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More Josh Numbers Mumbling

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July 23, 2022 8:24 p.m.

I’ve been noting in different posts that there are more disconnects than usual in making sense of the 2022 election. A lot of things don’t quite seem to fit. Is this the continuing upheaval of the last two years? A shift in the trend? Or just wishful thinking? Who knows. But TPM Reader YK noted to me recently a little detail that helps quantify that disconnect. Our friend Nate Silver’s 538 forecasts include three versions. One with a mix of polls, expert opinion and a mix of history, fundraising, voting patterns and more. It’s this last one that is usually treated as the canonical forecast. That one currently shows the Senate at 50%-50% between Democratic and Republican control. With the House it’s 85%-15% in favor of the GOP. (Technically, these are the percentage of times the computer simulation gives victory to each side.)

But when you look at polls only something pretty stark happens. The Senate goes from 50%-50% to 64%-34% in favor of Democratic control. The House goes to 85%-15% in favor of the GOP to 73%-27% in favor of the GOP. To put it simply, what this means is that when you look solely at polling, things look substantially better for the Democrats than when you factor in historical voting patterns, expert opinion and various other non-polling information.

What does it mean? I have no idea. And this is a good moment to be cognizant of the role of wishful thinking. But something is going on in that divergence. And in fact, a number of the major election handicapping services have recently pulled back at least some from their GOP wave predictions. I think the best way to look at that divergence is to say that if you’ve got a hunch or a wish that this election cycle is operating by significantly different dynamics than the norm that divergence gives you some real evidence for that theory.

Evidence isn’t proof, of course. But you know that.

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