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On August 13, Ricochet member @bloodthirstyneocon shared a post about entitled “Nope, the Blue Wave Is a Myth.” The one datum pointed to in that post was the Real Clear Politics average of generic ballot polls which showed the Democratic advantage at a mere 3.9 points. The prevailing wisdom (as cited in the post) is that Democrats need a seven point advantage to retake the house, due to factors including gerrymandering and “wasted votes” in Democratically dominated urban areas.
August 13 was about the only time anyone could make that point, because there were two times this year that the Democratic advantage dipped that low, and one of them was on August 13. It immediately rebounded. So if you were pinning your hopes on something other than a blue wave to that one datum, you should know that the current RCP average is D +8.9.
However, the RCP average is not the only thing pointing to a blue wave.
The website FiveThirtyEight recently released their congressional forecast model which looks at all 435 congressional district. It’s … very complex. (If you want to hear Nate Silver explain how it works, you can find that here, and they made some changes which they talk about here.) They actually have several models that look at a whole slew of factors, including polls, weighted based on history. But since there aren’t quality unbiased polls for most districts, they do rely on other data.
So what does their model show?
Currently they give Republicans a 25.7% chance of keeping control of the house, or, as they phrase it, one in four. They give Democrats a three in four chance of keeping control.
If you’re curious about their forecast for your particular district, you can find that here. Since they launched their model a couple of weeks ago, those numbers have remained stead, as has their estimate of the popular vote margin, which they estimate at D +7.8.
Traditionally, the party that controls the White House loses seats in the midterms. It’s happened in almost every midterm year going back at least half a century. It happened in 2010. It happened in 2006. It happened in 1994. (The exception was 2002, which took place a 14 months after 9/11.)
Let’s look at 2010. That year, if we look at President Obama’s job approval rating for this week (8/30-9/5), it was 45 percent approve, 47 percent disapprove. On Election Day, it was the same, 45-47. Democrats lost 63 House seats that year.
For comparison purpose, Gallup currently has President Trump at 41 approve, 53 disapprove. That is in line with FiveThirtyEight that has Trump’s numbers to be 40.3-54.4 and RCP which shows at 41.8 to 54.0. In other words, Donald Trump is dramatically more unpopular than Barack Obama was at this point in their respective midterm cycles.
Is this set in stone? Could things change? Sure. A lot can happen in two months, and FiveThirtyEight still gives the GOP a one in four chance of holding onto the house. Weird stuff can and does happen in politics.
But if you think the Blue Wave is a myth, with all due respect, you’re deluding yourself. This isn’t a media creation. This isn’t a deep state conspiracy. This isn’t Democratic propaganda. There is data that strongly points to a victory for Democrats on November 6.
Here are a few responses to common objections:
Yeah, yeah, but all the polls said Trump wouldn’t win either.
I know that’s what some Trump supporters claim, but it doesn’t apply to everyone. FiveThirtyEight still has their 2016 election page up. You can look at it for yourself. They gave Trump a 28.6 percent chance of winning. Not zero percent, not 10 percent, 28.6. What they’ll tell you is that they took crap from people before election day for having it that high, but it was what their model predicted.
All these polls are biased against Republicans.
Not all pollsters are created equal. There are polling outfits that lean toward Democrats and there are some that lean towards Republican. But the incentive structure in polling favors accuracy. If you’re interested in the quality of pollsters, their predictive values, and how they lean, FiveThirtyEight keeps a list of pollster ratings.
Isn’t it interesting that it swung from D+4 to D+11 in one poll!
Yeah. That’s why we look at the rolling average. An individual poll is going to vary. The rolling average smooths that out.
This poll is imperfect because of X! I disagree with its methodology.
All polls are imperfect. That’s why we take an average, and look at it over time. That mitigates the imperfections of individual polls.
You’re only talking about this because the RCP average shows a high Democratic advantage right now.
It has consistently showed a large Democratic advantage. The aberration, the cherry pick, would be to post about it when it’s at the second lowest point of the year.
You’re clearly rooting for the Democrats!
Whether I am or I’m not is completely irrelevant to what the RCP average is or what the FiveThirtyEight model says.
You’re so blinded by hatred of Trump that…
That’s not an argument. Again, whether I am or I’m not is completely irrelevant to what the RCP average is or what the FiveThirtyEight model says.
All polling is all broken.
It’s really not though. When it’s done well and used in the correct way, it’s actually a very useful tool. Even in 2016, well done polls were pretty accurate.
A lot of Trump supporters refuse to talk to pollsters. We’re too busy living our lives.
That would be interesting … if there was any data to back it up. (Note: the plural of “anecdote” is not “data.”) I’ve heard Republicans trot this chestnut out to explain inconvenient polls for at least 25 years. Not for nothing, but the idea of shy Trump supporters seems … odd to me. If you think Trump supporters are too busy to share their opinions, obviously you’re not on Twitter.