Category Archives: Politics

The Electoral Ladder: Now with actual results

The Presidential election has come and gone, and all 50 states and DC have finally finished counting every single one of the 158,394,605 votes. Now that we know the will of the people and not what we can estimate based on polls, I wanted to update the the electoral ladder that I had made about three weeks before the election.

There’s been a ton of reporting that “Biden won Georgia” or “Trump won Ohio by a lot more than expected”, but I thought it would be more useful if those statements could be put into context within how all the other states did and how things would look compared with a neutral environment. For instance, Biden won Pennsylvania by over a percentage point, but the state had actually drifted to the right compared with 2016. Meanwhile, the formerly competitive state of Colorado is starting to enter the company of the Democratic stalwart of Illinois.

If you were to compare the previous chart with this one, you’d see that there were several good predictions (Nevada, North Carolina), while others missed the mark quite a bit (Florida, Georgia). This doesn’t account for the difference in national popular vote, though the previous edition was done around Biden’s high point in the polls. To be fair, this was a difficult year for polling, thanks to insane turnout, many people’s ways of life being disrupted, and the sharp increase in early voting.

This chart is aligned such that the 0 point is the hypothetical scenario where Trump and Biden tied in the popular vote. In effect, that would be a 4.5-point shift towards Trump compared with the actual results. This was done to make it easier to compare how partisan each state is with previous elections. The higher the state is on the chart, the more Democratic it is compared with the nation as a whole.

Anyway, without further ado, the chart:

The Electoral Ladder: The political leaning of every state, to scale

Another four-year cycle is coming to a close, and that means it’s time for me to get way too obsessed about election polls and demographic projections and the like. The idea of trying to use data and statistical samples to predict what will happen while having few prior cases for such an important event is extremely fascinating to me. Does that poll herald a sign of long-term change, or was it an outlier? How much should we trust our gut versus the data we see today versus what actually happened several years ago? There’s an incredible amount of data one can dive into, though it’s surprisingly easy to get lost in the woods and miss the big picture.

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