Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Last Call For The Polls Moving Blue

All the three major polling statistical models for the Senate: WaPo's Election Lab model, NYT's Upshot Leo model, and Five Thirty Eight's model, have shifted significantly towards the Democrats keeping the Senate in November based on a series of polls out in the last two weeks.

Election Lab puts Democrats' chances of retaining their majority at 51 percent -- a huge change from even a few months ago when the model predicted that Republicans had a better than 80 percent chance of winning the six seats they need to take control. (Worth noting: When the model showed Republicans as overwhelming favorites, our model builders -- led by George Washington University's John Sides -- warned that the model could and would change as more actual polling -- as opposed to historical projections -- played a larger and larger role in the calculations. And, in Republicans' defense, no one I talked to ever thought they had an 80 percent chance of winning the majority.)

So, what exactly has changed to move the Election Lab projection? Three big things:

* Colorado: On August 27 -- the last time I wrote a big piece on the model -- Election Lab said Sen. Mark Udall (D) had a 64 percent chance of winning. Today he has a 94 percent chance.

* Iowa: Two weeks ago, the model gave state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) a 72 percent chance of winning. Today she has a 59 percent chance.

* Kansas: Sen. Pat Roberts' (R) re-election race wasn't even on the radar on Aug. 27. Today, Election Lab predicts he has just a 68 percent chance of winning.

In addition to that trio of moves in Democrats' direction, Louisiana has moved slightly in Democrats' favor (from a 57 percent chance of losing to a 53 percent chance) as has North Carolina (a 97 percent chance of winning now as opposed to a 92 percent chance on Aug. 27).

By contrast, Alaska has moved in Republicans' direction (Democratic Sen. Mark Begich's chances of winning are down from 66 percent to 53 percent) and Georgia has become more of a sure-thing hold (a 91 percent GOP win versus an 84 percent hold).

Upshot's Leo model has also made big moves.  It has Republicans favored in 5 pickups, with Iowa and Alaska as tossups favoring the Dems: one short of what Republicans would need.  Five Thirty Eight has Alaska's tossup shaded towards the GOP, giving them six pickups, but Kansas, Alaska, Louisiana ans Arkansas are all in play for the Dems.

The bottom line:  Two weeks ago all these models had Republicans getting 6-10 seats.  Now it's 5 to 7 at most.

Expect more polling data as the weeks go by, but don't be surprised if the Dems start putting away races now that voters are paying attention.

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