US Election Night and Day

Before you ask, no I didn’t stay up all night for the US presidential election results. I went to bed at 11pm and woke up as usual at 7am when my radio came on. I had a good night’s sleep. It’s not that I was confident of the outcome – I didn’t share the optimism of many of my friends that a Democrat landslide was imminent – it’s just that I’ve learnt not to get stressed by things that are out of my control.

On the other hand, my mood on waking to discover that the election was favouring the incumbent Orange Buffoon is accurately summed up by this image:

Regardless of who wins, I find it shocking that so many are prepared to vote for Trump a second time. There might have been an excuse first time around that they didn’t know quite how bad he was. Now they do, and there are still 65 million people (and counting) willing to vote for him. That’s frightening.

As I write (at 4pm on November 3rd) it still isn’t clear who will be the next President, but the odds have shortened dramatically on Joe Biden (currently around 1/5) having been short on Donald Trump when the early results came in; Trump’s odds have now drifted out between 3/1 and 4/1. Biden is now clearly favourite, but favourites don’t always win.

What has changed dramatically during the course of the day has been the enormous impact of mail-in and early voting results in key states. In Wisconsin these votes turned around a losing count for Biden into an almost certain victory by being >70% in his favour. A similar thing looks likely to happen in Michigan too. Assuming he wins Wisconsin, Joe Biden needs just two of Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Georgia to reach the minimum of 270 electoral college votes needed to win the election. He is ahead in two – Michigan and Nevada.

This is by no means certain – the vote in each of these states is very close and they could even all go to Trump. What does seem likely is that Biden will win the popular vote quite comfortably and may even get over 50%. That raises the issue again of why America doesn’t just count the votes and decide on the basis of a simple majority, rather than on the silly electoral college system, but that’s been an open question for years. Trump won on a minority vote last time, against Hillary Clinton, as did Bush in 2000.

It’s also notable that this election has once again seeing the pollsters confounded. Most were predicted a comfortable Biden victory. Part of the problem is the national polls lack sufficient numbers in the swing states to be useful, but even the overall voting tally seems set to be much closer than the ~8% margin in many polls.

Obviously there is a systematic problem of some sort. Perhaps it’s to do with sample selection. Perhaps it’s because Trump supporters are less likely to answer opinion poll questions honestly. Perhaps its due to systematic suppression of the vote in pro-Democrat areas. There are potentially many more explanations, but the main point is that when polls have a systematic bias like this, you can’t treat the polling error statistically as a quantity that varies from positive to negative independently from one state to another, as some of the pundits do, because it is replicated across all States.

As I mentioned in a post last week, I placed a comfort bet on Trump of €50 at 9/5. He might still win but if he doesn’t this is one occasion on which I’d be happy to lose money.

P.S. The US elections often make me think about how many of the States I have actually visited. The answer is (mostly not for very long): Kansas, South Dakota, Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, California, Arizona, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, and Pennsylvania. That’s way less than a majority. I’ve also been to Washington DC but that’s not a State..

7 Responses to “US Election Night and Day”

  1. brissioni Says:

    My heart is heavy.

  2. Many of my friends were predicting a Biden landslide, but I never believed them. If that had happened, I would still have been ashamed on behalf of my country that we ever elected Trump in the first place. The shame of possibly having reelected him, and definitely coming close to doing so, is overwhelming.

    I think that the current odds are still too favorable to Biden, mostly because of Wisconsin. The Wisconsin state government, including the judiciary, is wholly owned and operated by the most corrupt sort of Republicans. If Biden needs Wisconsin to win the election, they will find a way to steal it from him. It’s possible for Biden to win without Wisconsin, but it requires everything else to go his way.

    And even if Biden wins, he is very unlikely to have a Senate controlled by his party, which means that he won’t be able to accomplish anything. Expect an economic depression, because there will be no stimulus: Republicans in the Senate would rather impoverish their own people than give a win to a Democrat.

    If he wins, Biden can stop some of the worst actions of the Trump government. Mny aspects of Covid policy are set by the White House, for instance, so we can expect a move to a less anti-scientific approach there. And he can stop the outrageous cruelty of our current border policies. But he won’t be able to accomplish anything significant in most areas. In particular, it’s very unlikely that the US will take any significant steps toward sanity on climate policy in the next four years.

    • I thought it was the President that signed up/withdrew from the Paris accords? That withdrawal came into effect on 3 Nov. So presumably Biden could sign up again? Would be something.

      I think people don’t give an honest answer when polled – particular Trump supporters.

      Also depends on the how the question is asked – see this from Yes Prime Minister:

      • You’re right,. Rejoining the Paris accord would definitely be a positive outcome of a Biden victory. The US should be doing vastly more than that, but it would be significantly better than the alternative.

      • Biden has already said that he would rejoin.

  3. The District of Columbia (Washington D.C.) is indeed not a state, but they do provide 3 votes in the Electoral College. It went 78% for Biden. D.C. does not get senators nor a voting representative in the House of Representatives. Their governance vis-a-vis federal issues is done by congressional committees — and the citizens of D.C. want to change that.

    • D.C. gets as many electoral votes as if it were a state, with the restriction that it can’t have more than the state with the fewest. The state with the fewest, and the fewest possible, is 3 (corresponding to the two senators and one representative).

      There was a reason why D.C. is not a state. Whether or not one agrees with it, presumably that can’t be decided by the citizens of D,C, alone.

      Note that there are other U.S. citizens who have no vote, for example Puerto Ricans.

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