Friday, October 28th, 2016

Nate Silver’s final look at the poll numbers says Walker will likely win


The New York Times’ Nate Silver looked at the final polling numbers, including Public Policy Polling’s last poll, and said a victory by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is looking increasingly unlikely.

Although the contest is fairly close, polls of gubernatorial races are ordinarily quite reliable in the late stages of a race. We have not officially released a forecast for the race, but Mr. Walker’s lead of about six points would translate into almost a 95 percent chance of victory if we used the same formula we did to evaluate gubernatorial races in 2010, which derives its estimates from the historical accuracy of gubernatorial polls over the past 15 years.

One of the new polls over the weekend, from Public Policy Polling, which conducts polling on behalf of Democratic clients as well as publishes its own polls independently, showed a somewhat tighter race, with Mr. Walker’s Democratic opponent, Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee, having closed his deficit to three percentage points. However, the firm has showed somewhat more favorable results for Mr. Barrett than other polling firms, and this reflected a relatively minor change from the firm’s previous poll, which had Mr. Walker ahead by five percentage points.

At the same time, the Public Policy Polling survey had Mr. Walker at 50 percent of the vote and had very few undecided voters. The presence of undecided voters tends to correlate with higher unpredictability on Election Day, while the absence of them, as in this case, means that even a small lead is more likely to hold up.

So much for the race tightening. Silver looks at the same number that I do and it only reinforces Silver’s belief that Walker is going to win.

From a macroscopic view, the mechanics of why Mr. Walker is likely to prevail are not that hard to discern. The results of another recall election last August, in which Democrats succeeded in recalling two Wisconsin state senators but failed in efforts to oust four others, had served as something of a referendum on Mr. Walker. My interpretation of the results was that they implied that opinion in the state was about evenly divided on Mr. Walker at the time in terms of how it translated into actual votes.

Since then, however, Mr. Walker’s performance ratings have improved, with his approval rating exceeding his disapproval rating in most surveys. It is difficult for an incumbent to lose with a net-positive approval rating under any circumstances, and it is probably more so in the case of a recall election, when some voters might give Mr. Walker the benefit of the doubt to allow him to serve out his term.

I think the final results will be 52-47 for Walker, putting the Walker victory beyond the need for a recount. Coincidentally, that happens to be the same margin of victory in 2010.

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