The presidential election is five months away and the primaries are winding down. While not yet official, the parties have made their choices, and the race is on.
This race is not between two presumptive nominees but instead three – or even more. At this point the Republicans will be represented by Donald Trump, the Democrats by Hillary Clinton, and the wildcard, the Libertarians have nominated Gary Johnson.
With the candidates selected, polling takes on new meaning. The polls reveal the voters’ opinions, but to be useful the polling must be relevant.
A recent national poll shows Secretary Clinton with a one point lead over Mr. Trump and a thirty point lead over Governor Johnson. This appears to show a tight race that may hinge on how Johnson’s numbers change over the coming months; but the poll does little to predict the actual November outcome.
The White House is decided by the electoral college, not the popular vote. Thus the polls that matter are those in the states. Luckily the major polling firms have also started collecting state wide data.
These current statewide polls have been used in a simulation model that mimics running a national election many times. The winner of each state is determined and the appropriate electoral votes attributed to the candidate.
After one million simulated elections, Clinton wins 94.7% of the time with Trump winning 5.3%. This corresponds to an approximately 95% chance of the Democrats keeping the White House.
The most frequently occurring result is that Clinton receives 318 electoral votes – well over the 270 needed to win the election.
Further, there is a 50% chance that she receives between 296 and 334 electoral votes, and a 95% chance that she receives between 259 and 357 electoral votes.
Similarly, Trump’s most frequent electoral vote is 220 with a midrange (50%) of 204 to 242 and a 95% range of 181 to 279. While not statistically impossible, at this point a Republican win is a definite long shot.
In addition to the overall results the results of individual states may be a bit surprising. As would be expected, California is won by Clinton 99.9% of the time while Trump wins Louisiana 98.9% of the time.
But in the rustbelt states Clinton has a 69% of winning Ohio but only a 53% chance of winning Pennsylvania.
On the other side, there is a slightly better than even chance of Trump winning New Hampshire.
The real surprise is Mississippi – a state that Mitt Romney won by 11 points in 2012. In the most recent Mississippi poll Trump’s chance of winning is barely 50%. This appears to be due to the inclusion of the third party Libertarian candidate.
The election is months away; there are many undecided voters; and many states have yet to be polled. But in terms of electoral math these numbers show the Democrats with the high ground, and for the Republicans, a steep path to November.