US election minus three weeks; NZ election minus two days

Biden’s national lead reaches double digits, and he holds 7+ point leads in states likely to be the “tipping-point”. Meanwhile, NZ Labour retains a large lead.

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.

With three weeks left until the November 3 election, the FiveThirtyEight national aggregate gives Joe Biden a 10.2% lead over Donald Trump (52.3% to 42.1%). Biden’s lead has increased by 0.6% since last week. In the key states, Biden leads by 7.8% in Wisconsin and Michigan, 7.1% in Pennsylvania, 4.0% in Florida and 3.9% in Arizona.

Pennsylvania is back to being the “tipping-point” state in the Electoral College, after being tied with Wisconsin last week. The good news for Trump is that Pennsylvania is currently 3.1% more favourable for him than nationally. The bad news is that, with Biden up ten nationally, that isn’t going to matter.

For Trump to win, he needs to either reduce Biden’s national lead to under five points, so that the key states become highly competitive, or hope for a polling error much worse than in 2016. In the last two weeks, Biden’s national lead has increased from seven to ten points, and Trump is rapidly running out of time. A Trump recovery would probably involve him focusing on the economy for the last three weeks, and not holding rallies that can be seen as reckless given coronavirus.

Biden also leads by 3.2% in North Carolina, 1.2% in Georgia, 0.6% in Iowa and 0.3% in Ohio. He trails by 1.4% in Texas. As I have said previously, if Biden wins all these states, he wins over 400 of the 538 Electoral Votes.

The FiveThirtyEight forecast gives Trump a 13% chance to win the Electoral College, down from 16% last week. He only has a 5% chance to win the popular vote.

Despite the bad voting intention polls, Trump’s job approval ratings have been relatively stable. In the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, his net approval with all polls is -10.4%, and -10.0% with polls of likely or registered voters. His ratings are down slightly since last week, but there has not been a fall like in July.

Favourable ratings are likely a better explanation for Trump’s decline. The RealClearPolitics average has Biden’s net favourability at +7, the highest it’s been, while Trump’s is -12. In 2016, both Trump and Hillary Clinton were very unpopular. This year, Biden’s big lead is partly explained by his own popularity.

In the FiveThirtyEight Classic Senate forecast, Democrats now have a 76% chance to win control, up 4% since last week. The most likely outcome is a 52-48 Democratic majority, a one-seat gain for Democrats. The 80% confidence range is 48 to 56 Democratic seats; it was 48 to 55 last week.

Early voting

Some states have voter registration by party, though this does not mean that every registered Democrat votes for Biden, or every Republican for Trump. According to Michael McDonald’s Elections Project site, in North Carolina 51% of returned mail ballots have been from Democrats and just 18% Republicans. In Florida, it’s 50% Democrats and 29% Republicans.

These figures appear strong for Biden. However, it’s to be expected according to polls. A Pew Research poll was conducted after the first presidential debate from a sample of over 10,000. It gave Biden an overall 52-42 lead. Among those voting by mail, Biden’s lead was 69-27, and he also led by 55-40 among those voting in-person before election day. However, Trump led by 63-31 among those voting in-person on election day.

There could be big swings on election night depending on the order in which states count early and election day votes. In Florida, for example, the early vote is counted first, and much of it will be reported soon after polls close. Biden would expect to take a big lead on these early returns, but Trump would likely gain on the election day vote.

Colmar Brunton: NZ Labour leads National by 46-31

Two days before Saturday’s New Zealand election, the final Colmar Brunton poll, conducted October 10-14 from a sample of 1,005, gave Labour 46% (down one since last week), National 31% (down one), the Greens 8% (up two), the right-wing ACT 8% (steady) and NZ First 3% (up one). Jacinda Ardern led Judith Collins as better PM by 55-20 (50-23 last week).

If this poll was the election result, Labour would win 59 of the 120 parliamentary seats, two short of a majority. National would win 40, the Greens 11 and ACT 10. The Greens will be happy that their vote has increased to 8%, three points above the 5% threshold for party representation without winning a single-member seat. A Labour/Greens government is the most likely election outcome.

A Morgan NZ poll, conducted in September, gave Labour 47.5%, National 28.5%, the Greens 9.5% and ACT 7%.

US election minus four weeks

Biden extends his national lead after the first debate and Trump’s coronavirus. Meanwhile, NZ Labour retains a large lead.

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 an updated version of an article I had published for The Conversation on Wednesday.

With four weeks left until the November 3 election, the FiveThirtyEight aggregate of US national polls gives Joe Biden a 9.5% lead over Donald Trump (51.7% to 42.2%). Biden’s lead has increased 1.9% since last week’s article.

In the key states, Biden leads by 7.7% in Michigan, 6.9% in Wisconsin, 6.9% in Pennsylvania, 4.6% in Florida and 4.4% in Arizona. If Biden wins the states that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, plus Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, he wins the election with at least 278 of the 538 Electoral Votes.

Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are tied as the “tipping-point” states that could potentially put either Trump or Biden over the 270 EVs required to win. Pennsylvania has been polling closer to Wisconsin and Michigan than in the recent past. The current difference between Pennsylvania and the national vote is 2.6% in favour of Trump. At the moment, that gap isn’t much help to Trump.

There are five states where Biden is either just ahead or just behind: North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Iowa and Ohio. If Biden won all of them, he would win a blowout victory with over 400 EVs.

In the FiveThirtyEight forecast, Trump still has a 16% chance to win, though only a 7% chance to win the popular vote. Trump’s chances have declined 5% since last week. Still, a 18% chance is the probability of rolling a six on a six-sided die.

Trump’s ratings with all polls in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate are 43.4% approve, 53.3% disapprove (net -9.9%). With polls of likely or registered voters, Trump’s ratings are 43.8% approve, 53.2% disapprove (net -9.4%). His net approval has declined about one point since last week. RealClearPolitics averages have Biden at +6 net favourable, while Trump is at -12.

The FiveThirtyEight Classic Senate forecast gives Democrats a 72% chance to win, up 4% since last week. The most likely outcome is a narrow 51 to 49 Democratic majority, unchanged from last week. The forecast gives Democrats an 80% chance of holding between 48 and 55 seats after the election.

Trump’s coronavirus

Perhaps there would have been some public sympathy for Trump had his coronavirus appeared to be bad luck. But it is likely Trump and other prominent Republicans’ coronavirus infections occurred at a September 26 event to announce Amy Coney Barrett as Trump’s nominee to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.

Pictures in the linked article show people sitting close together, without face masks. This created an impression of reckless conduct by Trump and other Republicans in ignoring medical advice.

In a CNN poll taken after Trump’s coronavirus, 60% disapproved and 37% approved of Trump’s handling of coronavirus; his -23 net approval is a record low on that issue. By 63-33, voters thought Trump had acted irresponsibly.

An additional problem for Trump is that coronavirus is back in the headlines. As Trump is perceived to have been poor on this issue, that helps Biden. New US daily cases have plateaued between 30,000 and 50,000.

US employment growth slows

The September US jobs report was the last before the November 3 election. 661,000 jobs were created, and the unemployment rate dropped 0.5% to 7.9%. This was the first month with fewer than a million jobs added since the April nadir. The unemployment rate has almost halved from April’s 14.7%. But the gain in September was mainly attributable to a 0.3% slide in the participation rate, to 61.4%.

Trump may have undermined his advantage on the economy by withdrawing from negotiations with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over a new stimulus bill. An article by analyst Nate Silver says stimulus spending was very popular: in a September Siena poll for The New York Times, voters supported a $US 2 trillion stimulus by a 72-23 margin.

NZ Colmar Brunton poll: Labour leads National by 47-32

With nine days left until the October 17 NZ election, a Colmar Brunton poll gave Labour 47% (steady since last week), National 32% (down one), the right-wing ACT 8% (steady), the Greens 6% (down one) and NZ First 2% (up one). Jacinda Ardern led Judith Collins as better PM by 50-23 (54-23 last week). This poll was conducted October 3-7 from a sample of 1,007.

If this was the election result, Labour would win 60 of the 120 seats, one short of a majority. National would win 41, ACT 11 and the Greens 8. However, the Greens will be anxious about clearing the 5% threshold, as NZ polls have tended to overstate them. If the Greens miss the threshold, Labour would win a majority on this poll, as it has a 47-40 lead over the combined vote for National and ACT. My personal website has more discussion of last week’s poll, including personal ratings of Ardern and Collins.

US election minus five weeks

Two strong polls for Biden in Pennsylvania make an Electoral College/popular vote split less likely, as Trump loses the first debate.

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.

Five weeks before the November 3 election, FiveThirtyEight’s national aggregate gives Joe Biden a 7.6% lead over Donald Trump (50.5% to 42.9%). This is a slight improvement for Biden since last week, when he led by 7.3%. In the key states, Biden leads by 7.0% in Michigan, 6.9% in Wisconsin, 5.6% in Pennsylvania, 3.7% in Arizona and 2.0% in Florida.

The best polling news for Biden was two Pennsylvania polls from FiveThirtyEight A+ rated pollsters. Both the Siena poll for The New York Times and the ABC/Washington Post poll gave Biden a nine-point lead in Pennsylvania.

If Biden wins states carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016, plus Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, he wins the Electoral College with at least 278 Electoral Votes (270 are required). The strong polls for Biden in Pennsylvania have moved it to be 2.0% more favourable for Trump than nationally; last week it was 2.7% better for Trump.

There are several states that are not near the Electoral College “tipping-point”, but where Biden is currently narrowly ahead or behind. Since last week, Biden has taken the lead in Ohio and Iowa, and is tied in Georgia. He trails by just two points in Texas. With Biden also narrowly ahead in North Carolina, it could be a blowout victory.

Biden is doing best relative to Clinton in the Midwestern and northeastern states where there are many who voted for Barack Obama in 2012, but Trump in 2016. In 2016, both Trump and Clinton were unpopular candidates, but this year Biden is currently at a net +3 favourability, while Trump is at -13 in RealClearPolitics averages. Biden appears to have some appeal to whites without a university education, who swung to Trump in 2016.

The FiveThirtyEight forecast still gives Trump a 21% chance to win the Electoral College, down 1% since last week. Trump wins the popular vote just 11% of the time. An article by Nate Silver says that, if the election were held today, Trump would have only a 9% chance to win.

Trump’s ratings with all polls in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate are 43.7% approve, 52.9% disapprove (net -9.2%). With polls of likely or registered voters, Trump’s ratings are 44.2% approve, 52.7% disapprove (net -8.5%). His net approval has improved about one point since last week.

The FiveThirtyEight Classic Senate forecast gives Democrats a 68% chance to win, up 1% since last week. The most likely outcome is a narrow 51 to 49 Democratic majority, unchanged from last week. The forecast gives Democrats an 80% chance of holding between 47 and 55 seats after the election.

Biden wins first presidential debate

The first presidential debate between Biden and Trump occurred Tuesday. A CBS News post-debate scientific poll gave Biden a narrow 48-41 victory, while a CNN poll gave him a far more emphatic 60-28 win. Trump needed a clear win to change the current polling. There will be two more presidential debates on October 15 and 22, and a vice presidential debate on October 7.

The major headlines from the debate were that it was a shouting match, and Trump’s refusal to denounce white supremacists. I have said before that the US economy’s fast recovery from the April coronavirus lows is Trump’s best asset for re-election, but he did nothing during the debate to tell a positive story about the economy.

Concerning the Supreme Court fight over the replacement for the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Morning Consult poll found that a record 62% supported the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), while 24% were opposed. In March, this was 55-29 support. There is clear danger for Trump and Republicans in appointing a judge who will overturn Obamacare.

New Zealand poll: Labour short of majority

A new Colmar Brunton New Zealand poll has Labour on 47%, National 33%, ACT 8% and the Greens 7%. If repeated at the October 17 election, Labour would win 59 of the 120 seats, two short of a majority. You can read more at my personal website.

US election minus six weeks

While Trump could win the Electoral College owing to better numbers in Pennsylvania than nationally, Biden could equally win a blowout victory.

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.

Six weeks before the November 3 election, FiveThirtyEight’s national aggregate gives Joe Biden a 7.3% lead over Donald Trump (50.5% to 43.2%). This is a slight improvement for Biden since last week, when he led by 6.9%. In the key states, Biden leads by 7.4% in Michigan, 6.8% in Wisconsin, 4.6% in Pennsylvania, 3.8% in Arizona and 1.6% in Florida.

On Wednesday, Trump had his best high-quality poll for a long time in Florida, where an ABC/Washington Post poll gave him a four-point lead. In the last month, Florida has shifted towards Trump relative to national polls.

Pennsylvania returns to being the clear “tipping-point” state, and the gap between Pennsylvania and national polls has increased to 2.7% from about two points last week. If the national vote narrowed to under a five point margin, Trump could plausibly eke out a win in Pennsylvania and claim the Electoral College.

What this obscures is that we are also close to a Biden blowout in the Electoral College. He leads in North Carolina by one point and is within one point in Ohio, Iowa, Georgia and Texas. If Biden won these five states, he would win over 400 of the 538 Electoral Votes.

The FiveThirtyEight forecast gives Biden a 77% chance of winning the Electoral College, up from 76% last week. Biden has an 89% chance to win the popular vote.

Trump’s ratings are 42.8% approve, 53.2% disapprove in the FiveThirtyEight average (net -10.4%). With polls of registered or likely voters, his ratings are 43.5% approve, 53.0% disapprove (net -9.5%). Trump’s net approval has dropped about half a point in the last week.

FiveThirtyEight now has a Senate forecast. The classic version takes polls and fundraising into account, but not experts’ ratings. That gives Democrats a 67% chance of winning the Senate, including scenarios where a 50-50 tie is broken by the winning vice president.

However, the most likely outcome is a close Democratic victory – 51 to 49. Given conservative Democrats, they need more to change Senate rules or increase the number of Supreme Court judges.

Electoral implications of Ginsburg’s death

As I wrote for The Conversation on Monday, Republicans are likely to confirm Trump’s nominee in the Senate to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg. That will take the Supreme Court to a 6-3 majority of conservative appointees.

I disagree with the proposition that this fight helps Trump because it fires up his evangelical base. In a recent Quinnipiac national poll, Biden led Trump by 52-42 despite Trump winning 91% of the Republican vote. Trump had just 2% with Democrats and trailed Biden 49-41 with independents. Trump does not have a base problem; he has a problem with all other voters. By 59-41, voters in a CNN poll thought the president elected in November should make the appointment.

While much attention on a likely conservative Supreme Court will be on abortion, Biden’s campaign will focus on the potential for such a court to strike down Obamacare. I believe this is dangerous for Trump; his ratings were at their worst in 2017, when Obamacare appeared endangered.

Furthermore, culture war issues distract Trump from what should be his core re-election message: the fast recovery of the US economy from the April coronavirus depths. Last week, I talked about how unemployment had fallen from 14.7% in April to 8.4% in August. Another important economic measure is GDP.

In the June quarter, the US GDP contracted 31.7% in annualised terms (almost 8% in Australia’s quarter on quarter terms). The live GDP now estimate is for an annualised rebound of 32.0% in the September quarter. The initial September GDP report will be released at the end of October. It’s probably good for Biden that a large portion of the electorate plans to vote by mail or early in-person.

Time running out for Trump

Seven weeks before the November 3 election, Biden still leads Trump by about five points in the Electoral College tipping-point states.

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.

In FiveThirtyEight’s national aggregate of Donald Trump vs Joe Biden polls, Biden leads Trump by 6.9% (50.3% to 43.4%). This is an improvement for Trump from three weeks ago, when he trailed by 8.2%. In the key states, Biden leads by 7.5% in Michigan, 6.8% in Wisconsin, 5.0% in Arizona, 4.8% in Pennsylvania and 2.3% in Florida.

In my article three weeks ago, the difference in Trump’s favour between the Electoral College tipping-point state and the national vote had widened to three points, but this difference has fallen back to two points, with Arizona and Pennsylvania currently two points more favourable to Trump than national polls.

If Biden wins all the states carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016, plus Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona, he gets exactly 269 Electoral Votes, one short of the 270 required for a majority. Maine and Nebraska award one EV to the winner of each of their Congressional Districts, and two to the statewide winner. All other states award their EVs winner-takes-all.

Under this scenario, Biden would need one of either Nebraska’s or Maine’s second CDs for the 270 EVs required to win the Electoral College. Nebraska’s second is a more likely win for Biden as it is an urban district.

The US economy has rebounded strongly from the coronavirus nadir in April. Owing to this, the FiveThirtyEight forecast expects some narrowing as the election approaches. Every day that passes without evidence of narrowing in the tipping-point states is bad news for Trump. Biden’s chances of winning in the forecast have increased from a low of 67% on August 31 to 76% now.

While Trump has improved slightly in national polls, some state polls have been very good for Biden. Recently, Biden has had leads of 16 points in Minnesota, 21 points in Maine, 10 in Wisconsin and 10 in Arizona.

Trump’s ratings with all polls in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate are currently 43.1% approve, 52.8% disapprove (net -9.7%). With polls of likely or registered voters, his ratings are 43.8% approve, 52.9% disapprove (net -9.1%). In the last three weeks, Trump has gained about two points on net approval, continuing a recovery from July lows.

The RealClearPolitics Senate map has 47 expected Democratic seats, 47 Republican seats and six toss-ups. If toss-ups are assigned to the current leader, Democrats lead by 51-49, unchanged from three weeks ago.

Coronavirus and the US economy

The US has just passed the grim milestone of over 200,000 deaths attributable to coronavirus. However, daily new cases have dropped into the 30,000 to 40,000 range from a peak of over 70,000 in July. Lower media attention on the coronavirus crisis assists Trump.

In the US August jobs report, 1.4 million jobs were created and the unemployment rate fell 1.8% to 8.4%. The unemployment rate has greatly improved from its April nadir of 14.7%. The headline jobs gained or lost are from the establishment survey, while the household survey is used for the unemployment rate. In August, the household survey numbers were much better than the establishment survey, with almost 3.8 million jobs added.

It is probably fortunate for Biden that the September jobs report, to be released in early October, will be the last voters see before the election. The October report will be released November 6, three days after the election.

I believe Trump should focus on the surging economy in the lead-up to the election, and ignore other issues like the Kenosha violence and culture war issues.

With the election drawing closer, I will do these reports every week from now on.

NZ: poll drought continues

A month out from the October 17 New Zealand election, there have not been any media-commissioned polls since late July. The only recently reported poll is a privately-commissioned UMR poll, conducted August 25 to September 2. That gave Labour 53%, National 29%, ACT 6.2%, NZ First 3.9% and the Greens just 3.2%.

The Greens’ low figure in this poll is very different from a Morgan NZ poll, conducted during August, which had the Greens on 11.5%. That poll gave Labour 48% and National 28.5%. Unless a party wins a single-member seat, the threshold required to enter parliament is 5%.

Electoral College may save Trump

Just over two months before the November 3 election, the gap between Biden’s national lead and the likeliest tipping-point states widens to about three points.

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.

In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Donald Trump’s ratings with all polls are 42.2% approve, 54.3% disapprove (net -12.1%). With polls of registered or likely voters, Trump’s ratings are 43.3% approve, 53.4% disapprove (net -10.1%). Since my article three weeks ago, Trump’s net approval has improved about one point, continuing a recovery from July lows.

In FiveThirtyEight’s national aggregate of Joe Biden vs Trump polls, Biden’s lead has slightly increased to a 50.6% to 42.2% margin, from a 50.0% to 42.5% margin three weeks ago. In the key states, Biden leads by 7.6% in Michigan, 5.9% in Wisconsin, 5.3% in Pennsylvania, 5.1% in Florida and 3.7% in Arizona. FiveThirtyEight adjusts state polls to the current national vote trends.

On current polling, Pennsylvania and Florida are the most likely tipping-point state. If Biden wins either of those states, and all other states more favourable for him, he wins the Electoral College. Trump wins by winning Pennsylvania, Florida and more pro-Trump states.

The problem for Biden is that the gap between the national vote and the vote in the tipping-point state has widened from 1.5% three weeks ago to 3.1%. That makes the scenario where Trump loses the popular vote by up to five points, but sneaks a win in the Electoral College more realistic. In 2016, Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by 2.1%, but won the tipping-point state by 0.8% – a 2.9% difference.

FiveThirtyEight now has a model forecasting the election result, and that model currently gives Biden a 70% chance to win, down from about 72-73% a few days ago. Biden has received virtually no bounce from the Democratic national convention last week, while Trump could get some bounce from the Republican convention that concluded Friday in Australia.

Why has the national vote to tipping-point state gap widened recently? The Midwestern states have a higher percentage of non-University educated whites than nationally. Trump’s general behaviour has offended better-educated voters, and they are likely to vote for Biden.

Whites without a university education may have moved slightly back to Trump because new US coronavirus cases are slowing and the economy is improving. There are currently 30,000 to 50,000 daily new coronavirus cases, down from a peak of over 78,000 in late July. There are over 1,000 daily deaths on most days, but this is down from the April peak of well over 2,000.

On the economy, there is a clear downward trend in new jobless claims since their peak in April, and also a down trend in continuing jobless claims. As I wrote last time, the sharp increase in real disposable income in April owing to a stimulus explained Trump’s better economy ratings.

If the jobs situation continues to improve, and there is no resurgence in coronavirus, Trump could win another term in the same way he won his first term – by exploiting the greater share of whites without university education in the electoral battlegrounds than nationally. The swing to the right among such voters explained the Coalition’s win in Australia and the Conservative triumph in the UK last year. Will they be enough to re-elect Trump?

In the RealClearPolitics Senate map, Republicans currently lead Democrats by 46 seats to 44, with ten toss-ups. If toss-ups are assigned to the current leader, Democrats lead by 51 to 49, unchanged from three weeks ago.

NZ: Ardern has large leads over Collins on economy and coronavirus

Owing to the recent outbreak of coronavirus in Auckland, the New Zealand election has been moved from September 19 to October 17. Sadly, there have been no voting intention polls since late July, before this outbreak.

The only recent poll is a Horizon Research poll, conducted in late August, that did not ask voting intentions. Labour PM Jacinda Ardern led National leader Judith Collins by 54% to 26% on managing the economic recovery from coronavirus, and by 64% to 18% on managing coronavirus. Both leads were down from Ardern’s leads over Todd Muller in July.