Nate Silver pegs Shaheen re-election chances at 75%; says GOP opportunity ‘a little overhyped’

The Republican opportunity to unseat Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is “a little overhyped,” says statistician-turned-journalist Nate Silver. Silver was on ABC’s “This Week" today after relaunching FiveThirtyEight. “It’s time for us to start making the news a little nerdier,” he says.

In his updated Senate forecast, Silver makes the GOP slight favorites to pick up the six seats they need to control the chamber — but Shaheen’s seat is not one of them. Silver gives the incumbent Democrat a 75% chance of being re-elected — and says Scott Brown doesn’t really change the equation:

[A]s Harry Enten noted, Brown isn’t terribly popular in New Hampshire, which has long had a love-hate relationship with Massachusetts. Just as important, Jeanne Shaheen, the Democratic incumbent, has enjoyed approval ratings that would be good enough to get her re-elected. The political winds in New Hampshire can shift quickly, which is why we’re not ruling out a Republican win. But we don’t think Brown improves the GOP’s chances much as compared with another credible candidate.

"Scott Brown was extremely popular in a different state four years ago," Silver said.

Nate Silver: NH’s ‘elasticity’ produces partisan swings

New Hampshire has an especially large number of persuadable voters, writes Nate Silver. This characteristic of elasticity, he explains, leads to the dramatic partisan swings we’ve seen in recent elections:

Certain swing states have an especially large number of persuadable voters. New Hampshire is a paradigmatic example of this. About half that state’s voters identify as independents. Moreover, they have demographic characteristics that tend to balance one another out. New Hampshire is overwhelmingly white, for example, and quite wealthy, which tends to favor Republicans. It is also quite well-educated, and socially liberal, which tends to favor Democrats. Many voters in the state may shift their votes along with the political tides. When Democrats are having a reasonably good night over all, as they did in 2012, they can sweep almost all contests on the state ballot. But they can lose almost everything when the political climate works against them, as in 2010. We term this an elastic state.

Election postmortem: Grading NH pollsters

Polling newcomer New England College made a strong showing in its debut. The new polling unit in the college’s Center for Civic Engagement, led by Dr. Ben Tafoya, finished atop an evaluation of polling firms that surveyed the Granite State during this year’s presidential contest.

Ten pollsters conducted 19 surveys of the presidential race in New Hampshire during the last three weeks of the campaign. New England College, Public Policy Polling and UNH each surveyed the state three times during this period. American Research Group, Lake Research and Rasmussen each conducted two polls. Gravis Marketing, Grove, NBC/Marist and online pollster YouGov surveyed the state once.

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Nate Silver projects Obama to win NH by 3.7%

In his final update, Nate Silver projects President Obama to carry the Granite State with a 3.7% margin, slightly outside his model’s margin of error, which he translates to an 86% probability that the President will win New Hampshire.

Nationally, Silver gives Obama a 91.6% probability of winning the election, winning the popular vote by a 50.9% to 48.3% margin.

Marc Ambinder on Nate Silver:

When I refer to @fivethirtyeight as the liberal cognoscenti’s messiah, I’m making an observation I think Nate (who I love) would agree with. Your faith ought not be in Nate — it ought to be in the numbers. That’s Nate’s point. (I think). And his value is in explaining WHY.

Nate Silver: Obama up by 2.4% in NH

Here’s where we stand nine days before the election, according to uber-statistician Nate Silver. President Obama is projected to carry the Granite State with a 2.4% margin. Silver calculates a +-4.4% margin of error in the projection, which he translates to a 70% probability that the President will win the state. Silver’s projection even accounts for our notorious fickleness.

New Hampshire, for instance, is notorious for unreliable polling and for voters making up their mind at the last minute. This is probably not just a coincidence; New Hampshire has a disproportionate number of independent voters, and their preferences are more fickle than those of strong partisans. Thus, holding a small lead in the polling average in New Hampshire will not translate into victory as reliably as in another state like Pennsylvania, which has fewer swing voters and where elections are usually come down to a contest to turn out the respective party bases. The FiveThirtyEight forecast accounts for these properties.

Democratic Gov. Poll: Cilley 20%, Hassan 20%

A new poll, commissioned by Jackie Cilley’s campaign and released to the Concord Monitor, indicates she and Maggie Hassan are tied in the race to be the Democratic nominee for governor.

In the survey of likely Democratic primary voters, 20% said if the primary were held today they would vote for Cilley, 20% would vote for Hassan, 10% for Bill Kennedy and 50% don’t know.

Neither Cilley nor Hassan are very well known by Democratic voters. 34% know enough about Hassan to have an opinion. 29% have an opinion about Cilley. Of those who do know both candidates, Cilley leads Hassan by seven points, 46% to 39%.

Nate Silver cautions that you should have a healthy skepticism when evaluating the results from a poll performed for and released by a candidate:

[W]hen an interested party conducts a poll, it is only liable to leak its results to the public if it contains good news for their candidate, thereby encouraging donors, press persons, etc. This does not mean per se that the poll is “biased.” … But it does mean that there may be a bias in which information becomes part of the public record: we learn about a poll that has a candidate ahead by 10 points in a state, but not one where he is down by 2.

The survey of 400 likely 2012 Democratic primary voters was conducted June 11-13, 2012 by Benenson Strategy Group. The margin of error is +/- 4.9%.

Rasmussen: Obama 48%, Romney 43% (N.H.)

Rasmussen Reports survey of likely voters in the Granite State gives President Obama a five point lead over Mitt Romney in the battle for the state’s four electoral college votes. Obama leads Romney 48% to 43% with 6% undecided.

The Rasmussen poll indicates a tighter race than previous surveys that had Obama leading 51%-42% (WMUR Granite State Poll) and 53%-41% (Public Policy Polling).

It’s worth noting that Nate Silver calculated a 5.5 point Republican-leaning Rasmussen house effect in 2010 head-to-head Senate races. (House effect is defined as systematic differences in the the way that surveys tend to lean toward Republican or Democratic candidates.)

The survey of 500 likely voters was conducted on June 20, 2012 and has a margin of error of +/- 4.5 points.

Debt Ceiling Fight “All Over but the Face-Saving?”

After comparing the proposals to raise the debt ceiling from House Speaker Boehner and Sen. Reid, Nate Silver concludes the fight is “all over but the face-saving.”

Both bills cut discretionary spending by about the same amount, roughly $1.2 trillion depending on which benchmark is used. Both set up a bipartisan fiscal commission with special powers. Neither raises taxes, or significantly changes entitlement programs.

A number of Republicans will vote no on Mr. Boehner’s bill — perhaps enough to kill it. The critical fact, however, is that most will vote yes — probably including some who had earlier claimed that they would not raise the debt limit under any circumstances. … Meanwhile, there have been few Democratic objections to Mr. Reid’s approach.

What that means is that a very large majority of Congress would be willing to vote for either Mr. Reid’s bill or Mr. Boehner’s. The bill that will ultimately become law may look more like one version than the other. … But it seems unlikely that the substantive or political differences between the approaches are large enough to turn that majority into a minority once a final version is settled upon.

A Graphical Overview of the 2012 Republican Field

Interesting chart from Nate Silver analyzing the potential 2012 candidates for the Republican presidential nomination.

Each candidate is mapped by ideology and their involvement with the Republican establishment. The size of each candidate’s bubble circle is determined by their relative likelihood of winning the nomination as measured by Intrade. The color represents the their region (blue = Northeast, red = South, green = Midwest, yellow = West).

[I]t is exceptionally important to consider how the candidates are positioned relative to one another. … If you like, you can think of the circles on my chart as stars or planets that exert gravitational forces on one another, seeking to clear their own safe space in the galaxy while at the same time stealing matter (voters) from their opponents.

Explaining the Midterms: An Aligning Election

Nate Silver takes a look at the midterm voting data to determine if the results might signify the beginnings of a realignment in which the Republican party becomes dominant. Instead, he finds the 2010 races tended to reinforce existing electoral patterns, “to an almost uncanny degree.”

Rather than a realigning election, then, 2010 served as more of an aligning election: Congressional districts behaved less independently from one another, and incumbency status mattered less. Instead, they hewed tightly to national trends and the overall partisanship of each district.

[G]enerally it seems like we have entered a period in which races for Congress have become highly nationalized, and in which few potentially competitive races are conceded by either party and few incumbents are given a free pass. That could mean we’ll continue to see some wild swings over the next several election cycles.

Nate Silver: Rasmussen Polls Were Biased & Inaccurate

Nate Silver analyzes every public poll released in the final 21 days of the midterm election campaign for accurateness and bias. He singles out Rasmussen Reports for criticism.

[P]olls conducted by the firm Rasmussen Reports … badly missed the margin in many states, and also exhibited a considerable bias toward Republican candidates.

The 105 polls released in Senate and gubernatorial races by Rasmussen Reports and its subsidiary, Pulse Opinion Research, missed the final margin between the candidates by 5.8 points, a considerably higher figure than that achieved by most other pollsters.

Moreover, Rasmussen’s polls were quite biased, overestimating the standing of the Republican candidate by almost 4 points on average.

In New Hampshire, Rasmussen results were mixed. The final gubernatorial poll, released October 31, had Gov. John Lynch with a 6-point lead (51% - 45%), just 2 points off the actual 53% - 45% vote. The final senatorial survey had Kelly Ayotte leading Rep. Paul Hodes by a 15-point margin (56% - 41%), 8-points off the final 23-point (60% - 37%) win. The survey underestimated Ayotte’s final vote by 4% and overestimated Hodes’ by 4%.

Nate Silver Explains NH Enthusiasm Gap

Nate Silver measures the ‘enthusiasm gap’ by analyzing the mid-term exit polls. He compares the 2008 presidential vote with the presidential candidate this year’s voters claimed to have voted for. Obama won New Hampshire by 10 points, but mid-term voters supported McCain by a 4-point margin — a 14-point difference. Using this measure, New Hampshire had the largest enthusiasm gap in the country! 

What we’re probably seeing, then, is the “hangover” from the Mr. Obama’s turnout efforts in 2008. In states like Ohio and New Hampshire and Indiana, where Democrats registered tons of new voters and made sure that all of them got to the polls, a lot of them didn’t participate this time around.

This sort of phenomenon is actually quite typical. In general, the bigger a President’s coattails, the more his party tends to suffer at the next midterm.

The key question for 2012 is whether those new voters will re-enter the electorate when Mr. Obama is on the ballot again. If so, Democrats should be in reasonably good shape — and they’ll also win back quite a few of the House seats that they lost in these states.

Tags: Nate Silver

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