Nate Silver: This Election Isn't a Toss-Up Anymore

AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

Nate Silver launched his new prediction model for the 2024 election yesterday. The bottom line is that, while the national polling remains close, Silver no longer thinks it's a toss up. Instead, his model points to a likely Trump win. Currently the model gives Trump a 65% chance:


Along with the results of his model, Silver also posted a lengthy companion story describing a lot of things in detail. He writes that he's not a Trump supporter and this is the first time the results of his model haven't aligned with his personal preference. In other words, he'd rather see Biden win but that's not what the model is showing at the moment.

Biden has the lowest approval ratings of anyone running for re-election since either George H.W. Bush or Jimmy Carter, depending on how you squint at the numbers. The reasons he might lose are overdetermined. (I haven’t even mentioned things like immigration or the war in Gaza.) Would it really be surprising if he’s become an underdog, even if it’s against a candidate as flawed as Trump? 

And then he gets into the details of how things look in the swing states:

This is the most important complication: if Biden loses Georgia, Arizona and Nevada — and he trails badly in each — he’ll need to win all three of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and not just one of them. Even though these states are pretty heavily correlated, they aren’t perfectly correlated. Winning several different correlated bets is still hard. (Just ask the DraftKings how it makes so much money on same-game parlays.) And these states do have some differences with one another: Wisconsin is more rural, for instance, and Michigan has the largest Arab/Muslim/Palestinian population. In our simulations, Biden wins at least one of these states 54 percent of the time. But he wins all three of them in only 32 percent of simulations. This is the sort of precision that a model can provide that your intuition really can’t...

In those Sunbelt swing states — meaning Georgia, Arizona and Nevada, where he won last time, and North Carolina, Florida and Texas, where he didn’t — Biden trails badly. Not so badly that he can’t win — the model gives him a 22 percent chance of eventually winning Arizona, for instance. But badly enough that he’s borderline out of the “normal range of polling error” scenarios and either needs a big polling error or for something fundamental to change about the race — even though it’s been exceptionally steady so far. Either of those things are possible — just not the outcome you’d bet on at even money. For now, he has nothing in the way of a reliable backup plan if any of the Rust Belt trio falls to Trump. It’s just not good for Biden that he trails by mid-single digits in high-quality poll after high-quality poll of states like Georgia and Nevada.


There's a lot more, including a whole section behind the paywall which I haven't seen. But the gist is that Biden is trailing slightly in national polls and that means his chances in the electoral college look like, well, 34%.

The most recent polls seem to be trending in both directions at once. Fox News put out a poll last week which showed Biden taking a lead. 

But yesterday the NY Times released a new poll which showed Trump leading by four, his best showing in a NY Times poll so far. As you can see, the Times itself seemed uncertain about whether or not its own poll was an outlier:

The head-to-head results of the survey show Mr. Trump with his biggest lead in a national Times/Siena poll among likely voters, 48 percent to 44 percent, a 3 percentage point margin when calculated before the figures are rounded. Mr. Trump’s lead with registered voters was an even larger 6 percentage points.

Those results are notably different than the new national polling average released by The New York Times this week, which shows Mr. Trump leading Mr. Biden by about one percentage point. It is difficult to determine whether such results, known in the polling industry as an outlier, reflect a change in public opinion not yet seen by other pollsters or are produced by random error.

So who is right here? Did Fox detect a move toward Biden? Did the Times detect a move toward Trump? Well, there was also a new Quinnipiac poll out yesterday which showed Trump pulling ahead:


As President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump prepare to face off in the first presidential debate of the 2024 election cycle, Trump has a slight lead over Biden 49 - 45 percent in a head-to-head matchup, according to a Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pea-ack) University national poll of registered voters released today. This is a small change from Quinnipiac University's May 22 poll when the race was too close to call with Biden receiving 48 percent support and Trump receiving 47 percent support.

So that's two polls showing Trump up four. Chances are slim that they are both outliers. Rather it looks like this is slipping away from Biden.

Of course Silver's model is just a prediction based on current polling and current polling can change based on new events. Specifically, we have a debate happening tonight that has the potential to shake up this race in any number of ways. Biden once again needs to show he can put in a solid 90 minute performance without fading or forgetting things. 

The worst case scenario is that one of these guys (and let's face it, it's probably Biden) shows signs of frailty that further damages his support. One really bad moment could be a knock-out blow that changes the race dramatically. But going into it, Trump seems to have a genuine advantage.

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