Thursday, October 20, 2016

Getting to 3rd Bate

In just 19 days are long national nightmare will be over. We have passed the final event with Clinton and Trump's 3rd debate hitting last night. Right now the race stands unambiguously for Clinton and last night, although Trump's overall performance was better than his last two, probably did little to change it.

Will Clinton Win?

Right now there are two main categories of thought: (a) Clinton will win, possibly in a 400 EV landslide or (b) the polls are way off and Clinton could tie or lose. The Omnivore has seen much of this discussion play out on Twitter and in other places. What are people saying?

The Polls Are Fixed: This is bigger than you might think. Several "leaked polling memos" (which were all absurd parodies) have circulated the Internet being lapped up by credulous, desperate anti-Hillary forces. Unfortunately the polls are done by hundreds of people across a vast ideological spectrum--it would take a massive conspiracy to forcibly manipulate them.

Addenda: The idea that massive "D+10" (Democrat representation +10) are falsified to make the poll pro-Clinton is a misunderstanding. The "Democrat/Republican" check asks who you most closely identify with--not how you are registered. The Omnivore is a Republican on paper but if asked which team he supports this cycle, the answer is "Democrat." As such comparing D/R numbers to voter registrations isn't tell you what you might think. A larger D-number is a result of one candidate winning, not the cause of it.

The Polling Doesn't Work: People ask how a survey of 500-1500 people can tell you where millions of voters are going. The answer is a bit complicated but it's more or less this: Firstly, this is how statistical sampling works. Our science is largely based on it. It works for things like electronic manufacture, medicine, and product testing. If you think your cellphone is pretty reliable, thank polling methodologies.

Secondly, the poll-aggregates are most meaningful at the state levels. The election predictors (538, PEC, The Upshot) look at state polls and weight the candidate's lead by the Electoral Vote score of the state(s) in question. As such, if Clinton is up +3 nationally (a slight edge) but somehow holds a +11 advantage in Florida (the biggest swing-state) Trump is in a lot more trouble than +3.

The Polling Doesn't Agree: Someone on Twitter told The Omnivore that in 2012 the polls were all within 4pts of each other--but this time they are not. That is true. However (a) all the polls on Huffington Pollster's page were within 4pts of Clinton +8 and (b) the Twitter-person was speaking of the polling convergence before election day. This is a well known phenomena which may be due to hardening of the population and may also be due to herding (no one wants to have miss-called the election so they may re-examine their numbers in light of what "everyone else is showing."

Herding isn't good--but it also doesn't apply right now.

Brexit: According to the Internet, polling averages got the Brexit-Leave/Remain score wrong. This isn't the case. Polling at the eve of Brexit showed a super-tight race with a moderate number of undecides. Pundits believed undecides would break for Remain. It didn't happen.

Today for the presidential election there are a lot of undecideds too--comparatively. However the head-to-head (Trump-v-Clinton) shows similar results to a 4-way race (adding Jill Stein and Gary Johnson). This means that if the 3rd party voters "break" they may do so in equal and opposite directions. It is also the case that with Clinton's lead, even if they all went to Trump it might not be enough.

The Big News From The Debate

We will have to wait either a day or a few hours for the flash-polls and a week for the regular polling to catch up with public reactions but we can say a few things for sure about the 3rd Debate.

Trump's Circus / Trump's Monkeys: Trump brought a host of weirdos to try to intimidate Clinton. Obama's half brother, the guy claiming to be Bill Clinton's illegitimate son, the Benghazi-Mom, a false-Benghazi-Girlfriend, Sarah Palin, and the spec-ops guy who was the inspiration for Mark Whalberg's Sole Survivor movie.

Clinton bought Mark Cuban (billionaire host of Shark Tank).

None of it mattered. But, like, Team Trump should start a band or something.

Trump's Bad Moments Were Bad: Clinton totally ducked a pay-to-pay question on the Clinton Foundation which, yeah. But Trump had more and worse missteps. Firstly, the headlines all have converged on Trump refusing to say he'd accept the election outcome. This may not convince undecideds that he is a safe / sane choice. Secondly, Trump responded to a Clinton attack on the sexual assault allegations by asserting no one had the respect for women that he did. The audience laughed.

Trump's refusal to disavow Putin was also on display--he wouldn't agree with American Intelligence that Russia was behind the hacks (this was pointed out by Chris Wallace, who did a fine job). Finally, in the end, there is speculation that Trump called Clinton a "Nasty woman" when she was speaking (he said something into the mic under his breath).

Even if he didn't collapse on policy (he did well for his voters on abortion, for example), this seems unlikely to be the event he needed.


Watch for new leaks: maybe one of them will be interesting and substantial enough to move the needle. See if the polling converges / tightens. Clinton may not have gotten a "bounce" from this debate either.

At least there aren't any more of these.

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