election forecasts

The World's Greatest Election Forecast, in the World

by: Chris Bowers

Tue Aug 03, 2010 at 16:00

At long last, I have finally completed all of the research for my 2010 Senate (and, eventually, Governor) forecast methodology.  I am extremely pleased with the results, which I believe show it to be the most accurate methodology produced anywhere.  The methodology is explained below.

But first, here are today's numbers!

Senate Picture, August 3rd, with Rasmussen
Most likely outcome: Democrats 52 seats, Republicans 47 seats, Charlie Crist 1 seat

Of the 100 Senate seats, 86 are either not up for re-election, or have a polling average where one party has a 100% chance of victory (if the election were held today).  Among those 86 seats, there are 48 Democrats, and 38 Republicans.  Here is a chart featuring the other 14 campaigns:

Senate picture, competitive campaigns chart, August 3rd, with Rasmussen

The 48 currently safe Democrats, plus the 4.05 wins projected in these 14 campaigns, comes out to 52.05 Democrats, or 52 seats.  Charlie Crist is also projected to win one seat.

Senate Picture, August 3rd, without Rasmussen
Most likely outcome: Democrats 54 seats, Republicans 45 seats, Charlie Crist 1 seat

Senate picture, competitive campaigns chart, August 3rd, without Rasmussen

The 48 currently safe Democrats, plus the 5.91 wins projected in these 14 campaigns, comes out to 53.91 Democrats, or 54 seats.   Charlie Crist is also projected to win one seat.

Notes:

  • * = Has primary challenger, but heavy favorite
  • The "current Dem winning %" column projects the chance of Democratic victory if the election were held today.  It is not meant to predict the chance of the Democratic candidate winning in November.
  • Every Senate seat not listed here currently has either a 0% or a 100% chance of a Democratic victory.

Senate Forecast Methodology

I strongly believe this to be the most accurate statewide electoral forecasting methodology published anywhere.  Additionally, it is simple enough that almost anyone can reproduce it, no matter their level of background in statistics or polling.  This simplicity also means transparency, as almost anyone can both understand the assumptions I am making and check my arithmetic for accuracy.

The methodology is extremely simple: just take the simple mean of almost all polls that had the majority of their interviews conducted during the final 25 days of a campaign (see the notes below for more info).  That's it.  And it works, too:

Error rates, final predicted margin to final vote margin, 52 closest Presidential, Senatorial and Gubernatorial general election campaigns, 2008-2010
Pollster 538 Simple 25-day mean
Mean error 2.79 2.82 2.55
Median error 2.15 2.16 1.67
In the 52-closest Presidential, Senatorial and Gubernatorial campaigns where final margins were published by both 538 and Pollster.com, the simple 25-day mean resulted in significantly less error.  The 25-day simple mean had 9-10% less error on the mean, and 22-23% less error on the median.  Additionally, it was the most accurate in 21 of those campaigns, and the second most accurate in 19.

Further, the 2008-2010 performance of the 25-day simple mean was not a fluke.  Since 2004, across the 145 closest Presidential, Senatorial and Gubernatorial general election campaigns, its mean error rate has been 2.57, and its median error rate has been 1.76.  That is a consistently strong performance that will be difficult for any methodology to surpass, or even equal.  As of this writing, I know of no methodology that has done so.

Now, in the extended entry, answering some likely questions / objections:  

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Senate Forecast, July 26: Without Rasmussen polls, GOP only leads in 43 Senate seats

by: Chris Bowers

Mon Jul 26, 2010 at 13:45

The main story in today's Senate forecast is the re-emergence of a significant difference between Rasmussen and non-Rasmussen polls.  Most strikingly, while Rasmussen has Republicans  ahead (or safe / non up for re-election) in 50 Senate seats, the average of all other polls only shows Republicans ahead in 43 Senate seats.  the seven differing states are Washington, Nevada, Colorado, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida.

Due to this difference, I have once again started producing forecasts with and without Rasmussen polls.  Here are the numbers:

Senate Picture, July 26th, with Rasmussen
Most likely outcome: Democrats 52 seats, Republicans 47 seats, Charlie Crist one seat
Odds of GOP taking chamber: 1.93% (if the election were held today)

Of the 100 Senate seats, 87 are either not up for re-election, or have a polling average where one party has a 100% chance of victory (if the election were held today).  Among those 87 seats, there are 48 Democrats, and 39 Republicans.  Here is a chart featuring the other 13 campaigns:

Senate picture, competitive campaigns chart, July 26th, with Rasmussen

The 48 currently safe Democrats, plus the 3.83 wins projected in these 13 campaigns, comes out to 51.83 Democrats, or 52 seats.  Charlie Crist is also projected to win one seat.

Senate Picture, July 26th, without Rasmussen
Most likely outcome: Democrats 54 seats, Republicans 45 seats, Charlie Crist one seat
Odds of GOP taking chamber: 0.02% (if the election were held today)

Senate picture, competitive campaigns chart, July 26th, without Rasmussen

The 48 currently sage Democrats, plus the 6.35 wins projected in these 13 campaigns, comes out to 54.35 Democrats, or 54 seats.   Charlie Crist is also porjected to win one seat.

Notes:

  • * = Has primary challenger, but heavy favorite
  • Methodology can be found here . No Research 2000 polls were used.
  • The "current Dem winning %" column projects the chance of Democratic victory if the election were held today.  It is not meant to predict the chance of the Democratic candidate winning in November.
  • Every seat not listed here currently has either a 0% or a 100% chance of a Democratic victory.
Commentary on today's forecast can be found in the extended entry.
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Senate Forecast Update: Dems down to 52 seats, but only 2% chance of GOP winning chamber

by: Chris Bowers

Mon Jul 19, 2010 at 11:49

Today I am introducing a new addition to the Senate picture: the odds of Republicans winning control of the camber if the election were held today.  Hopefully it adds some spice to the forecast:

Senate Picture, July 19th
Most likely outcome: Democrats 52 seats, Republicans 47 seats, Charlie Crist one seat
Odds of GOP taking chamber: 2% (if the election were held today)

Senate picture, competitive seats chart, July 19th

Notes:

  • * = Has primary challenger, but heavy favorite
  • Methodology can be found here.
  • The "current Dem winning %" column projects the chance of Democratic victory if the election were held today.  It is not meant to predict the chance of the Democratic candidate winning in November.
  • Every seat not listed here currently has either a 0% or a 100% chance of a Democratic victory.
This forecast is a step backward for Democrats since Friday., when they were projected at 53 seats. The causes for this are two new polls, both from Rasmussen, in Washington and Pennsylvania.  The Washington poll, showing Dino Rossi up 3%, was particularly damaging, as it knocked a poll showing Patty Murray up 7% out of the averages.  This moved Patty Murray's current odds of winning (if the election were held today) from 86% to 28%, accounting for almost all of the pro-Republican shift.

It is worth noting that my most likely projected outcome for the 2010 elections, 52.1 Democratic seats, is lower than Nate Silver's most recent forecast (53.4 Democratic seats).  However, my odds of Democrats maintaining control of the chamber (98%) are much higher than Nate's (85%).  The latter is the difference between  basing odds on if the election were held today versus projecting odds for victory on November 2nd.  The former is likely due to Nate adjusting for Rasmussen's "house effect" in his model.

Adjusting for "house effect" is the only methodological change I am open to in the Senate picture right now.  This is because adjusting for recentness and / or the size of survey samples would have the ironic effect of reducing the amount of data in the averages.  This goes against the core findings that led to this methodology: the more data, the better.  Adjusting for "house effect" does not have this problem, but I have been unable to find a comprehensive list of the "house effects" for polling firms at the state level for the 2004-2008 period.  As such, I have been unable to conduct the research that would indicate whether adjusting for "house effect" produces more accurate results.

In the end, I am fine with never finding a list of "house effects" for statewide pollsters in 2004-2008, and not adjusting for "house effect."  Adjusting for "house effect" would add a level of complexity to the forecast, something I am loathe to do.  In addition to accuracy, another purpose of this forecast is to be as simple as possible, as simplicity breeds both transparency and democracy.  The greater the number of people who can produce, or at least understand, extremely accurate election forecasts, then the greater confidence in the system and the less forecasting remains the province of professional elites.  That ability to lower the cost of the production and consumption of accurate information is what the Internet is, or at least should, be all about.

Additionally, adding another level of complexity to the forecast does not seem necessary right now.  Just taking the simple mean of all properly conducted polls during the last 15, 20, 25 or 30 days of an election (especially 15 days), was, at least according to the research I conducted late last year, more accurate than either Pollster.com or fivethirtyeight.com in 2008.  

Total error rates, final predicted margin to final vote margin, 52 closest Presidential, Gubernatorial and Senatorial general election campaigns, 2008-2010
Pollster 538 Simple 15-day mean
Mean error 2.79 2.83 2.61
Median error 2.14 2.16 1.77
It may be comparatively simple, but it seems to be effective.  You can download all of the data for this comparison here.

No statistics background necessary.  Just include multiple polls from the same pollster in your averages (if applicable), and use polls a bit further out from Election Day than intuition would suggest.

Now, I don't expect that Charles Franklin or Nate Silver, both of whom I respect quite a bit, will allow their methodologies to stand still.  They may yet develop, or perhaps already have developed, methods that surpass the simple mean method. (To clarify, that means more accurate only for the closest elections, which I define as a projected final polling margin of less than 18.5%).  However, it is unlikely that either of those wizards will ever surpass a 2.6 mean error, and a 1.8 median error, by all that much.  As such, the simple mean methodology should always remain competitive with even the most advanced and most accurate statistical models.  In my opinion, that should a crude model can produce such accurate results is both quite amazing and quite democratizing.

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Senate Forecast Update, July 16: Dems 48, GOP 40, and 12 competitive

by: Chris Bowers

Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 14:00

Senate forecast, July 16th: 52.73 Democratic seats (rounds to 53, up from 52.31)

Range: Democrats 48 seats, Republicans 40 seats, and 12 seats currently unclear

I spent this morning going over the Senate forecast with a fine tune comb.  As a result, I believe I have improved the product significantly.  All errors in terms of polling averages, primary campaigns, and the spelling of candidate names have been removed.  I have also reorganized the forecast so that it now makes more sense at a casual glance.

Competitive Senate campaigns table, July 16
Balance of power
Democrats: 48
Republicans: 40
Competitive: 12



These are the 12 Senate campaigns where, if the election were held tomorrow, current polling suggests an uncertain outcome.   The balance of power before an outcome is determined in these 12 campaigns is 48 Democrats and 40 Republicans:  As such, Democrats need to win only two of these campaigns in order to maintain at least nominal control of the chamber.  To maintain actual control, they need at least 53 seats and filibuster reform.

Florida is listed among these 12 campaigns not only because it is close, but because Independent candidate Charlie Crist has not declared which party he would caucus with if he were to win the seat.  I am currently assuming Crist would caucus with Republicans, but until he declares (or falls behind Republican Marco Rubio by 10% or more), Florida will remain in the competitive campaigns chart.

With 109 days until the election, Senate updates will start to occur far more frequently than once a week.  It won't be long before updates take place daily, or even more than daily.  I will still forecast all elections where the incumbent party does not lead by 18.5% or more, but from now on the most competitive campaigns will receive top billing.

Methodology, notes, and a forecast of seven other, less competitive seats, can be found in the extended entry.

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Senate Forecast Update, July 14th: Coming to terms with Rasmussen

by: Chris Bowers

Wed Jul 14, 2010 at 12:14

Senate forecast, July 14th: 52.31 Democratic seats (rounds to 52, up from 51.94)

The latest Senate forecast shows Democrats maintaining only a narrow majority in the upper chamber, 52-48 (with Lieberman caucusing with Democrats and Crist caucusing with Republicans). It includes all polls conducted over the past 30 days, including Rasmussen polls.  At least for now, I am no longer going to separate the forecast into "all polls" and "all non-Rasmussen polls."

This decision is based on new work by David Shor, who finds that while Rasmussen has a huge "house effect" for the generic congressional ballot, the firm is only displaying a house effect of Republican +2 in Senate polling. Even though I have not run the numbers, that also feels right on an intuitive level.  Apart from a few surveys conducted the day after primary elections, recent Rasmussen polling has not been significantly divergent from other Senate polling in the most meaningful Senate campaigns.  This is the case in California, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin. As such, right now I think removing Rasmussen polls would create a less accurate forecast, not a more accurate one, as it would remove too much data from the overall projection (about 50% of the data, in fact).

A 2% swing toward Republicans is not inconsequential, especially with 9 campaigns currently showing a margin of 3.5% or less.  Also, it is possible that Rasmussen could start producing a large number of outlying polls again, in the event of which I would produce forecast both with and without Rasmussen polls.  But, at least for now, the Rasmussen effect does not seem to be a big deal, and I am OK with my  projections potentially being slightly on the pessimistic side for Democrats.  It is always good to be prepared for the worst.

On the chart below, right now I define ten campaigns as clearly winnable by either party.  In order of their current winnability for Democrats, those ten campaigns are: Washington, California, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Kentucky, Nevada and Colorado.  The outcome of every other campaign is going to be very difficult to change at this time (including West Virginia, given that Manchin seems likely to run).  Still, that produces a wide range of 48 to 58 Senate seats for Democrats, a range which runs the gamut from a total disaster to a massive triumph.

As much impact as the overall political environment has on elections, there are so many close elections right now that the effectiveness of the Democratic operation in those ten campaigns will largely determine whether Democrats can still govern in 2011-2012.  If Democrats can hold the House, win 55 or more Senate seats, and if the brunt of the losses fall on the center-right of the party--an outcome which is entirely plausible at this point--Senate procedural reform would actually make the Democratic majority just as effective, if not more, in 2011-2012 than it has been in 2009-2010. That would be a remarkable victory in the current political and economic environment, and something worth aiming for over the next four months.

Senate forecast overview, July 14th
All Polls Dems GOP
Not up for election 41 23
Incumbent party safe 6 10
Sub-total 47 33
Current polling 5.31 14.69
Projected total 52.31 47.69

The 20 Senate seats that might switch partisan control
The chart below looks only at a broadly defined definition of "competitive" campaigns.  Campaigns where incumbent party currently leads by 18.5% or more are considered "safe" and not listed.  All polls can be found at Pollster.com and Wikipedia.


Notes:

  • * = Has primary challenger, but heavy favorite

  • Methodology can be found here

  • The "current Dem winning %" column projects the chance of Democratic victory if the election were held today.  It is not meant to predict the chance of the Democratic candidate winning in November.

  • Yes, I am projecting J. D. Hayworth to win the Republican primary in Arizona, even though McCain leads in the polls.

  • This forecast includes polls that were released today (July 14th)

  • Florida only remains on the board because there is an off-chance Charlie Crist will caucus with Democrats
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Real disposable income is the dominant swing voter ideology

by: Chris Bowers

Tue Jul 13, 2010 at 15:23

One of the main problems facing the Democratic Party on a national level is that it caters to the 20-30% of its elected officials who are primarily center-right when it comes to public policy. (For a list of the ways the party caters to this 20-30%, read my article "BREAKING: I am now a conservative Democrat.").  In the upcoming 2010 elections, the net result of this catering is likely to be a a minimal electoral boost for that 20-30% of the party, and a massive electoral setback for the entire party, including that 20-30%.

This prediction is based on available empirical studies on electoral outcomes.  It rests first on a study showing that candidates who appear moderate gain about 2% at the polls.  Andrew Gelman:  

There is definitely some evidence that moderate candidates do better. Steven Rosenstone discussed this in his classic 1984 book, Forecasting Presidential Elections, and others have looked into this as well.  For example, my 2008 paper, "Should the Democrats move to the left on economic policy?"

We also have some graphs in chapter 9 of Red State, Blue State, one showing the (estimated) benefits of moderation in congressional elections, and another graph for presidential elections.  The short story is that moderation can get you something like 2 percentage points of the vote (or, if you want to look at it another way, extremism can lose you something like 2 percentage points).

Now, 2% isn't nothing, and can make the difference in many campaigns.  However, this 2% swing is dwarfed by the impact that changes in real disposable income has on elections. Ezra Klein:

"In presidential elections," Princeton political scientist Larry Bartels says, "a 1 percent boost in election-year income growth has typically increased the incumbent party's vote share by about 2 percent. So an incumbent party that won 51 percent of the vote in an average economic year like 2004 would be expected to win only 46 percent in a recession year like 2008." Which is, as you may remember, pretty much exactly what happened.

Congressional elections are a bit more difficult because they're more local, but they end up being predictable, too. Gary Jacobson, a political scientist at the University of California at San Diego, has a model that uses the number of seats the majority party holds, the approval rating of the president and the change in real disposable income, and predicts about 70 percent of the change from one election to the next.

The accompanying graph that Klein produced is also worth a look.  The bottom line is that changes in real disposable income can, and do, have much more impact on electoral outcomes than does the appearance of moderation.

Real disposable income is the dominant ideology among swing voters.  This should not come as a shock, or even a mild surprise.  The mushy middle is not full of political junkies, but it is full of people who worry about their pocketbooks.  As such, whether things get better or worse for their pocketbooks, those voters will blame the governing party, and vote accordingly.

In an ideal world, Democrats would get credit for moderation, and institute public policies that significantly increased real disposable income nationwide, thus creating a massive electoral landslide in their favor.  Readers of Open Left might remember this as the old eleven-dimensional chess strategy of appearing to be moderate in public, but in fact being a secret progressive when it came time to write legislation (Chris Matthews supported that line of thinking in the first question he asked me back when I appeared on Hardball).  However, following the current "moderate" line of slashing stimulus spending to reduce the size of the deficit is antithetical to getting more money in the hands of voters.

Blocking unemployment benefits will result in less money in the hands of voters who are unemployed.  Blocking the Medicare "doc fix" will result in less money in the hands of doctors who vote.  Blocking an extension of COBRA and a public option will result in voters who have to purchase individual insurance having less money in their hands.  Cutting aid to states to prevent layoffs will result in state workers who vote having less money in their hands.  Blocking a cap on ATM fees means less money in the hands of voters.  Blocking $100 billion in the first stimulus resulted in voters of all sorts having less money in their hands.  And that is just a partial list.

As a governing party, if you want to win elections, you have to get more money in the hands of voters than they had the year before.  That is simply impossible if your policy focus is on cutting spending, which is the current, dominant mantra of being a "moderate."  Those same "moderates" even want to cut Social security and Medicare payments in order to slightly cut the deficit, which would be a truly disastrous electoral move. Talk about taking money out of the hands of voters!

Democrats want to help the center-right members of their party win by allowing them to appear "moderate" to swing voters, and thus water down every piece of legislation the party proposes.  However, all Democrats, including the center-right Democrats, are all going to lose big because they failed to enact progressive public policies that would have resulted in putting more money in the hands of voters.  Whatever benefit the blue Dogs get at the ballot box for appearing "moderate" will be canceled out, several times over, because voters are pissed that they have less money in their wallets.

The dominant ideology of swing voters is disposable income.  As such, enact public policies that increase real disposable income, or else face defeat at the ballot box.  It really is that simple.

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Senate Forecast, July 6th: Senate definitely in play

by: Chris Bowers

Tue Jul 06, 2010 at 13:50

After five weeks, the Senate forecast is back.  Given current polling controversies, all Research 2000 polls have been removed.  Additionally, the forecast is presented both with and without Rasmussen polls.  Here are the numbers:

  • Senate forecast, July 6 (all polls): 51.94 Democratic seats (rounds to 52, down from 53.43)

  • Senate forecast, without Rasmussen: 54.28 Democratic seats ( rounds to 54, down from 54.37)
The removal of Research 2000 has increased Rasmussen's overall percentage in the "all polls" forecast.  This has in turns increased the gap between the Rasmussen and non-Rasmussen forecast (now a whopping 2.34 seats).  If you are wondering why I consider Rasmussen fishy this year, I explained why on April 19th.

Even without Rasmussen polls, the Senate is definitely in play.  Republicans are ahead, tied, or within 2% of a total of 51 seats, even when there are no Rasmussen polls in the average.  At the same time, Democrats have a realistic chance at 58 seats. Much will hang in the balance of the quality of the campaigns, and the slight changes in the political environment.

Senate forecast overview, July 6th
All Polls
All Polls Dems GOP
Not up for election 41 23
Incumbent party safe 6 10
Sub-total 47 33
Current polling 4.94 15.06
Projected total 51.94 48.06

Without Rasmussen
Without Rasmussen Dems GOP
Not up for election 41 23
Incumbent party safe 6 10
Sub-total 47 33
Current polling 6.67 15.33
Projected total 52.67 47.33
Notes: Because they caucus with Senate Democrats, Independents Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman are considered Democrats.  For now, Charlie Crist is considered more likely to caucus with Republicans, and as such is included in the GOP's overall total.

The 20 Senate seats that might switch partisan control
The chart below looks only at a broadly defined definition of "competitive" campaigns.  Campaigns where incumbent party currently leads by 18.5% or more are considered "safe" and not listed.  All polls can be found at Pollster.com and Wikipedia.


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Latest Gallup just 1 of 24 generic ballot polls this month; Dems still lead overall

by: Chris Bowers

Wed Jun 02, 2010 at 09:53

June 2nd generic ballot: Democrats +0.13%
Last week: Democrats +0.46%

There is going to be a lot of news today about the llatest Gallup generic congressional ballot poll showing Republicans with their largest lead ever in that poll, 49%--43%.  While that certainly is not good news for Democrats, it cannot be emphasized enough that this poll is still just one of twenty-four generic congressional ballot polls to be released this month.  In the overall average of those 24 polls, Democrats still hold a slight edge, 44.17%--44.04%:

Generic Congressional Ballot, June 2nd
Polls can be found at Pollster.com and Pollingreport.com


(Note: Zogby interactive also released generic congressional ballot polls during the past month, but they are not included in these averages due to their horrendous track record)

Some might object to this poll averaging methodology, arguing that including all of the polls over the past month, and also including multiple polls from individual polling firms, will miss developing trends. However, not including multiple polls from the same polling firm, and including only the most recent polls, has been shown to produce less accurate poll averaging results (I would know, since I used that type of less accurate methodology in 2008, and conducted research to find a more accurate method for 2010).  To put it a different way, removing older polls and multiple polls from individual pollsters produces results in a less accurate poll methodology that often finds trends which do not exist.

The methodology I am using in 2010 has found minimal movement--less than 2.3% on net--in the national generic ballot over the past fours months.  This is a lot more believable than the idea that the country is swinging 5-6% points in favor of one party in a single week, even if it isn't uncommon for individual polls to show such a trend (Quinnipiac showed such a result for Democrats last week, for example).  The entire difference between the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections was less than a 10% net swing--how could one week of news early in the campaign season possibly result in half of the net swing from 2004 to 2008?  A swing like that requires a mega-story like a presidential convention or the financial metldown of September 2008, not run of the mill political tit for tat during the spring legislative and primary season.

Shorter version of all this: one generic congressional ballot poll means very little.  As always, look at the complete polling picture.

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National House Ballot, post-hcr baseline

by: Chris Bowers

Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 11:09

After the House passed the Senate health insurance reform bill last night, the National House Ballot stands almost exactly where it did at the beginning of the month.  The Democratic advantage is 0.2%, compared to 0.3% 18 days ago.

Polls included in the calculation
Poll Sponsor Voter Type Poll Mid-Date Democrats Republicans
Total All Mar 22 41.87 41.65
Daily Kos Reg. Voters Mar 17 47 44
Fox Reg. Voters Mar 17 38 42
Economist Reg. Voters Mar 15 44 45
NBC / WSJ Reg. Voters Mar 13 45 42
PPP Reg. Voters Mar 13 43 46
Gallup Reg. Voters Mar 11 47 44
Rasmussen Likely Voters Mar 11 35 45
Daily Kos Reg. Voters Mar 10 46 43
On Message Likely Voters Mar 10 36 37
Economist All Adults Mar 08 45 39
AP-GfK All Adults Mar 06 44 38
Gallup Reg. Voters Mar 04 47 44
Rasmussen Likely Voters Mar 04 37 44
Daily Kos Reg. Voters Mar 03 45 42
Economist All Adults Mar 01 46 37
Ipsos All Adults Feb 27 50 40
McLaughlin Likely Voters Feb 25 35 42
Rasmussen Likely Voters Feb 25 36 44
Daily Kos All adults Feb 24 37 36
Fox Reg. Voters Feb 24 36 35
Economist All adults Feb 22 45 38
Democracy Corps Likely Voters Feb 22 44 47
Rasmussen Likely Voters Feb 18 35 44
Methodology

There are a lot of varying opinions on whether passing this bill will be good, politically speaking, for Democrats.  I say we just measure where the political situation stands today, and compare it to the political situation over the next month.

It won't be a perfect test, as there are other factors in these polls, and in the national political scene, than just health reform.  Additionally, while we have passed the climax, this particular health reform legislative fight isn't quite over yet, either.

Still, right now, Democrats are narrowly ahead.  Let's see if that holds.

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Senate Forecast Update, March 11th

by: Chris Bowers

Thu Mar 11, 2010 at 18:09

Senate Forecast update
  • March 11th update: Democratic loss of 7.33 seats
  • Change from March 1st: Democrats up 0.02 seats
  • Projected 2010 Senate: Democrats 52-48 (assuming no caucus switches)

Senate forecast overview
Dems* GOP
Not up for election 41 23
Currently safe 8 12
Sub-total 49 35
Current polling 2.67 13.33
Projected total 52 48
* = Because they caucus with Senate Democrats, Independents Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman are considered Democrats

The 16 Senate seats that might switch partisan control
Republicans would have to win all 16 of these campaigns to take control of the Senate
(Campaigns where incumbent party currently leads by 18.5% or more are considered "safe," and not listed)
Democrats: 2.67 (3)
Republicans: 13.33 (13)

State Democrat Republican Margin Current Dem Win %
Wisconsin Feingold Wall D 7.5 97%
California Boxer Campbell D 5.2 94%
Illinois Giannoulis Kirk Even 50%
Ohio Fisher Portman R 4.0 11%
Missouri Carnahan Blunt* R 6.3 4%
Pennnsylvania Specter Toomey R 7.2 3%
Indiana Ellsworth Coats R 7.5 3%
New Hampshire Hodes* Ayotte R 8.4 2%
Colorado Bennet Norton R 8.5 2%
Nevada Reid Tarkanian R 9.4 1%
Arkansas Lincoln Baker R 10.8 0%
North Carolina Marshall Burr R 10.8 0%
Florida Meek Rubio R 12.6 0%
Kentucky Mongiardo Paul R 14.0 0%
Delaware Coons Castle R 22.3 0%
North Dakota Potter Hoeven R 54.0 0%
In an attempt to make the Senate forecast a little easier on the eyes, I have produced a chart showing the polling averages only for the current frontrunners for the Democratic and Republican nominations.  The full chart, which includes all of the primary campaigns and potential general election matchups, can be found in the extended entry.  the methodology and notes to these charts can be found there, too

As disastrous as this looks, it is still possible for Democrats to have a more effective Senate majority in 2011 than they have right now.  With filibuster reform pending, a 52-seat Democratic majority might actually be stronger than the current 59-seat incarnation.  If the Democratic electoral situation improves, which could happen if the jobless rate declines and if Rasmussen polls become a smaller percentage of the averages, Democrats could keep a 54 or 55 seat majority.  If combined with filibuster reform, a majority of that size would make Mary Lanrieu, Ben Nelson, and Joe Lieberman irrelevant.

There is still hope for change yet.  More info in the extended entry.

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A complete look at House polling and retirements

by: Chris Bowers

Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 09:30

Eric Massa's retirement is not helpful to the overall electoral picture for Democrats.  However, a close look at national polling, and the now 36 open House seats, shows that Republicans still need to defeat a minimum of 33 incumbents to win control of the House in 2010.

Defeating 33 incumbents is virtually impossible.  In 2006 and 2008, Democrats won the national popular vote by 6.49% and 9.65% respectively.  Despite this, they still only defeated 37 Republican incumbents in those two years combined.   With Republicans nowhere close to that level of strength in the generic congressional ballot, it is still more likely than not that Democrats will retain control of the House.

****

1. Democrats currently hold narrow lead in National House Ballot
Democrats currently hold a very narrow lead of 0.3% in the National House Ballot.  Here are all of the generic congressional ballot polls with the majority of their interviews conducted in February:

Polls included in the calculation
Poll Sponsor Voter Type Poll Mid-Date Democrats Republicans
Total All Mar 04 41.45 41.13
Ipsos All Adults Feb 27 50 40
Rasmussen Likely Voters Feb 25 36 44
Daily Kos All adults Feb 24 37 36
Fox Reg. Voters Feb 24 36 35
Economist All adults Feb 22 44.7 37.7
Newsweek Reg. Voters Feb 18 45 43
Public Opinion Reg. Voters Feb 18 42 43
Rasmussen Likely Voters Feb 18 35 44
Daily Kos All adults Feb 17 38 37
Economist All adults Feb 15 47.5 35.6
CNN Reg. Voters Feb 14 45 47
Rasmussen Likely Voters Feb 11 36 45
Daily Kos All adults Feb 10 39 38
Economist All adults Feb 08 46.7 39.5
ABC / WaPo All Adults Feb 06 45 48
Pew Reg. Voters Feb 06 45 42
Rasmussen Likely Voters Feb 04 36 44
Daily Kos All adults Feb 03 38 37
Democracy Corps Likely Voters Feb 03 46 45
Fox Reg. Voters Feb 03 36 41
Gallup All Adults Feb 02 45 45
Economist All adults Feb 01 43.1 38.0
Methodology: I have gone back to using a 30-day average, mainly because I feel more comfortable when more polls are included in the calculation.  Additionally, my research shows that the 30-day average is only slightly less accurate than the 15-day average.

2. Republicans lead among registered and likely voters
The Democratic advantage of 0.3% disappears when looking at polls of registered and likely voters.  Among those 11 polls, Republicans hold a 3.2% advantage.

A net 3.5% gain for Republicans among registered and likely voters seems quite reasonable, given both historic midterm trends and current voter enthusiasm measurements.

3. Republicans need 40 pickups, but stand to gain only 7 from open seats
With the polling in mind, here is a complete list of House retirements so far (more in the extended entry):

There's More... :: (3 Comments, 377 words in story)

Senate Forecast Update, March 1st

by: Chris Bowers

Mon Mar 01, 2010 at 13:55

Senate Forecast update
  • March 1st update: Democratic loss of 7.35 seats (7 when rounded)
  • Change from Feb 19: Democrats up 0.09 seats
  • Projected 2010 Senate: Democrats 52-48 (assuming no caucus switches)

****

Due to upward ticks in Illinois and Indiana, Democrats have slightly improved their overall stand this week.  They are still at only 52 seats, though, and not much ahead of 51.

Still haven't hit the bottom, but we are close to it.  The situation could still get worse in Wisconsin, Missouri and California, even to the point where control of the Senate becomes a question mark.

Senate forecast overview
Dems* GOP
Not up for election 41 23
Currently safe 8 12
Sub-total 49 35
Current polling 2.65 13.35
Projected total 52 48
* = Because they caucus with Senate Democrats, Independents Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman are considered Democrats

The 16 Senate seats that might switch partisan control
(Campaigns where incumbent party currently leads by 18.5% or more are considered "safe," and not listed)
Democrats: 2.65 (3)
Republicans: 13.35 (13)

State Democrat Republican Margin Current Dem Win %
Wisconsin Feingold Wall D 7.5 97%
WI Feingold Westlake D 12.5 100%
California Boxer Campbell D 5.5 94%
CA Boxer Fiorina D 7.5 97%
CA R Primary Campbell +9.8
Illinois Giannoulis Kirk R 0.8 38%
Missouri Carnahan Blunt* R 3.0 17%
Ohio Fisher Portman* R 5.2 6%
OH Brunner Portman* R 5.0 7%
OH D Primary Fisher +5.5
Colorado Bennet Norton* R 7.0 3%
CO Romanoff Norton* R 7.3 3%
CO D Primary Romanoff +14.0
Nevada Reid Tarkanian R 7.4 3%
NV Reid Lowden R 8.3 2%
NV Reid Angle R 4.3 9%
NV R Primary Tarkanian +0.5
Indiana Ellsworth Coats R 7.5 3%
Indiana Ellsworth Stutzman R 10.0 0%
Indiana Ellsworth Hostettler R 12.5 0%
New Hampshire Hodes* Ayotte R 8.0 2%
NH Hodes* Lamontagne D 8.0 98%
NH R Primary Ayotte +20.5
Pennnsylvania Specter Toomey R 8.8 2%
PA Sestak Toomey R 12.0 0%
PA D Primary Specter +17.0
Arkansas Lincoln Baker R 10.0 0%
AR Lincoln Boozman R 22.0 0%
AR Lincoln Coleman R 5.3 6%
AR Halter Coleman R 5.0 7%
AR Halter Baker R 8.0 2%
AR D Primary Lincoln +16.0
AR R Primary Baker +2.0 (straw poll)
North Carolina Marshall Burr R 10.8 0%
NC Cunningham Burr R 14.8 0%
NC Lewis Burr R 12.5 0%
NC D Primary Marshall +13.5
Kentucky Mongiardo Paul R 12.5 0%
KY Conway Grayson R 7.0 3%
KY Conway Paul R 8.0 2%
KY Mongiardo Grayson R 10.5 0%
KY D Primary Mongiardo +7.0
KY R Primary Paul +20.0
Florida Meek* Rubio R 13.0 0%
FL Meek* Crist R 12.6 0%
FL R Primary Rubio +11.8
Delaware Coons Castle* R +22.3 0%
North Dakota Potter Hoeven R +54.0 0%
* = Faces primary challenge, but heavy favorite
** = Faces primary, but no current polling on primary challengers
.

Please let me know how you think the forecast could be improved.  It remains a work in progress.  The methodology can be found here.

Discuss :: (3 Comments)

Senate Forecast Update: The plummet continues

by: Chris Bowers

Fri Feb 19, 2010 at 16:00

Senate Forecast update
  • February 19 update: Democratic loss of 7.44 seats (7, for rounding purposes)
  • Change from Feb 11: Democrats down 0.98 seats
  • Projected 2010 Senate: Democrats 52-48 (assuming no caucus switches)

****

Evan's Bayh's departure has dropped Democrats down nearly a full seat in the forecast.  At this point, Democrats are barely projected to even reach 52 seats.

Republicans are still not in a position to retake the Senate, fortunately.  However, as I mentioned earlier in the week, if George Pataki (NY), Rino Rossi (WA) or Tommy Thompson (WI) were to enter the fray, then they would be.

An we are nowhere close to the bottom, either.  Even if the senate picture improves a bit for Democrats in 2010, from 2012-2014 Democrats must defend 43 of the 66 Senate seats up for election.  Given that Barack Obama will still be President in 2012, and that the economy will still probably stink, Democrats are going to the party in charge that voters blame for at least the 2012 elections (ala Republicans in 2008, even though Democrats controlled the House).  In other words, we are not going to hit the bottom until sometime around 2013-2015.

This continued plummet is just so damn frustrating.  If we had passed, as Matthew Yglesias wrote, what progressives had wanted:

- A $1.2 trillion stimulus.
- The forcible breakup of large banks.
- Universal health care with a public option linked to Medicare rates.
- An economy-wide cap on carbon emissions, with the permits auctioned.
- Repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell.
- A path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
- An exit strategy from Afghanistan.
- An end to special exemption of military spending from fiscal discipline.
- An independent Consumer Financial Protection Agency.
- The Employee Free Choice Act.

If all that had passed, plus D.C. representation, then really it wouldn't be so bad.  For one thing, the political situation probably be a bit better (because the economy would be a bit better and activists would be really pumped).  For another thing, at that point I would just say fine, you can have the Senate back--we made a big difference that will change the country for a generation.

But none of that list passed.  Instead, we are looked at a huge wasted opportunity, and a massive electoral disaster to boot.  Great, just great.

The complete Senate forecast chart can be found in the extended entry.

There's More... :: (32 Comments, 221 words in story)

Senate Forecast, "sidecar update," February 11th

by: Chris Bowers

Thu Feb 11, 2010 at 21:00

Senate Forecast update
  • February 11 update: Democratic loss of 6.46 seats (6, for rounding purposes)
  • Change from Feb 09: Democrats down 0.09 seats
  • Projected 2010 Senate: Democrats 53-47 (assuming no caucus switches)

Tonight's Senate forecast update features new polls from Indiana, Missouri and New Hampshire (and a second from New Hampshire):

State Democrat Republican Margin Current Dem Win %
Indiana Bayh Hostettler D 8.0 98%
IN Bayh Stutzman D 12.0 100%
Missouri Carnahan Blunt* R 1.8 25%
New Hampshire Hodes* Ayotte R 7.8 3%
NH Hodes* Lamontagne D 5.2 94%
NH R Primary Ayotte +20.5
* = Faces primary, but heavy favorite

Amusingly, Dan Coats is too far behind in Indiana (20%) to even be mentioned in the forecast.

Senate forecast overview
Democrats* Republicans
Not up for election 41 23
Incumbent party safe 8 12
Sub-total 49 35
Current polling 3.54 12.46
Projected total 53 47
* = Because they caucus with Senate Democrats, Independents Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman are considered Democrats

Republicans are on the brink of picking up another seat in the forecast.  They need to a gain of 0.05 to do it.

There's More... :: (2 Comments, 24 words in story)

Senate Forecast and Filibuster Update, February 9th

by: Chris Bowers

Tue Feb 09, 2010 at 19:16

Senate Forecast update
  • February 09 Senate update: Democratic loss of 6.37 seats (six)
  • Change from Feb 02: Democrats down 1.02 seats (NO CHANGE)
  • Projected 2010 Senate: Democrats 53-47 (assuming no caucus switches)
Democrats continue their downward spiral in the Senate forecast, reaching their lowest point to date.  Right now, Democrats are forecasted to win only 52.63 seats, and there hasn't been upward movement in a while.

One positive sign is that Senate Democrats are increasingly warming to the possibility of destroying the filibuster.  Today, after the filibuster of a routine nominee, Senators Leahy and Levin signaled their openness to filibuster reform:

"I'm in my thirty-sixth year. I've never seen anything like it," said Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), noting that no previous Republican Senate leader would have allowed his party to filibuster such a routine nomination.

Leahy said that the overuse of filibusters by the GOP was leading Democrats to consider ways to modify it.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), another long-serving member, said that abuse of the filibuster is unsustainable. "I think it will either fall of its own weight -- it should fall of its own weight -- or it will fall after some massive conflict on the floor, which has happened in the past where there have been rulings from the chair that have led to reform," Levin told the Huffington Post, adding that the filibuster should be restricted to major issues.

Along with the White House and Vice-President Biden, Senators Harkin, Lieberman (!) and Tom Udall have all previously indicated they were willing to reform the filibuster.  Six down, forty-five to go.

Of course, Democrats will have to maintain control of the Senate in order to destroy the filibuster (it can be done on the first say the Senate is in session next year, with only 50 votes plus the Vice-President).  As the Senate chart shows in the extended entry, they still have a good chance to do so, barring significant downward movement in the California, Indiana, Missouri and Wisconsin Senate campaigns.

Check out the chart in the extended entry.

There's More... :: (33 Comments, 216 words in story)
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