Trump, Brexit, and Our Uncertain Election

Map of British regions by Brexit vote share

A few weeks ago, Trump supporters were talking about how their man was going to win even though all the polls showed him losing, “just like Brexit!”

Those of us who knew something about Brexit said this was stupid, and rightly so: the final Brexit polls showed Brexit losing by about 0.5%, and Brexit went on to win by 3.8% — a polling error of 4.3%. The global elites who had been handicapping the race had been predicting a loss for Brexit, but they had ignored the polls (which showed a close race). The elites looked like idiots after Brexit won, and rightly so, because the lesson of Brexit is you should always pay attention to the polls.

So when Trump supporters started saying they were going to win by beating their polls, “just like Brexit,” those of us with sense went and checked the polls.  At the time (right after the third debate), Trump was losing by an average of 7 points.  In other words, even if Trump beat his polls by 4%, “just like Brexit,” he’d still lose the election by 3%!

Brexit comparisons three weeks ago were silly.

Brexit comparisons today are not.

The polls have gotten much closer in the past couple of weeks. Clinton still has a clear polling lead, but that lead has shrunk to about 3%.  Worse for her: Trump has a clear advantage in the electoral college, because her best groups (minorities) tend to be concentrated in safe states, while Trump’s best groups (non-college whites) tend to be concentrated in swing states. Clinton’s lead in swing states is somewhere around 2%.

In other words, if Trump supporters show up in a big way and beat the polls “just like Brexit,” based on today‘s data… then Trump will win.  He’ll win the national popular vote by 1%, he’ll win the electoral college, and he’ll tie the vote in Michigan, with a map that looks like this (you didn’t know Colorado was so close, did you?).  He doesn’t even need a Brexit-sized polling error, at this point: a perfectly average error will do.

On the other hand, there’s no particular reason to think that Clinton couldn’t pull off a Brexit surprise herself.  Clinton could just as easily beat her polls by 3.8%, and then she would win by around 11% 8% — a landslide that brings her 358 electoral votes or so.

But Clinton doesn’t need to do that.  All she needs to do is make her polls to win (or miss them by a very small amount).  Trump is the one who has to beat his polls.  That’s why Trump still has a chance to win, but Clinton is still the 2-in-3 favorite.

There will be signs early in the evening on Election Night of what kind of a night it’s going to be. Brexit, once again, lights the path.

…but we’ll get to that in my next post. (Assuming I manage to post again before it’s all over.  I might not!)


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  • David

    Welp, it was just like Brexit.

    We’ve stopped Clinton’s corruption, but now we’ve got to keep an eye on Trump and make sure Conservatism survives this administration.

    • BCSWowbagger

      Not gonna lie: I’m pretty darned pleased with how this and my election viewing guide held up.

      I have some posts in the pipeline, but one of them is awaiting publication elsewhere, which is why we had an election and I somehow didn’t post for a week.