Monday, February 1, 2016

Iowa Caucus Day-Of Predictions

The Presidential primaries this year have been so weird that I have delayed putting out any type of by-state projections until I had more information. I have kind of run out of time now, haven't I? (Iowa Caucuses are today) As I see it, there are two main political questions outstanding:
  • Republican: Is Donald Trump a legit candidate, and will Republican voters continue to support him after he is more thoroughly vetted?
  • Democrat: Is Bernie Sanders a legit candidate and do democratic voters believe he can win?
These questions are largely open, however both candidates are still being taken seriously enough to poll highly going into Iowa, so on with projections.  

WIN PROJECTIONS

I created a quick model based on prior Iowa data and recent polling results.  The polls have been especially volatile in Iowa, and for other reasons that I will get to in a bit, things could turn out much differently than this.  Anyways, here are our quick projections, with probability to win Iowa:


Generally, I think Trump and Clinton will win.  But there are still a lot of questions out there, putting Cruz and Sanders firmly still in the hunt.

QUESTIONS OUTSTANDING

Going into the Iowa Caucuses, and 2016 elections in general there are still many outstanding data questions:  
  • Political Polls: Political polls have been less reliable in the past two elections than in prior years, first leaning too Republican then too Democrat.  Are current polls accurately reflecting potential outcomes?  There are many reasons political polls can be inaccurate, from samples that aren't representative to turnout issues (covered in next bullet).
  • Turnout: One of the better explanations for the poor polling predictions is that pollsters aren't doing a good job vetting who is and isn't a likely voter, or modeling people's propensity to show up at the polls.  Because voter turnout is often less than 50%, and those people who show up aren't a random subset of Americans, having inaccurate turnout models can significantly bias polling outcomes.
  • Trump/Sanders Viability: One of the general theories on why Trump and Sanders are doing well is that they appeal to politically disaffected people:  Trump to white conservatives who dislike Obama and the direction of the country, Sanders to young people who see little future in the current US economy.  Disaffected groups have a tendency to turnout poorly on election day depending on motivation, will these groups even show up? Combine this with doubt in current polling and turnout models, and the truth is, we just don't know.

CONCLUSION

Due to questions remaining from the past two elections regarding the accuracy of polling, we are still unsure of the results of the Iowa caucuses. That said, our best guess for tonight is a win for Trump and Clinton.  Or maybe Sanders and Cruz, depending on the accuracy of political polling and pollsters ability to determine who may turnout.

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