Monday, November 2, 2020

Repeat After Me: 2020 Is Not 2016, 2020 Is Not 2016, 2020 Is Not 2016....

I know you're gonna still be as nervous as a long-tail cat in a room full of rocking chairs but....2020 is not 2016! It's really, really different and that means that the prospects of polling error so massive that Trump will manage to pull it out are--well, not impossible--but pretty small.
Nate Cohn's article on this is probably the best I've read so far. Clear and well-organized, with the appropriate level of technical detail
* The national polls show a decisive Biden win.
"Four years ago, the national polls showed Mrs. Clinton with a lead of around four percentage points, quite close to her eventual 2.1-point margin in the national vote. This year, the national polls show Mr. Biden up by 8.5 percentage points, according to our average. The higher-quality national surveys generally show him ahead by even more.
Unlike in 2016, the national polls do not foreshadow the gains Mr. Trump made in the Northern battleground states.
Unlike in 2016, the national polls do not foreshadow the gains Mr. Trump made in the Northern battleground states.
Four years ago, national polls showed Mr. Trump making huge gains among white voters without a college degree. It hinted that he was within striking distance of winning in the Electoral College, with possible victories in relatively white working-class states like Wisconsin, even though the state polls still showed Mrs. Clinton ahead.
This year, the national polls have consistently shown Mr. Biden making big gains among white voters and particularly among white voters without a degree....
* There are far fewer undecided or minor-party voters.
Four years ago, polls showed a large number of voters who were either undecided or backing a minor-party candidate, and it was always an open question how these voters would break at the end.
Over all, Mrs. Clinton led Mr. Trump, 45.7 to 41.8, in the FiveThirtyEight average, and 12.5 percent of voters were either undecided or supporting a minor-party candidate like Gary Johnson or Jill Stein.
There’s significant evidence that undecided and minor-party voters shifted to Mr. Trump in 2016. ...This year, just 4.6 percent are undecided or backing a minor-party candidate, according to the FiveThirtyEight average. Even if these voters broke unanimously to Mr. Trump, he would be far short of victory across the battleground states and nationwide.
* Many more state pollsters now properly represent voters without a college degree.
The failure of many state pollsters to do so four years ago is probably one of the biggest reasons the polls underestimated Mr. Trump. It’s not 100 percent solved in 2020, but it’s a lot better.
The issue is simple: Voters without a college degree are less likely to respond to telephone surveys. To compensate, pollsters need to weight by education, which means giving more weight to certain respondents to ensure that less educated voters represent the appropriate share of a survey....
By Upshot estimates, failing to weight by education would have biased a national survey by four points against Mr. Trump in 2016. It would have had no effect at all in 2012.
Importantly, most national surveys in recent cycles weighted by education....Fortunately, most state pollsters now weight by education. There are a couple of exceptions, but they’re generally not polls that get talked about too much anyway. Virtually all of the polling you’re looking at shows white voters without a degree as a very large share of the electorate. They’re just supporting Mr. Biden in far greater numbers than four years ago."
Now back to your regularly-scheduled panic.

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