2016 US Presidential Election Predictions

America goes to the polls tomorrow after what has felt like one of the most intense and partisan Presidential elections ever, with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump going the full 12 rounds against each other.

It’s no secret now that the two choices being served to the American public are among the most unpalatable in their history, but what the outcome is set to be is perhaps what most of the world will be wanting.

Despite a closing race over the last week or so, Hillary Clinton is set to take the White House tomorrow with a small victory but one full of symbolism.  She will become America’s first ever female President, breaking down yet another barrier in modern American history.

 

The question is though whether Clinton’s lead in the popular vote will translate to the Electoral College which decides who wins the election.  In America, it’s the states who decide who wins the election – and in most states the winner of the vote in that state wins a number of Electoral College votes that goes towards the final “score” of the election.  Whoever has the highest “score” in the Electoral College wins the Presidency – and this doesn’t necessarily mean that winning the most votes overall in the US wins the vote.  Two great articles, one from FiveThirtyEight and its’ pollster guru Nate Silver and one from New York Times’ Nate Cohn, both show that while Clinton leads – her problem on Tuesday might lie with the way in which America elects its’ leader.

 

With this nuance of the American political system the Presidential race will be close, and poll aggregators aren’t exactly sure on how the race will eventually play out, with three of the leading models: 538, RealClearPolitics and Huffington Post all differing in their view of the playing field.

538 is perhaps the most detailed in its evaluations of the race, giving Clinton a (lower) 69% chance of winning while Trump has a 31% chance.  It also estimates that in its 10,000 simulations of the race, Clinton gets an average of 296 electoral votes compared to Trump’s 240.  What confuses about this prediction though is that they’re current state-by-state map, where each state is put down to a red or blue column – actually predicts a pretty close electoral college margin for Clinton of 303-235, which is a swing state away from being a tie (which 538 predicted could happen even yesterday).

Here’s their current map of how things will turn out:

538

RealClearPolitics (RCP) has a similar prediction – with Clinton earning 47.2% of the vote and Trump earning 44.2%.  The results here are pretty similar as it turns out, although less than 24 hours ago they were wildly different from 538.

Here’s the RCP map on how they see the election right now:

rcp

Comparing these two to HuffPost’s pollster model, which gives Clinton a nigh-on certainty of 98% to win, makes stark reading.  For Huffington Post, Clinton has a 47.5%-42.3% lead and one that could net her as many as 325 electoral votes tomorrow night, which would beat the amount that Obama won in 2012.  Here all of the swing states we see at the moment go to the Democrats, with Florida’s crucial 29 votes squarely in Hillary’s column.

 

What I believe though is that the first two pollsters are missing out on a few factors that mean that the actual results will be slightly more in Clinton’s favour, hitting somewhere in the ballpark that HuffPost think the election will go.

What Clinton has in her advantage is that early voting in states across the country have been open for weeks at the moment, and what they are showing is that the Democratic candidate has picked up good returns so far, above and beyond her opponent and even the levels Barack Obama picked up in 2012, especially in the swing states of Florida and Nevada.

The indications are good in that blocks of voters that usually go Democratic, such as blacks and Hispanics, have been voting early in record numbers – which goes to show an enthusiasm that bodes well for actual on-the-day voting too.

Couple this with the fact that Clinton has an apparent ground-game advantage over Trump in terms of getting out the vote, with many times more field offices set up in swing states such as Florida and Ohio, then what we’ll see is that while the polling numbers in these states are close – the actual numbers that turn out to vote may be slightly higher for Clinton than Trump.

These will amount to a percentage point or two difference in the national vote, not a major shift by any means – but enough to tip the balance even further towards Clinton.  States like Florida, Nevada and North Carolina, worth a total of 50 electoral votes combined, could tip blue while the 538 and RCP poll aggregators might have them down as red, meaning a wafer thin margin in the electoral college could be much, much wider.

Here’s the map I’m predicting for tomorrow’s elections:

There are a few caveats to these assumptions I’m making that need to be heeded before thinking that Clinton has absolutely won the day.  First of all the early voting returns and get out the vote efforts are not as quantifiable as real polls, and that means that their predictive powers is small compared with the actual data that polls provide on the state of a race.

Secondly, we are seeing that the opinion polls in general across America have been a bit more scattered than they have been in the past – this means that the chances of Clinton’s lead being smaller than reported do exist – and that would be enough to give Trump the win in combination with the US electoral system.

Finally, I’ve made similar assumptions based on non-polling factors already this year and got them wrong, but what we are seeing is that there is at least this time evidence and precedent for early voting tallies being a good reflection of what will happen in the final result.

 

Whatever the result it will be an exciting (if that’s the right word) night ahead tomorrow as we learn the fate of this long campaign and what America’s outlook will be within the next 4 years.

Polls close across the US anywhere between 7-9pm local time (starting around11pm UK time), so if you want to see how the results come in stay up late and watch what will be history, no matter which way the election goes.

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