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Stanford Predicts The Presidential Election 158

Can Sar writes "Today is the official launch of Stanford Predicts, a non partisan group trying to predict the 2004 Presidential Election. This project is led by and based on research by Professor Samuel S. Chiu of the Department of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University. Stanford Predicts is solely interested in predicting the likelihood of either candidate winning, for purely scientific purposes. While the formulas themselves were developed in previous years by Professor Chiu all data analysis is being done by undergraduate students. Stanford Predicts will be continuously updated with new predictions until election day. Please check out Stanford Predicts for more information."
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Stanford Predicts The Presidential Election

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @03:30PM (#10633880)
    American University Professor Allan J. Lichtman, author of Keys to the White House [] uses a 13 key system to predict the Presidential winner [] (popular vote), and right now, the keys system favors Bush (9 to 4 []). Gore won his analysis in 2000 and the popular vote, but not the Presidency. It's possible something similar could happen again.
    • I am just waiting to see who wins the redskins game....
    • Interestingly enough, Lichtman's colleague in this Keys to the Whitehouse prediction system, was Dr. Keilis-Borok, who predicted two earthquakes in Central California and Japan, and failed to correctly predict an earthquake in Southern California.

      Quite a bit of his research (both in geophysics and non-geophysics related subjects) has been devoted to the mathematics of pattern recognition.
    • Because of which states are going which way (small states with excess electoral votes going for Bush), I think it is virtually impossible for Bush to win the popular vote yet lose the election. He could lose the popular vote and win the election as with Gore, but not the other way around.
  • by Pan T. Hose ( 707794 ) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @03:35PM (#10633945) Homepage Journal
    Wasn't it a public knowledge that the election will take place? It was all over the news.
    • A recent poll reveiled that if the election were held today most people would be confused because the election is normally held in November.

      More later on the 11 o'clock news....

      • ...which won't be out until Wednesday or Thursday for people w/o subscriptions. Relevent to this topic are the two best stories:

        "Countdown to The Recount 2004" ("How to make your vote recount", "When will your next president be appointed", etc)

        "Republicans Urge Minorities To Get Out And Vote On November 3rd" (ouch!)

  • Nothing special (Score:4, Informative)

    by dtfinch ( 661405 ) * on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @03:38PM (#10633981) Journal
    This guy [] has the same sort of daily predictions. Funny his prediction for today is the opposite that Stanford predicts. I sent him an excel file demonstrating the use of error estimates and probabilities to get a better prediction, but haven't heard back. Though even with that the prediction would still be in Kerry's favor, so I'm not sure what all Stanford is and isn't taking into account. He apparently gets a lot of crap in his email from opponents.
    • What makes kind've special is that he's going out on a limb and declaring that "undecided voters" (currently something like 4%) will go out and vote for Kerry by a 2:1 ratio. This has the effect of tipping a number of crucial swing states to Kerry for his final prediction. He makes a pretty good case for this (undecided voters going 2:1 for the challenger) based on historical trends.

      This Stanford analysis is based on current polls, and implicitly assumes that undecided voters will rema
      • This undecided breaking in a 2:1 ratio theory comes from this analysis at the Mystery Pollster:

        The Incumbent Rule []

        A good quote from the link:

        Voters typically know incumbents well and have strong opinions about their performance. Challengers are less familiar and invariably fall short on straightforward comparisons of experience and (in the presidential arena) command of foreign policy. Some voters find themselves conflicted -- dissatisfied with the incumbent yet also wary of the challenger -- and may
      • What makes kind've special is that he's going out on a limb and declaring that "undecided voters" (currently something like 4%) will go out and vote for Kerry by a 2:1 ratio

        The problem with this "undecided's always break for the challenger" analysis is that generally it is ONLY true of the very last poll. Polls a few days out do not display such a consistent "break" to the challenger. In fact they just as often "break" towards the incumbent.

        I don't think anyone knows which way this e
        • I feel that it would be impossible for Bush to win the popular vote yet lose the election, due to the lock he has on a number of small states with much greater elector/population ratios. Can anybody make up a scenario where this is remotely possible? I don't think this is going to be an inverse of the previous election, but a repeat.
          • I feel that it would be impossible for Bush to win the popular vote yet lose the election, due to the lock he has on a number of small states with much greater elector/population ratios.

            By the exact same token Kerry has a lock on the electoral votes of a number of large states no matter what the margin of victory is. The extra votes that small states get are NOT what causes the potential for a disparity between the popular and electoral vote. It is the fact that all states are winner take all regardless
            • You are right, I was ignoring the big decided states. For instance if Texas went 99% to Bush and California split slightly for Kerry it would make no difference to the electoral outcome, but would mean Bush would have far more popular votes.
    • Do you happen to have that excel file still on hand? I would appreciate it if you could send me a copy as part of a for-fun project I have been doing in trying to tabulate the electoral votes, more information(that is more accurate) the better...

      maburns AT gmail dot com

      Thank you.
  • by CtrlPhreak ( 226872 ) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @03:40PM (#10634018) Homepage
    I've been following along the election with, and while it's good to have predictors, I wonder how much impact these have on the outcome, do sites like this have a detremental effect on the election by creating a self fulfilling prophecy? Have there been studies on this effect, say a voter sees that bush has a 72%chance of winning, and decides that the country can't be wrong and goes along with it.

    Anyway, I like electoral-vote's way of going about it better, shouwing actual state polls and the number of electorial votes each candidate has rather than a straight up prediction of the outcome in a percentage. Lets you see how close the race is as far as votes and what your effect based on your state can be, it's a lot more empowering when you see your state is very close and has a lot of electorial votes, and how close the candidates are.
    • It can go the other way too, with voters thinking their guy is behind being more likely to trek to the polls while the voter that thinks their guy is ahead just stays home. I'm seeing this somewhat here in Illinois with people saying that since the state is going to Kerry no matter what that it isn't worth bothering to vote one way or the other.

    • a voter sees that bush has a 72%chance of winning, and decides that the country can't be wrong and goes along with it.

      The only wasted vote is a superfluous vote for the winner. Since I don't live in a swing state, I can vote my conscious (Libertarian Party) instead of holding my nose and voting for John Kerry (hoping for divided government to keep him and Congress in a political stalemate).
    • by aralin ( 107264 ) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @05:05PM (#10635135)
      I think the methodology of the stanford predicts is at best fishy. The problem is that they go for an immediate state, discarding previous results and this makes their predictions very sure. You can see that most of them are over 90%. Now tell me that Florida is anything further than 10% from draw? I don't think so.

      The main problem is that he needs to take in account all the previous data and see how the state numbers vary and how far they swing up and down and take that in account when counting the chance that either candidate will win the election. I think it would reduce the probabilities and make all these numbers more realistic.

    • The exact opposite happened in Florida last time around. The result was called in favor of Gore before half of the state's polls had closed. The people still left to vote, seeing that the news was saying Gore was the winner, either went out and voted against them as soon as they saw they needed to, or stayed home thinking they're vote for him was no longer needed. Ignore Michael Moore's take on it.
    • I wonder how much impact these have on the outcome, do sites like this have a detremental effect on the election by creating a self fulfilling prophecy?

      With all the lawyers already filing lawsuits and the potential for another contested election I think it would be perfectly rational for undecideds to pick whoever looks like they are winning. Someone undecided at this point obviously doesn't have a strong preference about the candidates for their own sake... but they may want to avoid another constitutio
    • I've been following along the election with

      The problem with is that the methodology used is somewhat naive. States are predicted based on the most poll with the most recent middle date. This sounds good, until you realize that not every poll is as reliable/accurate. For instance, Strategic Vision is a Republican pollster, and constantly shows Bush having stronger numbers. Currently they are the only pollster that still thinks Michigan is a tossup (47%-61% Kerr
    • I disagree, while I like many of's procedures, he still falls victem to a basic misunderstanding of statistics. The vote master (what he calls himself) and pretty much every news article I have read regarding polls always refer to spreads withing hte margin of error as "statistical ties", "dead-heats", or other such verbage. Such conclusions are not supported by statistical theory Here [] is a good write-up on the definition of margin of error. Basicly, if two candidates' poll numbers ar
  • Which polls? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by stomv ( 80392 ) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @03:50PM (#10634160) Homepage
    I couldn't find info on which polls they used. Of course, some pollsters do a better job than others, and some even engage in push polling?*

    So, it seems to me that feeding a different subset of polls will garner different results, and that the equilibruim is very stable -- change the Ohio or Florida poll by two percentage points toward Kerry and I'd bet the odds go from 3:1 to 1:1 pretty damned quickly. Likewise, fudge the CO, NH, and MN results toward Bush 2 points, and it might go from 3:1 to 5:1.

    Surely they could do a better job about releasing their data and their polling selection methodology...

    * baiting an answer. For example: Would you vote for George Bush even though he lied about WMDs and his wife once killed a man? Clearly not a good idea if one seeks accurate polling, but it's done all the time nevertheless. Just ask wiki [] about Sen. McCain's black baby born out of wedlock.
  • by Otter ( 3800 )
    It amounts to a laborious book-keeping problem -- to figure out all collections of states that will give Kerry 282 votes, getting heads in those coin flips and tails for the remaining. Using a clever procedure, we are able to carry out these computations efficiently without having to explicitly consider all possible combinations of state outcomes.

    I'm no computer scientist, but -- wouldn't a Monte Carlo technique do this reasonably well?

  • by mabu ( 178417 )
    I predict that I may not be the only one that is completely fed up with people wasting too much time and energy on predictions, especially innocuous and chaotic issues such as the election a week before the fact. If you want to predict Earthquakes and weather patterns, cool, but no matter what you predict, things are still going to be chaos because it doesn't take a PhD to figure out one side is going to be unhappy about losing. Thank you professor Obvious.

    Why don't you academics stop jerking off over w
    • According to the halloween webcam [] (which has been FARK'ed, Slashdotted, Ernie House of WhoopAss'ed, MajorGeek'ed, etc.), the current standings are:
      HULK: 9,151 BUSH: 8,910 KERRY: 8,391

      This is despite at least one "Kerry-Bot" which tried to stuff the ballot. []

    • by Jerf ( 17166 )
      Why don't you academics stop jerking off over week-early predictions and do something productive like research a cure for cancer,

      You know, I think I'm OK with Political Scientists not treating cancer.

      (Sloppy Thinking Sign #4: Lumping all members of a group together and discarding relevant distinctions. In this case, the point is that all academics are not created equal. Accurate poll research is one of the more useful things a political scientist can be doing, considering the general uselessness of that
  • Based On Polls (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tid242 ( 540756 ) * on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @04:09PM (#10634433) Homepage
    The numbers above represent the probabilities that either candidate wins enough votes on the Electoral College to be elected President, as of the latest available polls. They do not represent actual vote counts or direct poll results, but are inferred from poll results.

    This is my problem with these sorts of things. While the polls are always statistically sound i have a 800-lb gorilla-sized sneaking suspicion that the polls being conducted do not accurately represent the electorate, in which case the statistical rigor gives way to a sort of bias in these results.

    I've thought for a long time (since last spring) that Bush will lose by a not unsizable margin and people may actually be surprised on election day by the way the polls had failed to capture the public's true intent.

    This is all purely anecdotal of course but i just think that since all of these polls are via land-lines (at who knows what time of day), they no longer capture a validly random sample. After all a shrinking percentage of people i know (all of whom vote) even have a land-line, and far fewer actually talk to any pollsters or their ilk - the urge to hang-up on these sorts of callers is just too overwhelming...

    Though it may very well be me who is surprised on election day this is what has been brewing in my head lately...

    We'll see, although i would bet that there'll be partying in the streets around the world on Nov. 2nd/3rd should Bush lose.


    • by RealProgrammer ( 723725 ) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @04:35PM (#10634816) Homepage Journal
      They use the results of a number of polls. Since these polls are more or less independent of each other, it's mathematically acceptable to aggregate them (provided you do the simple stuff like weighting the polls according to sample size, etc.).

      You say that the polls themselves are all biased in the same direction, reflecting the viewpoint of likely voters who answer their landline. While I can't invalidate that completely, the fact that multiple polls find similar results tends to weaken the idea. The question is open whether people who don't answer their landline lean toward one side enough to change the results. Also, polls of kids, who usually tend to track their parents' viewpoints, agree with the telephone polls.

      It's possible that your friends think the same way you do, so to you it feels like everybody hates the President, when in fact most people like him.
      • You say that the polls themselves are all biased in the same direction, reflecting the viewpoint of likely voters who answer their landline. While I can't invalidate that completely, the fact that multiple polls find similar results tends to weaken the idea.

        Not at all. It means the polls are reliable, but quite possibly reliably biased in the same direction.

      • We're not just talking about people "not answering their landline," we're talking about people who don't even have landlines. There's a lot of anecdotal evidence (from multiple sources) that this is common with the younger generation as the economics begin to tilt towards cell phones, and that demographic historically leans left. Maybe it's a large enough group to swing a crucial swing state like Florida, but I'm not so sure.

        Also there's a widely-accepted historical trend to these polls underrepresenting
    • But do you have any reason to suspect that the cell-phone toting population is more inclined to vote for Kerry over Bush? Or that they might not have a tendency to be found in already solid "blue" states?

      I do have a hunch that the election will not end up being as close as the polls are indicating right now. I'm just ambivalent about which way it goes. Either the polls are missing the extent anti-bush intensity and Bush loses all the battlegrounds, or all that anti-Bush rage does for Kerry what it did for
  • My prediction: (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Nafai7 ( 53671 )
    Either Bush or Kerry will get into office. They will spend our federal tax money however they want, generally kissing the ass of big business. We will continue putting hundreds of thousands of people in jail for drug use. We will continue pushing a litigious society with no hope for tort reform. Illegal industry groups (MPAA, RIAA) will be given even more power. And no matter what, Bush's friends will become much richer, and Kerry's friends will become much richer.

    Feel free to supply your own!
    • that partisan supporters on both sides will wage a vicious court battle, which will be cut off halfway through by the supremes, who will say, "Didn't you hear us four years ago? Any contestation of Bush's victory could do harm to Bush's presidency. Therefore, Bush is the victor." See p152, recursion adj.
  • These type of things are bad for two reasons:
    1) They meddle with the elections. If a Kerry supporter sees this, it may discourage him to actually go and vote, because "awww... this scientific poll says that Kerry already lost, I don't even need to vote"
    2) How can a poll really claim to be scientific when it gives 100% chance to any canditate for a state? Sure, its pretty safe to assume that Kerry will win CA, or Bush TX, but you really never know what could happen in a situation like this. Saying 100% p
    • I'll answer both parts:
      1) It could also have the opposite effect...a Kerry supporters see Kerry is behind and get out the vote to try to make up the difference. Given the state of partisanship this election, I think this is more likely.
      2) I doubt any state is really 100%, it's just a matter of rounding to the nearest integer.

      What I find confusing about the Stanford page is their coloring of the map...why is MO red with only 77% and CO yellow with 100%? I'd think the line between red-yellow-blue should be
  • by Alomex ( 148003 ) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @04:20PM (#10634599) Homepage
    I've been following elections for over 20 years in over six countries and various states. In that time I've learned two things (a) generally polls are eerily accurate (ignore them at your own peril) and (b) every so often there are certain elections which one can tell, almost from the get go, that previous historical norms won't apply and hence polls will mispredict the outcome.

    The 2004 presidential election is one of those elections in which participation rate of voters will be way out of the norm, on the coat-tails of the 2000 stalemate and the strong anti-Bush feeling from the democrats.

    Using historical data, Bush is slightly ahead as reported by the Stanford poll or If we correct the data assuming a slightly higher participation for the democrats, the polls give an edge to Kerry of 284 electoral votes vs 254 for Bush.

    • by j. andrew rogers ( 774820 ) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @04:52PM (#10635018)
      Except that there are as many Democrats defecting to Republicans as there are Republicans defecting to Democrats, at least in my experience. The Democrats are not particularly motivated, and a great many I know think Kerry is a pompous asshat, such that they really don't care who wins even though they do not like Bush. They despise Bush, but they don't like Kerry either even though they'll vote for him.

      And in fact, that is why the Democrats will lose the election. Out of all the people they could have selected, they select a flagrantly elitist blowhard with no definable position and an obvious lack of charisma. Ugh. There really is nothing to get excited about there, and it is apparent that a lot of Democrats don't really believe in Kerry. Other than the libertarian wing of the Republican party (which is, sadly, fringe), the Republicans genuinely seem to like Bush, for better or worse. I've definitely noticed an erosion of support among the old school blue collar life-long Democrats, many who feel that Kerry is completely out of touch with their reality.

      The Democrats had a real shot, right up until the point they selected Kerry. Mind you, I don't think it was obvious just how lousy of a candidate he was going to be before they selected him. Howard Dean would at least have been interesting, and even someone like Gephardt would have done better shoring up the base. Right now, they are chasing down votes they should have already owned.

      Which kind of begs the question as to how we ended up with a couple of clowns to choose from in the first place. What happened to really great candidates that you could feel good about voting for?

      • Except that there are as many Democrats defecting to Republicans as there are Republicans defecting to Democrats, at least in my experience.

        Actually the polls say this is not the case. The core constituencies have moved little, with a bit more republicans moving democrat than the other way, but still the cores were remarkably static.

        The Democrats are not particularly motivated,

        On the contrary, democrats are particularly pissed since many of them believe either that Bush stole the election in 2000 or
        • Both support the war in iraq.
          Both have spending plans that are in the red and both say they'll cut their deficit spending in half within four years.
          Both support the patriot act.
          Both support curtailing the 2nd amendment.
          Both have increased the size and scope of the federal government.

          The differences are Kerry wants to tax and spend while Bush wants to borrow and spend.
          Kerry - Pro choice, Bush - Pro Life

          So in conclusion I'd say yes they are both asshats.

      • by flyingsquid ( 813711 ) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @06:56PM (#10636399)
        The Democrats are not particularly motivated

        Democrats aren't infatuated with John Kerry, but he's more than capable. And Dems are angry like I've never seen before: they feel that they won in 2000 and yet have had to endure four years of the most incompetent and arrogant presidency in generations. I had no great fondness for Bush Senior but you had to respect him. I have not a shred of respect for W.

        In the debates, Kerry seemed like a president. Bush came off as arrogant and petulant. Bush can be charismatic, but if he was during those debates, I didn't see it. He struck me as a spoiled child who needs to be taught a lesson in responsibility. When confronted with all the failures of his administration, he had this whining tone of "You just need to see it from my perspective". No, I don't. You're the president, you're supposed to be responsible. He isn't. He's an alcoholic cokehead trying to tell other people how to live their lives, he's a failure as a president, and he serves only to make the rich more rich, and the powerful more powerful. I'll vote for a lobotomized chimp before I'll vote for George W. Bush.

        • Yup, your just another drop in the bucket when it comes to validating angry liberals.

          If anything, you describe EXACTLY John Kerry (with the alcoholic and coke being an exception)

          Anyone else getting tired of Kerrys " I I I I me me me me" tone? At least Bush is all for about YOU and US.
          • by flyingsquid ( 813711 ) on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @07:39AM (#10640344)
            That's the thing though- I'm not particularly liberal. The Economist is my favorite news magazine, I really thought John McCain would make a good president, I find Michael Moore intellectually dishonest, and I find Bay Area knee-jerk liberals to be infuriatingly smug and uninformed (although I have to admit they were right about Iraq). Also having read up on it, I believe that the first Gulf War was both justified and necessary(by strategic concerns- oil- if not moral ones).

            When did the Republicans convince the nation that anyone to the left of Genghis Khan was "liberal"? You don't have to be liberal to loathe George Bush for what he's done to this country. You just have to be informed and care about the values he claims to promote, like liberty and justice. For many of us, it's not that we're left- we're in the center, same as always. It's that George Bush has taken the nation too far to the right while claiming to speak for the whole nation.

    • (b) every so often there are certain elections which one can tell, almost from the get go, that previous historical norms won't apply and hence polls will mispredict the outcome.

      This seems very likely to be one of those races. There are a number of reasons I think you may be right.

      (1) The country is more polarized than it has been in a generation, and the democrats are more motivated than I've ever seen. High turnout should favor the Democrats.

      (2) Bush is basically campaigning against his own war; he

  • by Yeechang Lee ( 3429 ) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @04:31PM (#10634741) Homepage
    Besides the UMN site [] already mentioned above, I highly recommend everyone regularly visit RealClear Politics [] (whose rolling averages have become a de facto barometer for journalists), The Horserace Blog [] (Jay Cost crunches the numbers in a way that puts the mainstream press' attempts to shame, and explains every step of his analyses), and Daly Thoughts [] (the best single state-by-state analysis of poll trends).
    • I have my doubts about how credible this all is. "The Horserace Blog" for instance, says, "Given this result, we can be 99.997% confident that George W. Bush presently has a lead."

      Does anyone seriously believe that you can accurately measure this kind of thing to three decimal places? 99.997? Please. Remember 2000, when the polls said Gore took Florida? People's voting tendencies and opinions are very difficult to measure things, not something you measure with digital calipers. Hell, I do real, hard scienc

    • <sarcasm>Sure good to see that Jay Cost isn't partisan in any way, shape, or form...</sarcasm>
  • Polling Data? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WarPresident ( 754535 ) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @05:19PM (#10635313) Homepage Journal
    Where's the polling data to back these numbers up? Just clicking on the link to Wisconsin shows Bush with a 92% likelihood of winning, even though the headline states, "Kerry and Bush Remain Tied Among Likely Voters in Wisconsin". I wanna see sources, not magic numbers.

    With the election being likely another 50/50 split, the real deciding factor is going to be how much voter fraud is going to occur, how much electoral fraud (Diebold is looking forward to delivering Ohio's votes to the President!), the margin of error with the voting machines, margin of error with the humans checking the voting machines, and the likelihood of another Florida.

    Actually, if we can determine the probability of another Florida, we already know the outcome of the election (5 Bush, 4, Kerry) and we can all sleep in on Nov 2!
  • Stanford predicts Bush will win the swing states, including New Mexico, and Kerry will win Colorado. Anyone want to bet?
  • American's were once prosecuted for their beliefs, thus the founding of the NEW land. Now they are prosecuting others for them.

    American's say these "loonie" Muslim fundamentalists this... or that...

    Why do American's call them loonie?, is it because they belive Americans are evil? Is it because they belive they can commit atrocities in the name of Allah?.

    Yes, I'm not saying i don't think fundamentalists are wrong, i think all fundamentalists are wrong. Any group that prosecutes others for being wh

  • This is based off the poll data - all polls this year have incorrectable sampling errors that inflate bush's numbers
    • This is based off the poll data - all polls this year have incorrectable sampling errors that inflate bush's numbers

      That's pretty funny. What exactly are these incorrectable errors again?
      • * The polls measure "likely voters" which excludes almost (if not) all new voters (level of exclusion depends on particular poller) in a year with an incumbent and record new voter registrations the challenger will have overwhelming support amoung new voters
        * Democraphic errors - young voters and tech savvy voters often have no hard-line telephone, cell phones only - polling companies cannot reach this demographic (law)
        * As the election gets closer the sample errors become more serious because fewer individ
        • I could come up with more.. but i have a feeling you're simply going to laugh at these and dismiss them without giving them serious thought.

          you are very presumptuous. no matter how smart you think you might be, you don't know me.

          The first point seems pretty far fetched to me--are they supposed to poll "unlikley voters"? There might be some substance in your second point about cell phones.
          I dimiss your third and fourth points outright.

          I don't pay much attention to individual polls, I haven't seen any t
          • how is it far fetched to point out the TRUTH of the fact that the definition of "likely voters" by the pollsters excludes new voters my 3rd and 4th points are historically true (without exception)
            • would you post a link to some of the historic poll data? I did a quick google and the best I found was and I didn't want to subscribe.

              I know Harris includes new voters in their "likely" voter definition. And I know the "likely" voter definition varies from pollster to pollster.
  • Reading the methodology on the site, it seems like they figured out a probability for each state, then ran a simulation where each state independently has its given probability of going each way.

    This seems utterly ridiculous! If swing state #1 goes one direction, then it is much more likely that swing state #2 is going in the same direction. Because of this, their model will have results centered artificially close to the expected value (swings in their methodology cancel each other much more than in the

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