It is clear that the US response to the coronavirus has failed. The number of cases per capita and deaths per capita in the country is one of the highest in the world, and the country is ranked above most developed nations in these metrics, showcasing its failure to contain the spread of COVID-19.

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Currently, the US is 12th in both total cases and deaths from COVID per 100,000 people since the start of the outbreak in March. Many countries with fewer resources have managed to coordinate a better response to containing the virus.

In addition, the virus is surging across the US overall and in almost every state with confirmed cases and deaths surpassing their previous highs. The months ahead are going to be very difficult despite the positive news about a vaccine since it will take some time to execute massive rollouts that reach the required level for herd immunity across the population (take as evidence the time required to create adequate testing infrastructure, which is still failing many people). …

Forecasting Retrospective

The final forecast our model gave for the 2020 election was that Biden was likely to win with an 80% probability compared to Trump with a 20% probability. It expected him to win around 333 electoral votes with an 80% confidence interval of 239 to 407 and win the popular vote on average by 6% with an 80% confidence interval of 0.07% to 13%.

While votes are still being tallied, it appears that Biden will win 306 electoral votes and the popular vote by 4%.

The model in 2020 missed four states (3 of which it thought Biden would win but he ended up losing to Trump and 1 in the reverse): Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, and Georgia. This is similar to the number it missed in 2016, which was the three states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. …

With the early results in, it is clear that the election is closer than the expected results from our forecast. It appears that polls broke in favor of Trump at the end, confirming signs we saw in some of the recent polls leading up to election day in key states.

What can these early results tell us about what is likely to happen?

We can use the simulations from our Presidential election forecast and condition on simulations where we observed results that we have so far. …

In previous posts we provided detailed senate and presidential forecasts for the upcoming elections on November 3.

Here we update those forecasts with the latest polls as of November 2, the day before election day.

Presidential Election Update

Using the latest economic data and national and state polls, we have seen the fundamental and hybrid model forecasts converge. Biden now has an 80% probability to win according to both models.

The alignment of fundamental and hybrid forecasts emphasizes Biden’s stronger position than Clinton in 2016 when the two forecasts diverged. …

(See here for the Senate forecast)

The 2020 election is rightly seen as a defining moment in American politics. Biden and Trump each have vastly different visions and plans for America. Who wins the election will reveal which vision voters want.

To understand who is likely to win the presidency, we built two forecasting models: a fundamentals only model and a fundamentals and polls hybrid model. The reason we use both is that on a state by state basis, the fundamental and polls hybrid is more accurate. …

The Answer is Key to the Future of American Democracy

(See here for the Presidential forecast)

Currently, Democrats are favored to win both the house and the presidency, making which party controls the senate of paramount importance.

If Democrats control the senate, then they stand a strong chance of controlling both legislative houses and the presidency, creating a unified government. That would allow them to pass potentially transformative legislation to tackle things like economic stimulus for COVID, climate change, and healthcare. …

Short Term, Not Much Will Be Different; Long Term It Is Still A Structural Deficiency

The sad passing of Ruth Bader Ginsberg has opened fears among liberals that Trump and Mitch McConnel will hastily approve another conservative justice, cementing the Supreme Court for conservatives for decades. The reality is that was already likely to happen (and make no mistake both will do everything in their power to ensure it does happen). However, this new judicial opening will likely not change either the short term or long term direction of the court.

To unpack this we can take a look at how the ideology of each Supreme Court justice explains who has power in the Supreme Court. …

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Joe Biden has very little chance of losing the national popular vote. No candidate with a double digit lead at the end of July has ever lost the national vote in November since Gallup started polling in 1932. The unpredictability of the pandemic and the associated economic downturn creates less certainty about the tally this year. But barring the “disappearance” of the virus predicted by President Trump or some galvanizing act of leadership by the incumbent, the Democratic nominee will likely see his current polling lead shrink only a little as he crosses the finish line with a 7% to 8% margin. …

US Presidential Elections are currently run under the Electoral College system, which consists of individual popular vote contests in each state that generally award a candidate with all or zero electoral votes. The discrete, winner take all nature of this system has huge ramifications on the incentives of each candidate and where they focus their campaign resources.

Candidates will not waste time in states they have no chance of competing in, and due to polarization in geography, race, and education, this is the bulk of states.

Indeed, in an average of recent national polls, Trump trails Biden amongst all white voters by -7 percentage points but leads among white voters without a college degree by +20 percentage points. Trump also trails Biden amongst nonwhite voters by a huge margin of -50 percentage points. …

The tragic death of George Floyd has offset racial protests across the US and around the world. It has sparked much needed discussion of difficult topics in the US around systematic racism and its deep costs.

Many have also pointed out that the majority of Americans support these protests and that Trump’s strong condemnation of them will likely cost him support in November. The truth is, however, that these protests are unlikely to have a sustained impact on his election odds, nor is he really incentivized to take meaningful policy steps based on them. …


Vinod Bakthavachalam

I am interested in politics, economics, & policy. I work as a data scientist and am passionate about using technology to solve structural economic problems.

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