The election: What I got right & wrong

A post election round-up of what I got right and where I was wrong. It’s a follow-up to my earlier post on “Why Biden will win“. To summarise: while I got the outlines of the result and pathway to victory correct, I got aspects of the electorate dramatically wrong.

What I got wrong

The Trump base

My analysis assumed the coalition that Biden assembled of Dems, suburban (especially female) former Republicans & anti-Trump independents would vastly outnumber a static Trump base.

This was obviously not the case. While the suburbs may have gone against Trump, he managed to grow his base via certain minority groups and a massive turn out from non-college educated white voters

The polls

My cautious view of the polls turned out to be right in principle (see Biden’s path to victory) but I was way off in estimating how wrong they were.

While accusations of an unmitigated disaster are incorrect, given that methodologies were supposed to have improved from 2016, this is a poor showing by many pollsters. I will hold off going into a deeper dive on this until more data is available.

The issues

I had assumed during a pandemic that the key issues were broadly consistent among voters, especially independents. While we don’t have a good pool of information at the moment, it seems that those who voted for Trump had some dramatically different priorities.

Even where it would have been reasonable to assume COVID-19 would factor very strongly into decision making, reaction to it was not what I had expected.

What I got right

Biden’s path to victory

Taking a conservative view, trusting anecdotal evidence and intuition, I assumed that Biden winning Florida and Texas were out of the question. My prediction was that Biden would win WI/MI/PA and perhaps one other. This scenario seems the most likely final result.

The other key state may turn out to be Georgia and I will allow myself a degree of smugness for identifying this more than a week prior to the election.

The suburban vote

I was quite clear that Biden was heavy reliant on the suburbs turning out for him, and this indeed was crucial in the swing states.

On average, Mr. Biden improved on Hillary Clinton’s performance in these 373 suburban counties around the country by about 4.8 percentage points as of Friday morning, a margin that could change modestly with counting still underway (that average weights each county by population). In Georgia, the shift has been more than eight points. In Michigan and Wisconsin, it was about three points.

I was hardly alone in saying this, given how telegraphed it was by the Trump camp.

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