Daily Poll Watch: My favorite analyst says likelihood of Obama winning ranges from 89 to 97 percent

On several occasions in recent days, I’ve argued here that the best way to track the presidential race at this late stage is to pay more attention to polls in the individual states — especially the so-called battleground states — than to national polls.

And the best way to follow state polls is to read the analyses offered by Sam Wang at the Princeton Election Consortium and Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight. Their methods differ somewhat, but they’re both good at cutting through the mainstream media nonsense peddled by journalists who don’t understand polling trends and how they relate to the Electoral College.

I’ve been a big fan of Nate Silver since the presidential race of four years ago. But lately, I’ve become an even greater disciple of Sam Wang. His methodology is arcane (see HERE),  but his record of accuracy is peerless.

Beginning today, Wang is featuring two numbers at the top of his Web site dealing with the probability that President Obama will win re-election. He EXPLAINS:

We give two probabilities, which are built on the same assumptions that went into calculating the “strike zones” in the  history graph. The “Random Drift” number is a minimum (conservative) probability, and the “Prediction” is a maximum probability. In the coming 10 days, the two numbers will converge…

Both predictions (“random drift” and “prediction”) start from a current snapshot of polling conditions, the Meta-Analysis of State Polls which forms the core of this site. The snapshot is listed in the top line above. It is currently Obama 297 EV, Romney 241 EV, Meta-margin Obama +1.96%. This predicts what would happen in an election held today.

To calculate this snapshot, we (a) use recent polls for each state (3 polls or 7 days, whichever is greater) to calculate the probability that one candidate is ahead, (b) calculate the exact distribution of all 2^51 = 2.3 quadrillion outcomes, measured in terms of electoral votes (EV), and (c) take the median of the distribution to get the expected EV count.

In addition, we calculate the amount by which polls must swing overall to create a perfect toss-up. This quantity is just like a two-candidate margin that people are used to seeing in polls, so we call it the Meta-Margin. Both the EV estimator and Meta-Margin are extremely precise, and performed very well on Election Eve in 2004 and 2008.


If you read Wang’s entire post, I strongly urge that you also read the comments following therefrom. They’re mostly pretty intelligent.



  1. I’m starting to get more nervous so I’m retreating more to my conspiracy filled happy place. So here’s an article that says Obama is toast.


  2. ROFL. We should have a green-energy startup that harnesses the power of liberals to believe utter nonsense. Well, maybe not, because Obama would invest a billion or two into it and then it would go bankrupt.

    The Real Clear Politics has Obama at 201 electoral votes and Romney at 191. But Romney is ahead in Florida and North Carolina. Add those and you get Obama=201 and Romney=235. That leaves 102 electoral votes up for grabs. Romney only has to get 35 to win, Obama has to get almost 70. And Romney has multiple paths and most of the momentum. Oh, and Gallup is now reporting that Obama’s job approval dropped a staggering 7 points in the last three days. (This is the evil fruit of a campaign based on Big Bird, binder bimbos, bayonets, Benghazi, and an unbelievable commercial that compares voting for Obama to losing your virginity.)

    All this nonsense from Nate Silver and Sam Wang is the statistical equivalent of Scientology. They are simply disguising a desired outcome (Obama’s re-election) as an extrapolation of some random facts. They hit the jackpot on a few elections recently, and now they are revered as Nostradamus by the unwashed masses.

    Speaking of Nostradamus, I found one of his quatrains this morning:

    When the tyrants of Libya and Egypt are cast aside,
    And fools believe in climate change,
    The son of a mighty salt lake empire
    Will blow the glum kingdom of O to smithereens

    There is an even more terrifying quatrain right after that, but I can’t find my French dictionary so I can’t translate it. What does “compote de pomme” mean?

  3. Sean Curry

    89% to 97% chance of Obama winning.

    I’m keeping this! Will get back to you in 8 days

  4. Sean Curry: As of this morning (Monday), the range is now 91 percent to 98 percent.

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