put in place, electronic software "patches" have been installed in key voting machines. So, it really doesn't matter how the people of Ohio vote, all that matters is how that vote is electronically registered and counted. What's more, the voting machine software "patches" are proprietary code and not subject to public scrutiny. There are also no paper trails. Kasich and Husted have performed their duties well. Don't be surprised to see Obama lose Ohio by a good margin proving all the polls wrong yet again. This is the type of "democracy" America wants to export to nations around the globe.

    Posted by: Bob R | Nov 6, 2012 8:36:03 AM

  2. Rachel Maddow's show last Friday had a recap of predictable electoral disasters. One was that a Republican candidate makes a last ditch effort in Pennsylvania only to loose it.

    Posted by: Diogenes Arktos | Nov 6, 2012 8:39:44 AM

  3. It's so great to see the GOP holding up America for all the world to see us as the greatest of all democracies encouraging all of its citizens to vote in open and free elections - NOT! These state Rethuggists are a f**cking joke who'll do anything to impede opposition to their terrible candidates. Now what communist or socialist countries operate that way??? Because of these voter challenges, I hope it's not going to take weeks to determine our next president. Once again, it's the Rethuggists driving this nation to the brink of disaster. When is the electorate going to rise up and say "enough is enough"?

    Posted by: HadenoughBS | Nov 6, 2012 8:43:57 AM

  4. I do worry Ohio will be stolen again. It was in 2004 as Florida was in 2000. And there will never be a real investigation.

    Without those thefts, Democrats would have won every Presidential election since 1992 and this country would be in a lot better shape.

    Posted by: Eddie | Nov 6, 2012 8:51:52 AM

  5. Bob R. is spot on about Ohio. You can throw in Florida and other states as well. Election polls are problematic because they simply draw from a population of "likely voters" that isn't necessarily representative of who actually votes on election day. I think what Nate Silver is likely doing very well is giving people a false sense of security. The barriers to voting are simply much higher, generally, for those who are lower income and less educated. Hopefully the Democratic lawyers are out in force to try to document and combat what the Republican teams will inevitably be trying to pull.

    Posted by: Stefan | Nov 6, 2012 8:58:11 AM

  6. Pennsylvania is the state to look for, because there were a couple polls showing that the margin was even tied, or at least down to 2-3 points. Romney, knowing that the numbers in Ohio weren't budging for him, made the desperate move to play in Pennsylvania, and it may have actually been wise, because numbers have tightened there. If Barack takes the state, though, then with Ohio, Colorado, New Hampshire, and the other Midwest states (MI, MN, IA, WI) looking like Obama wins, the election will have pretty much been decided.

    Posted by: Francis | Nov 6, 2012 9:07:35 AM

  7. Bob is right about Ohio, but trust, Democrats are very much on top of any shenanigans in the state, and I don't think a blatant manipulation of votes for Romney will be done without some sort of intervention. But then again, it's clear Husted has been willing to go the extra mile to make sure Ohio goes red. It's sad that we have to worry about such circumstances in the United States.

    Posted by: Francis | Nov 6, 2012 9:14:20 AM

  8. Don't worry. The "Chicago guys" know how to deal with all this. Chicago is a tough place.

    Posted by: simon | Nov 6, 2012 9:41:01 AM

  9. Can we all agree it's a tad pathetic in the good ol' US of A that accurate representations of "likely" voters in polls will eventually need to be replaced with "likely and able?"

    Posted by: kpo5 | Nov 6, 2012 9:47:05 AM

  10. Good news, but still keeping fingers crossed! I'm about to go chip in my vote here in a few minutes.

    Posted by: Lucas H | Nov 6, 2012 9:51:31 AM

  11. What Bob R. wrote is why I think the chance of a Romney upset is a lot greater than Nate Silver calculates. The relative effectiveness of the campaigns' get-out-the-vote operations, the extent to which voter suppression efforts reduce voting and the very real possibility of tampering with voting machines that produce no paper ballots are not things that pre-election polling can take into account. Florida, Ohio and Virginia are all states where voter suppression efforts have been particularly far-reaching, and if Obama fails to win any of three, his path to Electoral College victory is particularly narrow. I don't think anyone should be surprised if Romney wins, in spite of Obama's lead in polls and Silver's sophisticated number-crunching.

    Posted by: MichaelJ | Nov 6, 2012 12:39:08 PM

  12. It's worth noting that Silver's so-called "sophisticated number-crunching" is basically just a trivial application of the central limit theorem. If you take the poll results and margin of error for each state, you can compute the probability that Obama will get 0 or N electoral votes for that state (for illustrative purposes, we'll assume a state has N electoral votes with a winner-take-all policy).

    The total number of electoral votes is then a sum of random variables (one random variable per state), and the central limit theorem tells you than this sum has a normal distribution with an easily calculated standard deviation.

    While there are some fine points - different polls that may be biased in the same way - the statement above gives you the general idea.

    Of course, it all seems like magic to the pundits - those guys are paid for their writing or speaking skills, and most probably never took even an introductory college-level calculus course.

    Posted by: Bill | Nov 7, 2012 3:19:49 AM

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