Neuroscientist Sam Wang (above), who moonlights as a polling analyst for the Princeton Election Consortium, offers THIS PERSPECTIVE even before the end of this week’s Democratic Convention:
The national media is correct that this year’s Presidential race is close. And voters are polarized: as few as 1-2% of voters are persuadable.
However, the media have failed to clearly spell out the logical consequence that the Presidential race is also very stable. President Obama has kept an electoral lead every single day since May. Based on the statistical behavior of polls in past re-election races, his November re-elect probability is 88%. Conversely, the probability of unusual movement or a black-swan event is 12%.
Both Senate and House control are on a knife edge. We have an unusual situation this year: control of both houses of Congress is up in the air. This recalls the elections of 1994 (GOP takeover during Clinton’s first term) and 2006 (Democratic takeover in GW Bush’s 2nd term). What’s different is that 2012 is a Presidential election year, so voter attention is higher. This will have profound consequences for Obama’s probable second term (and for Romney’s less probable first term).
1) The “black-swan” term Wang uses is a reference to some surprise event. The sudden emergence of incontovertible evidence that Obama or Romney once strangled a homeless person would be a black-swan event.
2) I’m willing to tolerate Wang’s alternating between “media” as a singular and as a plural (although the former is a pet peeve of mine).