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The Pointless UK Election #GE2017

UK Prime Minister Theresa May called for a snap election for a “stronger Brexit mandate.” Why she needed this, who knows. She had a wide advantage in the Parliament, the public voted to Leave the EU, and she was picked by her party to lead the Parliament. Polls showed a wide lead when the campaign began, but now, based on the polls, the composition of the Parliament would barely change.

For Labour to win the election, they would need to 1) recover in Scotland where they went from 41 to 1 seat in 2015, 2) have the Liberal Democrats take back seats from the Tories that they lost in 2015 in constituencies where Labour does not compete, and 3) have UKIP hold down the Tory vote total so Labour could win narrowly in more conservative districts. None of these things are likely to happen so Labour needs to hold on to what they have. They are doing this. While the Tories would win the election easily, much like they did two years ago, this doesn’t give them any more of a “mandate.” If anything, it makes them weaker heading into the talks with the EU.

The following looks at what is going on in the polls in each major region of the Union. Projections are based on the regional breakdowns in public polls. Each poll company reports results differently. We chose the regions used by most of them. They are defined as:

London — London
Midlands — East Anglia, East Midlands, West Midlands
North — Northeast, Northwest, Yorkshire and the Humber
South — Southeast, Southwest

For the nations of Scotland and Wales, we chose large sample polls of those countries and did not mix in the small subsamples from UK wide polls. You can get links to all of the polls here.

In 2015, Labour won the plurality of votes in the 2015 election and took 110 seats to 44 for Conservatives and 4 for the Liberal Democrats. The Conservatives have gained 9.7 points in the polls but Labour has also increased. All of this comes at the expense of UKIP.

At the beginning of the campaign, the Tories led in this region but Labour has overtaken them.

As of today, we project 54 (+10) seats for the Tories, 101 (-9) for Labour, and 3 (-1) for the Liberal Democrats. The seats most vulnerable to move from Labour to the Conservatives are:

Barrow & Furness
City Of Chester
Lancaster & Fleetwood
South & Cleveland
East Wakefield
Wirral West

Southport is most likely to switch from Liberal Democrat to Conservative.

Besides the North, London provides a significant share of Labour’s MPs. They won a plurality in 2015 and have increased support in the polls along with the Liberal Democrats. The Tories and UKIP have ticked down.

The Tories began the campaign in the lead here, but like in the North, they have given in back to Labour.

As of today, we project 46 seats for Labour (+1), 22 for the Tories (-5), and 5 (+1) for the Liberal Democrats. The seats most vulnerable to move are:

Labour to Liberal Democrat
Bermondsey & Old Southwark

Conservative to Labour
Croydon Central

Conservative to Liberal Democrat
Kingston & Surbiton
Sutton & Cheam

South (Not London)
This is the heart of Tory UK. They dominated in 2015: 130 seats to 8 for Labour (Buckingham is officially nonpartisan). The Conservatives have even increased their support in the polls. However, Labour has gained even more. The UKIP vote here is going more to Labour than the Conservatives.

The Tories have pretty much flatlined in support while Labour has steadily increased, particularly the last three weeks.

As of today, we project 115 (-15) seats for the Conservatives and 24 for Labour (+16). This region is the most perilous for Theresa May and if the result mirrors the polls, it will be the biggest reason for all the egg on her face.

Conservative to Labour
Brighton Kemptown
Bristol North West
Hastings & Rye
Milton Keynes South
Plymouth Moor View
Plymouth Sutton & Devonport
Reading East
Reading West
Southampton Itchen
Swindon South

Green to Labour
Brighton Pavilion

This also represents the heart of the Tory majority. The Tories will win big here and take a large bulk of the seats. However, it won’t net them many more seats as the UKIP collapse benefits both the Tories and Labour by roughly the same amount.

As in the South, the Tories are at where they started while Labour has steadily increased.

As of today, we project 116 (-2) seats for the Conservatives, 46 (+3) for Labour, and 1 (0) for the Liberal Democrats. No change for the Tories will mean no additional “leverage” for negotiations. She needs to wipe out Labour here and she isn’t doing it.

Conservative to Labour
Derby North

UKIP to Conservative

Only a few nationwide polls have been done in Wales. The three done before 5/5 had the Tories leading. YouGov’s poll on 5/21 had Labour reversing it with a 10 point lead. Average together:

The Tories have gained the most here while Labour, the Liberal Democrats, and Plaid Cymru have either held steady or slightly declined. UKIP has fallen significantly.

As of today, we project 19 (-6) seats for Labour, 17 (+6) for the Tories, 3 for Plaid Cymru (0), and 1 (0) for the Liberal Democrats. Theresa May has the potential for gains here but later polls will tell if it is real or if the Labour surge in England happens here too and stays with a similar party breakdown as in 2015.

Labour to Conservative
Alyn & Deeside
Clwyd South
Newport West

As in 2015, this country has the potential for the most volatility. The Scottish National Party took 50% of the vote in 2015 and 56 of the 59 seats. Labour held 41 seats going in and took just 1. In the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections, SNP fell short of a majority and the Conservatives became the lead opposition party. The Conservatives have the potential to make gains here to as the SNP has slumped and Labour collapsed:

This is the only region of the country where Labour trails where they were in 2015 but it doesn’t really matter because they can lose 1 seat at the most. The Tories have surged at the expense of everyone else except UKIP because UKIP has no support base in Scotland.

As of today, we project 42 (-14) seats for the SNP, 16 (+15) for the Tories, and 1 (0) for the Liberal Democrats. The Tories have gotten the better of the Independence debate here so far, as well as attacking the SNP’s performance in Holyrood and Westminster, factors they can’t benefit from in England and Wales.

SNP to Conservative
Aberdeen South
Aberdeenshire West & Kincardine
Ayr, Carrick & Cumnock
Banff & Buchan
Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk
Dumfries & Galloway
East Lothian
Edinburgh South West
Ochil & Perthshire South
Perth & Perthshire North
Renfrewshire East

Labour to Conservative
Edinburgh South

Theresa May called this election expecting an easy win. Her personal advantage over Jeremy Corbyn, the belief that Brexit negotiations would subsume all issues and she wouldn’t have to answer on the future of the NHS, social care funding, and relations with Donald Trump. She could just say “strong and stable” and talk about how horrible Jeremy Corbyn is. It hasn’t worked. The Tories will win the election but essentially a rerun of the 2015 results is as bad for her as the Leave vote was to her predecessor. Both campaigns were headed by Linton Crosby and Jim Messina so it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise they haven’t really clued into the pulse of the UK voter since Ed Miliband departed the stage.

3rd Parties Did Not Deliver the Presidency to Trump

As more and more data gets released about the 2016 election, the decisive factor for Trump occupying the White House remains elusive (was it more Putin or more Comey?). However, we can begin to eliminate some reasons people have given. Several articles in the immediate aftermath placed the blame on Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Jill Stein (see here, here, here, here, among many others). On the surface, it does look like they harmed Hillary Clinton. Both Johnson and Stein ran in 2012 and received 1.35% of the vote (.99% for Johnson, .36% for Stein). In 2016, they each tripled their support (3.27% for Johnson, 1.06% for Stein). Trump got a smaller share (45.94%) than Mitt Romney (47.15%), but Hillary dropped by even more (48.03% compared to 51.01% for Obama). Thanks to the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES), we can examine the minor party vote with more rigor. No matter how you cut it, Johnson, Stein, McMullin, and the rest did not make a difference. They ended up masking more Trump supporters than ones for Hillary.

Trump gained disproportionate support in the final weeks of October. The CCES interviewed people both before and after the election. Taking those who said they are registered to vote and did surveys before and after election day (44,667 total interviews), Trump gained seven points while Hillary gained just three. Because of the wisdom of several old, rich, white slaveowners 230 years ago, that was enough for Trump to “win”.

Trump kept a greater share of his voters than Hillary did her. More than triple the share of initial Hillary supporters went for Trump than vice versa (2.6% vs. 0.8%). Half of initial Johnson and Stein supporters went for someone else. Johnson voters tilted more towards Trump while Stein voters went for Hillary. Those undecided went for Trump by a 50.0% to 34.2% margin.

Using Random Forest regression, we developed a Trump/Clinton model based on the demographics and responses in the poll. We trained the data using a random selection of 15% of the poll respondents and applied it to the remaining 85% (click here for data and R code). This gives us a probability of voting for Trump and Clinton for each participant. The model works well in classifying voters.

Assigning the candidate with the higher probability as the predicted vote, the model gets 95.8% of Clinton’s voters and 94.2% of Trump’s voters correct (the dots above the diagonal are mostly blue and the ones below red). Among Johnson’s voters, 33.7% have a higher probability of voting for Clinton and 66.3% for Trump (note the higher density of observation below the diagonal line).

Among Stein’s voters, 81.5% have a higher probability of voting for Clinton and 18.5% for Trump. This level of support for Trump among Stein voters should not surprise given the hostility her prominent supporters had for Clinton (see here, here, here) and her ties to prominent Trump surrogates:

Moreover, 12% of Bernie Sanders primary voters went for Trump, as did 11% of Obama 2012 voters and 5% of those who consider themselves ‘liberal’.

Evan McMullin (81.8% predicted Trump, 18.2% predicted Clinton) and those supporting other candidates (63.8% predicted Trump, 36.2% predicted Clinton) also tilt heavily towards Trump.

Allocating the minor party vote to Hillary and Trump results in Trump expanding his margins in the key swing states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Florida.

Whatever Hillary would gain from Stein voters, she loses far more with the other candidates removed. But what if we just get rid of Stein? If we allocated just Stein voters and not anyone else, Hillary still loses. Even though Stein got more votes than what Trump won by in the decisive states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, there is no data that justifies 100% of Stein voters going to Hillary. If Hillary received 81.5% of Stein voters, she only flips Michigan.

Given the attitudes of voters that we can examine more deeply, we can’t justify “blaming” Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, Evan McMullin, and other people either on the ballot or written in for Trump. The Orange Idiot would have received 270+ Electoral Voters in both a two-party race and one without Jill Stein.

Visualizing How Democratic Senators Voted on Trump’s Nominees

At the end of last week, the Senate concluded voting on President Trump’s first round of cabinet nominations. His initial Labor Secretary nominee, Andy Puzder, dropped out because he couldn’t suppress the interview of his ex-wife describing how he beat her up (Trump hires the best people). The Senate haven’t held hearings on his next nominee Alexander Acosta (another prize). The Senate held votes on 18 nominees. Among Republicans, Trump’s nominees received 99.5% of the Yes votes available in the chamber (a few missed votes). Democrats only voted to approve Trump’s choices 37.7% of the time.

Joe Manchin from West Virginia voted for the most nominees. Kirsten Gillibrand from New York approved of the fewest.

Support for nominee varied widely. Shulkin, Mattis, Haley, Chao and Kelly at Homeland Security got strong support. Devos, Price, and Mulvaney got no Democratic votes. Carson, Tillerson, Pruitt, Mnuchin, and Sessions were widely opposed.

Looking beyond the percentages to see how the Democrats voted compared to each other to the correlations between senators, most voted with each other with Manchin as a clear outlier.

Looking at Senators who voted with each other most of the time (correlation coefficient >.8), clear groups emerge:

Tom Udall’s vote correlates to his fellow New Mexican Martin Heinrich, but with no other senator. Heinrich correlates with just Ron Wyden. They are close to Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, and Ed Markey who all voted the same.

Looking ahead to the vote to approve Neil Gorsuch to the US Supreme Court, the GOP need 8 Democratic votes to break a filibuster. If they can get the 7 members at the top of the graph above – Heitkamp (ND), Tester (MT), Donnelly (IN), King (ME), Warner (VA), McCaskill (MO), Kaine (VA) – along with Manchin are the most vulnerable to flip. Ironically, it would be Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential nominee who could decide to seat Neil Gorsuch in the chair stolen away from Merrick Garland.

Finally, many senators voted the exact same way on each nominee. The chart above tease them out. There are nine different clusters, with the largest containing six senators. Trump’s nominees divided the Democratic caucus but they allow us to see the different groups emerging. Advocates with limited time and staff should prioritize hitting 1–2 senators in each group to maximize reach.

New York Democratic Polling Remains Stable

Only 10 recent polls in New York and the results have been pretty stable. Hillary Clinton has a small but significant lead and comes in at just over 50%. Far from over, but Bernie is going to need to shake up the dynamic in the state or hope the polls are wrong (with a heavy dose of Emerson, Siena, and Quinnipiac, this could be).


The “Poorly Educated” Still Love Trump

Even though he lost Wisconsin on Tuesday, Donald Trump continued doing better in counties with the lowest shares of people with college degrees and worse in the most educated part of the state.


College education continues to play a significant role in Trump support, even in this much smaller field.

Cruz and Kasich the Perfect Final Two Opponents for Trump

Donald Trump is running away with the nomination because he has performed consistently across the country. He gets roughly the same percentage of the vote in deep red counties as he does in deep blue counties. Ted Cruz and John Kasich don’t. Cruz comes closest to Trump in counties where Obama got under 35% of the vote in 2012 and does much worse in counties Obama won.


Conversely, Kasich does more than three times better in counties where Obama got 65%+ than he does in counties Obama got less than 35%. Trump beats him everywhere.


Combined, Kasich and Cruz have done better than Trump both in places Obama won and lost.

obamasummary-3Unfortunately for the #NeverTrump crowd, Cruz and Kasich’s voters are so incompatible that if either one dropped, a good share their voters would support Trump.

Oh well. Better settle it in Cleveland.

Some 2016 Primary Charts

1st Place in GOP Primaries and Caucuses by County

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2nd Place in GOP Primaries and Caucuses by County

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Trump has finished 1st or 2nd in almost every county that has voted

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1st Place in Democratic Primaries and Caucuses by County

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In many states, a significant relationship exists between Trump’s vote in a county and the percentage of adults over 25 with at least an associates degree. The more educated the county, the worse Trump does. The chart below shows the relationship in states where it exists and that Trump won
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The relationship is weaker, or non existent, in states that Trump lost:

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In a few states that Trump won, his performance in a county was not impacted by how educated it is.

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Finally, the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have significantly outraised the Republicans in campaign hard money. The Republicans have raised far less money than both successful and unsuccessful Republican campaigns in the past even though individuals can give more money to campaigns than they could in the past.

Campaign Fundraising on 2/29 of Election Year 2000-2016 (in 2016$)

President Money

Scottish Independence Still Not at a Majority #indyref

Scottish First Minister declared today that the Scottish National Party (SNP) will lead a new drive for Independence in June of this year.

Despite winning 56 of 59 seats in Westminster last May and dominating polls for this year’s Scottish Parliament elections, support for Independence has stagnated since 44.5% of Scots voted “Yes” in September of 2014.


Nicola is right. Independence supporters still need to do a lot of work to convince the country that they are better off independent. For all the SNP’s success in the last 18 months, they have yet to do this.

Trump Loves the “Poorly Educated” and the “Poorly Educated” Love Him

Ron Brownstein at the Atlantic has written extensively about how those without a college degree back Trump and those with a college degree oppose him. The “poorly educated” as the GOP frontrunner affectionately (maybe) calls them. This split has been consistent in the exit polls. This divide also comes through looking at individual counties. Virginia has 133 cities and counties. A strong correlation exists (-.81) between Trump vote share and the percentage of people (25 year old and older) in the city/county with at least an Associates Degree.


A positive correlation (+.855) occurs between the share of Kasich and Rubio support and attaining a degree.


Trump picked the right demographic group to build a durable base on. Ted Cruz staked his on religiosity and ideology. That’s good to win Iowa and a few other states, but when the race moves to the northeast, west coast, or Rust Belt, the deeply religious and conservative simply don’t exist in the same numbers. People without a college degree though, make up significant shares of the electorate everywhere. It’s how Trump can win in Alabama and Massachusetts, especially with multiple candidates dividing up support of college graduates.