Trump closes the gap!

Via RealClear some movement to the incumbent at the headline:

Battlegrounds not so much:

Betting still all over the joint:


No gap closure at FiveThirtyEight:

An embarrassingly Trump worshipping Zero Hedge makes a big deal of registrations:

Last week, we published an article detailing a warning from JPMorgan’s top quant Marko Kolanvoci to all those expecting a landslide Biden win (and by extension Blue Sweep) in which he showed the recent changes in voter registration data and their possible implication for state outcomes. In a nutshell, the JPM strategist found that there had been a sizable increase in Republican voter registrations in key battleground states compared to only modest increases in Democrat registrations…

… and also observed that the change in D-R (Democrats less Republicans) registrations “highly correlates with the subsequent change in D-R voting outcomes.”

We summarized that if Kolanovic’s hypothesis is accurate, the change in voter registration data shown above would immediately invalidate all polls such as that most popular one from Real Clear Politics showing Biden sweeping across the Battleground states. In fact, we concluded that while he does not say it, “the implication from the Kolanovic analysis is that Trump may well end up winning the critical trio of Pennsylvania (20 Electoral votes), Florida (29 votes) and North Carolina (15 votes).” That said, Kolanovic hedged by saying that changes in voter registration was only one variable in determining the election outcome, and “these results should not be taken as a prediction of state election outcomes.”

Fast forward to today when the JPM quant lays out another variable which also suggests that Trump’s odds of victory are far higher than conventional (and flawed as the 2016 election showed) polling would imply.

In a report published this morning, Kolanovic presents a Twitter sentiment analysis on the US election and compares it with the traditional polling data. The top level data is presented in the chart below: it shows the Biden – Trump support at the national level based on QuantCube Social Media (Twitter) Analytics, and compares it to polling averages from RealClearPolitics.

Commenting on the data, Kolanovic says that when looking at the evolution of social media sentiment, one sees that “Biden’s lead over Trump widened in September (possibly as a result of the first debate, market weakness, and COVID developments). The sentiment bottomed with the president’s COVID diagnosis but started meaningfully recovering since then.” The quant also notes that “social media sentiment appears to be a leading indicator of the polling average. Therefore, all else equal, one could expect the polls to tighten in the near future.”

Who knows? Maybe Trump is surging ahead and all polls are wrong. Or, maybe Trump’s followers now have derangement syndrome. FiveThirtyEight hoses it off:

Party registration is often a lagging indicator

A voter’s party registration is a strong indicator of who they’ll support, but it’s not a guarantee. In fact, many voters registered with one party have actually been voting for the other party in recent elections but haven’t necessarily switched their registration to reflect the party they actually support.

Take Pennsylvania, for example. The once-Democratic southwestern part has shifted sharply toward the GOP over the past couple of decades. However, party registration figures haven’t necessarily reflected that movement as much as you might expect. For instance, Greene County along the West Virginia border voted for Trump by 40 percentage points in 2016, yet preelection registration figures1 show that party identification is split almost evenly, with registered Republicans and Democrats each making up 45 percent of the county’s voters.

Part of what’s going on is that many older voters in that region are still registered as Democrats, even if they back Republicans for most federal offices. Conversely, the suburban counties around Philadelphia in the eastern part of the state used to form the base of the state Republican Party, but even though that area has moved toward the Democrats in recent elections, some Democratic-leaning voters haven’t changed their party registration. In other words, big shifts in party registration sometimes tell us something we already know, and aren’t a signal of a new shift in attitudes.

Registration surges follow the campaign calendar

The election calendar also influences party registration trends, as key dates and campaign events drive interest in participation. For instance, a presidential primary or the registration deadline ahead of the general election can spark a flood of registrations. But sometimes this can create a disproportionate number of registrations from one party.

Consider the 2020 presidential primary. Democrats had a competitive race, which drove interest in voting in 2019 and early in 2020 among Democrats and voters who wanted to have a say in the party’s nomination contest. Meanwhile, Trump was practically unopposed in the GOP nomination contest, so there wasn’t the same motivation among Republican-leaning voters to register ahead of the primaries in the spring until we got closer to the general election.

Florida provides a clear example of this. Much has been made of the GOP registering about 147,000 more voters than the Democrats in the roughly eight months since the February registration deadline for the state’s March 17 presidential primary. Yet in the eight months before the primary deadline (so, going back to the end of June 2019), Democrats registered about 42,000 more voters than the GOP due to the high interest in the Democratic presidential race. Now, that might still be a net win for the GOP — because if we subtract the two, Republicans registered 105,000 more voters — but it’s not as simple as that. Not only is party registration sometimes a lagging indicator as we mentioned above, but there are also a lot more people registering as independent now, and more of those voters may lean Democratic.

Independent voters complicate things

In recent years, a growing number of voters don’t want to be associated with either of the two major parties, and instead register as independent. After hovering in the low- to high-30s from the late 1980s to the late 2000s, the share of Americans who identify as politically independent has now reached or even topped 40 percent in recent years, according to Gallup. And in the states where there is party registration data available, the share of registered independents has grown to more than a quarter of the electorate while the percentage of registered Democrats and Republicans has decreased.

My view remains that this election is really only about one thing. This:

And given deaths, too, are about to surge, I can’t see how that will benefit El Trumpo over the last two weeks of campaigning.

Onward to today’s debate with the Trump mute button!

David Llewellyn-Smith
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