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LIVE FORECAST: Presidential Election

Updated: Nov 4, 2020

Starting at 3:30 PM on election night, I will run a live forecast of the presidential election. Please note that the forecast is a Zoom meeting; there is no sound and no video feed, just a shared screen that I'll update throughout the night.

There is also a live updates page, where I'll provide analysis of the results in short videos throughout the night and declare winners in all Senate and Presidential contests. I will be declaring winners whenever I am more than 95% certain of the result, a lower confidence interval than that of most news networks, which will only call an election if they are more than 99.5% certain of the result. For this reason, I will often call elections before the networks. I have been calling elections early for several years and have never declared the wrong winner -- and I don't intend to start now!

What is a live forecast?

A live forecast is essentially an estimate of the final result that is updated as new data becomes available. I will update my predictions for late-reporting states based on precinct data from states that have already reported, looking at correlations between different areas' demographics, partisan composition, and past voting patterns, as well as taking into account mathematical models for the degree of correlation between states.

How should I read the map?

In this map, I have designated a likely victor in each state. Darker shades of blue and red indicate a more likely victory for Biden and Trump, respectively. States that I'd normally consider "tossups" -- where the result is basically a coin toss -- are colored a very light shade of blue or red, depending on which candidate I think has a very slight edge.

States colored dark red or blue can be considered foregone conclusions (>95% chance of victory), so if either candidate gains 270 electoral votes in these states -- even before the polls have closed in some of them -- they can be considered the winner. For example, California's polls only close at 8:00 PM, but if Biden has 215 electoral votes before that, I can declare that he is the winner, based on the assumption that he wins California's 55 electoral votes, getting him to 270. Biden is so likely to win California that exit polls alone, despite usually being somewhat inaccurate, can affirm that such a result is almost certain.

What is the baseline scenario?

Here is the forecast that I will start with at 3:30 PM.

What is state of the race going in to election day?

As you can see, Joe Biden is already almost certain to win at least 204 electoral votes, and is extremely likely to win a further 49. In all likelihood, I will call those 49 electoral votes for Biden once early results are available (sometimes based on results in another state), leaving him with 253 electoral votes -- 17 short of victory. He can pick up all of those votes in Pennsylvania, but the Keystone State is unlikely to have enough results available on election night for us to declare a winner. Biden's most likely path to an election night victory goes through the South, where a win in Florida, North Carolina or Georgia, all early-reporting states, would put Biden either at (in the case of Florida), or a few electoral votes short of, an electoral college majority. If he losses Florida but wins in either of the other Southern battlegrounds, an election night call in Nevada, which is likely, would put Biden over the top.


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