DavidMRothschild's blog

Election Update - 10/19, 12 Days

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Things just keep getting worse for the Democrats in the senate. We now have the Democrats at just 19% to hold onto the senate. The amazing thing is that the continuous slide is not any serious slip-ups, but just the gradual shifting of leaning Republican to strong Republicans and one (or two) big surprises.

First, it was never really likely that the Democrats were going to carry Georgia, Alaska, Louisiana, South Dakota, Kentucky, or Arkansas. Several of the seats were blue, but the states are red. Over the last few months anything thing should be red, has just gotten a little redder, and that cements as time goes by. It is nearly Election Day and there have been no campaign altering incidents (i.e., no talk of rape, like Mourdock in 2012, or macaca, like George Allen in 2006).

Election Update - 10/19, 16 Days

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The last week and a half has been an unmitigated disaster for the Democrats in the polls and their fleeting chances of holding onto the majority of the senate.

The Democrats only bright spot has been Georgia, where Michelle Nunn has pushed into a tight race with David Perdue. The most likely outcome of the election is a runoff between the two candidates, as it is likely neither will get 50% of the vote. Which is why, despite leading many polls, Nunn is still slightly less than 50% to win, as Libertarian supporters are little more likely to break for Perdue in a runoff.

The biggest movement is in Kansas, where voters appear to be second guessing their choice of a Democratic leaning independent. The next biggest movement is more surprising, as the incumbent Democratic senator Udall in CO has fallen steadily behind the Republican challenger Gardner. Finally, the Iowa senate race has been a bit more of a regular roller coaster as Ernst, the Republican, holds a slight, but steady, lead over Braley.

Senate v. Electoral College

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The race for the control of the U.S. senate feels a lot like the race for control of the Electoral College (i.e., president), but there are a few crucial differences. First, the only thing that matters after the Electoral College convenes is who won the Electoral College, but minority party senators still get to vote for the next six years (and may tip the majority in the next election or sooner). Second, the Electoral College is 51 elections about the exact same two people, while senatorial elections are about 36 different sets of candidates. Thus, movements in the Electoral College are highly correlated, but senatorial elections are very independent.

Why Microsoft Prediction Lab

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I launched a new website, with a few friends, including Miro Dudik and David Pennock, called Microsoft Prediction Lab. The website consolidates research into both non-representative polling and prediction games. I have spent years understanding how various raw data: polling, prediction markets, and social media and online data, can be transformed into indicators of present interest and sentiment, as well as predictions, of varying populations. Then, how decision makers allocate resources with the low latency and quantifiable market intelligence that we produce. Microsoft Prediction Lab allows us to continuously innovate not only on the path of raw data to analytics to consumption, but the collection of the data itself.

Methods for gubernatorial and senatorial predictions

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We use really simple and transparent methods for creating forecasts for the gubernatorial and senatorial elections. Everything I do is outlined is this forthcoming paper. The method is unchanged from 2012, but the coefficients are updated with 2012 data.

I consider three different types of data:  fundamental, polling, and prediction markets. Fundamental data includes: incumbency, past election results, change in economic indicators, presidential approval, state ideology, and biographical data. Polling data includes aggregated traditional polls Huffington Post’s Pollster and Real Clear Politics. Prediction market data includes prices on contracts from Betfair.

Election Update - 10/10, 25 Days

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The balance of power in the senate is both extremely tight and extremely important. I get that. But, race for race, the gubernatorial elections are fascinating to follow. We have seven races between 30% and 70% and all of them have national implications. The most interesting part of this list is that in six of the seven races the incumbent (or seat) is a Republican, many thought leaders of their party. Depending on how many of them turn Democratic, the narrative of a Republican wave will be in serious jeopardy. From most likely Republican to most likely Democratic:

Nobel Peace Prize

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The odds are pretty uniform for the Nobel Peace Prize from major punters. Here is my translation of the odds into probabilties. Pope Francis the strong front-runner, followed closely by Denis Mukwege the doctor from the Congo:

Election Update - 10/8, 27 Days

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The senatorial forecasts have remained remarkably steady over the last week with two small exceptions. First, Kansas has come into stronger focus and the Independent Orman is pulling away from the incumbent Roberts. Second, Michigan, which was leaning heavily Democratic is now a solid Democratic (and off of our chart!).

Election Update - 10/1, 34 Days

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The biggest update of the senatorial elections over the last few days is the good news for Republicans in both Colorado and Iowa. Both of these have moved to leaning Democratic to toss-ups. Again, nothing extremely newsworthy in either of the races, but a gradual movement in the polls.

Election Update - 9/25, 40 Days

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Over the last eight days there has been substantial movement in four of the key senatorial elections. The first is Kansas, where I feel my prediction is a little low. The reason is that the fundamental model, which still has some power, is not well identified on independent elections! But, you have to run with what the data says. Second, Colorado, Arkansas, and Louisiana have all trended a little bit towards the Republicans over the last few days. None of these are serious issues, as much as the release of new polling.

It is important to note two weird structural things about this election. First, the independent in Kansas has declared for the Democrats if they get 50 seats or more and the Republicans if they have 51 seats or more. There is a 20% likelihood of the senate being 49 Democrats and 50 Republicans, with Kansas not sure. Second, the Louisiana race goes to a December 6 runoff if neither candidate gets 50%. This is extremely likely, making the standard three-way polling very confusing, because the third candidate is a Republican. This gives the Republican an increased edge in any runoff election.