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Waiting for Election Results

November 3, 2020

States to watch:

1st tier swing states: FL, PA, NC, AZ

2nd tier swing states: MI, WI, NV

FL, NC, and AZ will report relatively earlier than many other states. This is because they tally mail-in ballots as they arrive [source: NPR].

I would use AZ and NC as a benchmark / early warning sign early of any systematic error in swing-state polling. Systematic polling error may have additional distortions in FL and PA due to those state’s closed-primary policy confusing the state political-party-population data (i.e. voter registration stats). In closed-primary states, independents tactically register as R/D depending on which primary they think is worth voting in. This creates an additional unknown that polls must correctly estimate or else their sample weightings will be off, and the effect is especially significant now because there are a LOT of new voters. From what I understand, many polls outsource their modeling of the state demographics (and thus the polls’ sample weighting) to a company called Aristotle, and this may be an avenue by which a potential systematic error source is shared among many polls that are assumed to be independent of each other.

Other random incomplete thoughts: Among the swing states, AZ is perhaps most dependent on hispanic voter turnout. Likewise, NC is I would say most dependent on black voter turnout. While not unique among the swing states, NC might stand out among the swing states in that black churches provide a well established organizational network for a key bloc of Democrats and can arguably produce more campaign manpower in a chaotic environment as we have had this year.


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