Election needles are back

The NYT election needles of uncertainty are back, and they’re about to go live (if they haven’t already). I’m not watching, but in case that’s your thing, there you go.

It’s a little different this time around, because of the pandemic and mail-in voting. There’s no national needle this time. Instead, there are three needles for Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina, because they’re battleground states and the necessary data to run the estimates is available.

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Electoral coloring page

If you want to color in your own electoral map at home, The Washington Post provides this blank, printable page. I hear coloring is soothing or something like that. [via @SethBlanchard]

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Early voting by state

It’s election day here in the United States, but millions of votes have already been mailed or dropped off. In some states, the number of early votes already surpassed the total in 2016. The New York Times provides a state-by-state breakdown.

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Comparing correlation in the FiveThirtyEight and Economist election forecasts

FiveThirtyEight and The Economist take similar inputs but output different forecasts. Adam Pearce was curious about how the state-by-state correlations differed between the two models:

Outside of the CA-DC-VT-WA and LA-MS-ND-KY clusters, where the 538 correlation dips below 0, the models are mostly aligned. Glancing over the outliers, it looks like the Economist might not have an equivalent to 538’s regional regression that groups states in the same geographic region together; the Economist has HI at 0.2 correlation with WA & OR while 538 has it around 0.7.

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Early voting volumes

As you might expect, early voting volume is high across the country. In many states, one week until election day, the early voting count is already more than half of the total 2016 counts. For The New York Times, Denise Lu and Karen Yourish provide the breakdown with cumulative charts by state.

See also how long it might take to count all the votes.

And you can download the count data from the United States Election Project.

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Money raised for the presidential election – by geography, time, and demographic

The New York Times analyzed campaign finance data from April to October, mapping and charting their results by different segments:

The findings paint a portrait of two candidates who are, in many ways, financing their campaigns from two different Americas.

It is not just that much of Mr. Biden’s strongest support comes overwhelmingly from the two coasts, which it does. Or that Mr. Trump’s financial base is in Texas, which it is. It is that across the country, down to the ZIP code level, some of the same cleavages that are driving the 2020 election — along class and education lines — are also fundamentally reshaping how the two parties pay for their campaigns.

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Decision tree for the presidential election result

While we’re on the topic of election scenarios, Kerry Rodden provides a radial decision tree to show possible outcomes. Select paths or specify state wins to see what might happen.

It’s based on the New York Times piece by Mike Bostock and Shan Carter from 2012(!).

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Using the FiveThirtyEight model, see how the election odds shift with different scenarios

With each model update, FiveThirtyEight runs 40,000 simulations, or what-ifs, to calculate the odds for who will win the election. Their new interactive lets you experiment with all of the what-ifs to see how the odds shift when a candidate wins a state.

It answers the question, “If ______ wins in ______ and in ______, etc., what are the chances of him winning the whole thing?”

So if Trump wins a very red state or Biden wins a very blue state, the overall odds don’t change that much. But if a very red goes blue, or a very blue goes red, then the odds swing dramatically.

There’s a good lesson on conditional probability somewhere in there.

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Tips for not letting polls and forecasts occupy your mind for two weeks

For FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver provides tips to stay less stressed staring into the darkness known at election forecasts:

This is perhaps the single piece of advice we give most often at FiveThirtyEight, but it’s especially important in the final couple weeks of a campaign. After a lull this weekend, there are likely to be a lot of polls the rest of the way out. On any given day, it will be possible to take the two or three best polls for Biden and tell a story of his holding or expanding his lead, or the two or three best polls for Trump and make a claim that the race is tightening.

Resist buying too much into those narratives.

Good luck.

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Presidential Plinko

To visualize uncertainty in election forecasts, Matthew Kay from Northwestern University used a Plinko metaphor. The height of each board is based on the distribution of the forecast, and each ball drop is a potential outcome. The animation plays to eventually shows a full distribution.

See it in action.

(And Kay made his R code available on GitHub.)

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