Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.
This is a slightly modified version of an article I had published for The Conversation earlier Monday.
Two days before Wednesday’s US election (AEDT), the FiveThirtyEight national aggregate gives Joe Biden an 8.6% lead over Donald Trump (52.0% to 43.4%). Biden’s lead has decreased by 0.3% since last Thursday. In the key states, Biden leads by 8.3% in Wisconsin, 8.2% in Michigan, 4.8% in Pennsylvania, 3.1% in Arizona and 2.2% in Florida.
Biden’s lead in Pennsylvania is almost four points below his national lead, and that gives Trump hope of pulling off an Electoral College/popular vote split, as occurred at the 2016 election. Pennsylvania is the most likely “tipping-point” state that could put either Trump or Biden over the magic 270 Electoral Votes.
If Biden loses Pennsylvania, but wins Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona, he would have 269 Electoral Votes, one short of 270. Either Maine’s or Nebraska’s second Congressional District could in that scenario give Biden the narrowest of Electoral College wins. These states award one Electoral Vote to the winner of each of their districts, and two to the statewide winner. All other states are winner-takes-all.
In 2016, Hillary Clinton lost the tipping-point state (Wisconsin) by 0.8%, while winning the popular vote by 2.1% – a difference between the tipping-point and popular vote of 2.9%.
Analyst Nate Silver says while Trump can plausibly win, he would need the polls to be wrong by far more than in 2016. At this stage in 2016, the FiveThirtyEight forecast gave Trump a 35% chance; he currently has just a 10% chance. Trump only has a 3% chance to win the popular vote.
Trump had one very good poll result from a high-quality pollster: a Selzer Iowa poll gave him a seven-point lead in that state. But most high-quality polls have been far better for Biden: Siena polls for The New York Times gave Biden six-point leads in Arizona and Pennsylvania, a three-point lead in Florida and an 11-point lead in Wisconsin.
In FiveThirtyEight aggregates, Biden leads by 2.0% in North Carolina and 1.5% in Georgia. He trails by 0.3% in Ohio, 1.2% in Texas and 1.7% in Iowa. If Biden won all these states, he would win over 400 Electoral Votes. Florida is now in this group of states when it had previously been better for Biden.
Trump’s net job approval ratings have jumped two points since last Thursday. In the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, his net approval with all polls is -8.5%, and -7.0% with polls of likely or registered voters. The RealClearPolitics average has Biden’s net favourability at +7, while Trump’s is -13.
I wrote on October 22 that there are two key measures where Biden is doing far better than Clinton. First, Biden is over 50% in national polls, which Clinton never achieved. Second, he has a net positive favourability rating, whereas both Clinton and Trump were very unpopular in 2016.
The US election results will come through on Wednesday from 10am AEDT. You can read my wrap of when polls close in the key states and results are expected. A key early results state is Florida; most polls close at 11am AEDT, but the very right-wing Panhandle closes an hour later.
In the FiveThirtyEight Classic Senate forecast, Democrats now have a 79% chance to win control. The most likely outcome is a 52-48 Democratic majority. The 80% confidence range is 48 to 56 Democratic seats. All these measures are unchanged since Thursday.