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Thursday, December 10, 2015 9:57 PM

Attitudes, Attitudes: Dear Nate Silver, Regarding Donald Trump, You Are Missing Something Big!

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I am a big fan of Nate Silver. He was spot on in the last two presidential elections and I bought into his methodology, in advance, confidently predicting the results.

Nate adjusted his odds as the campaign progressed and got 49 out of 50 correct in 2008.

I am not sure which one he missed, but I got 49 out 50 correct before Obama even won the nomination. Missouri showed me up.

Initially, my methodology was quite a bit different. I was certain the economy was headed for disaster and that every remotely close state would swing Democratic. It was that simple for me, but I became a huge fan of his methodology as the election campaign progressed.

Nate got all 50 right in 2012. I missed a couple. But I made my picks early in a bragging rights bet with friends. Had I predicted in the final week, I likely would have just gone with Silver's picks or his methodology for the same outcome.

So yes, I am a fan. Yet, I have to say "Dear Nate, you are missing something big time!

Polls Relevant?

Week after week Donald Trump surges in the polls, and week after week Silver says ignore them.

I say you can no longer ignore them. I will explain why below. First let's look at how Nate sees things.

  • August 6: In Donald Trump's Six Stages Of Doom Nate Silver said "I recently estimated Trump’s chance of becoming the GOP nominee at 2 percent. How did I get there? By considering the gantlet he’ll face over the next 11 months — Donald Trump’s Six Stages of Doom."
  • September 15: Nate Silver said Trump Has About 5% Chance Of Winning
  • October 20: In Donald Trump Is Doomed And/Or Invincible Nate Silver again referred to Six Stages of Doom saying "Trump's odds are in the high single digits... and on September 1 his chances were 2%". Adding "nobody quite like Trump has won a party nomination before, or even come all that close to it. So there’s some universe where his chances are 0 percent. .... to some extent 4 percent vs 7 percent is an angels-dancing-on-pinheads debate."
  • November 23: In Dear Media, Stop Freaking Out About Donald Trump’s Polls Nate Silver said "Trump’s chances are higher than 0 but (considerably) less than 20 percent".

South Carolina Poll

Here are results from a South Carolina Poll released December 9.

  • Trump 35%
  • Carson 15%
  • Cruz 14%
  • Rubio 14%
  • Bush 5%
  • Graham 2%

Support for Trump rose 8 points after his statement he would bar Muslims from entering the US. Graham is from South Carolina.

Five Key Points

  1. 39% have national security as their top issue. 
  2. 29% prioritize economic issues. 
  3. 16% say immigration is the top issue. 
  4. Among voters with national security as the top issue, trump has 32%, double that of anyone else.
  5. Trump has a 48% landslide result on the economy.

Would Trump Bolt?

In a USA Today poll releases December 8, 68% of Trump’s supporters would vote for him if he bolts the GOP.

That's one hell of a lot of loyalty. Do I believe that? No. But, that is a strong measure of strong sentiment.

Nearly Two-Thirds Of Likely GOP Voters Back Trump’s Muslim Ban

A Talking Points Memo reports Nearly Two-Thirds Of Likely GOP Voters Back Trump’s Muslim Ban.
Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump’s recent proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S. has far from hurt his poll numbers; in fact, a poll released Wednesday found that almost two-thirds of GOP primary voters back the widely-condemned plan.

In a new Bloomberg Politics/Purple Strategies poll, 37 percent of all likely general election voters said they support Trump’s plan while 65 percent of likely Republican primary voters said they back the ban.

The role of attitudes is precisely what Silver misses. Opinions of candidates can come and go. But are the attitudes towards banning Muslim's likely to change?

What Inning Is It?

Silver says "campaign time is not linear. We’re still in the functional equivalent of the top of the second inning."

Is it the 2nd inning or the 3rd? Either way, I would agree with Silver that it's early. But what is the lead? Is it no runs,  one run, or perhaps as many as four runs?

What About Undecideds?

Silver points out the vast majority of people make up their minds in primaries late in the game but voters make up their minds earlier in national elections. That makes sense, because there are only two candidates to choose from in the election, and primarily it's only the independents who swing.

But is it really as lopsided as Silver suggests below?

I suggest that table is a poor reflection of reality. For starters, I doubt there are truly 80% undecided, but for the sake of argument I will accept that number.

The chart is unrealistic because although voters may be undecided, it likely they are undecided between two or at most three candidates, not totally clueless.

For example some voters may be undecided between say Trump and Carson one week, and Trump and Rubio the next, while totally ruling out Bush, Fiorina, Huckabee, and Christie.

So, there's undecided, and there's totally clueless.

Stubborn Facts

Silver concludes his "Dear Media, Stop Freaking Out About Donald Trump’s Polls" article with ...
So, could Trump win? We confront two stubborn facts: first, that nobody remotely like Trump has won a major-party nomination in the modern era. And second, as is always a problem in analysis of presidential campaigns, we don’t have all that many data points, so unprecedented events can occur with some regularity. For my money, that adds up to Trump’s chances being higher than 0 but (considerably) less than 20 percent. Your mileage may vary. But you probably shouldn’t rely solely on the polls to make your case; it’s still too soon for that.
More Stubborn Facts

  • Trump has stayed on top of the polls far, far, longer than anyone including Silver and I thought possible. I even wondered if his anti-Muslim talk would sink him. It didn't. For now it seems to have strengthened him.
  • Everyone's up-front favorite, Jeb Bush is burning money like mad.
  • Bush is getting trounced even his home state.
  • Carson is sinking like a rock. Since Carson is an unconventional candidate, history suggests he is now a lost cause.


Do Christie, Paul, Fiorina, Huckabee have any chance? I suggest close to zero but let's put them at 1% each. Let's generously put Bush at 5%.

Although it's highly doubtful Carson can recover, let's Generously put Carson at 5%

Now what do we have?

Revised Support Suggestion

Which Way Will Undecideds Break?

Are those undecideds really likely to vote for anyone other than Trump, Carson, Cruz, or Rubio?

Come on Nate, really?

Put Bush in the list if you want but even Carson in the swing is generous. I suspect Carson will lose more of what he has now than pick up new undecided voters.

Bush can pick up undecideds. That's why I raised Bush to five from Nate's one.

Even if most have not decided who they will vote for, it's highly likely those voters have decided one or more candidates they won't vote for. And that matters.

Based on attitudes, Trump for now, clearly belongs in the "possible list" of a huge percentage of those undecided voters!

By the way, I'm not really talking about just Iowa above, but rather national numbers. The results of the first few primaries will be the tell.

Looked at this way, even though it's only the second or third inning, the odds of Trump winning would seem to be no worse than about 25%.

But are they better?

Of course they are. Attitudes are the key. 65 percent of likely Republican primary voters said they back the ban on Muslim immigration!

Key Questions of the Day
  1. Is there a choice of candidates if that's how one feels about Muslims?
  2. Is that attitude going to change?
  3. And what about those five key points above?

Those five key points above are about voter attitudes as well. This means Trump's strong attitudes on Muslim's and immigration are aligned with strong voter attitudes on the same issues.

Importantly, no other candidate has those attitudes!

So unless Trump sticks his foot in his mouth on some issue, attitudes may be enough for him to carry the day. And while anything can happen, some things are far more likely than others.

Nate, care to rethink your odds?

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

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