What is going on in Alaska? ... and more questions from listeners | FiveThirtyEight

Nate Silver and Galen Druke answer questions from listeners about the FiveThirtyEight forecast.
16:41 | 09/30/22

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Transcript for What is going on in Alaska? ... and more questions from listeners | FiveThirtyEight
[MUSIC PLAYING] - Our first listener question is from David. And this is a fun one. David asks, do the 70/30, 30/70 chances for Democrats and Republicans in the Senate and House forecasts imply that a split Congress is the most likely outcome in the model? Or are there correlations that mean one party is likelier to control both chambers? - No, it's pretty unlikely that-- so let me see. We actually have this. If you go to, like, the main FiveThirtyEight forecast page-- GALEN DRUKE: We do. It's a great visualization. NATE SILVER: --there is a 30% chance Republicans win in both chambers, a 31% chance Democrats win both, and a 39% chance of a split, with a split almost always being the Democrats win the Senate and the GOP wins the House. The reverse-- - So it's likelier that one party controls both chambers-- - Right. - --than that there's a split decision. - And put it another way, so there's a 61% chance that either our House or Senate forecasts will be, quote unquote, wrong. Right. So [MUTED] you everybody in advance for criticizing this. - [LAUGHS] Which, OK. We got a great follow up question from Henry, which was, only a 39% chance that the deluxe model calls both the House and Senate correctly, which is-- - Yeah. - --what you were just citing there. How do you message that the model will more likely than not be wrong on one of these outcomes? All right. Here's your chance-- - You know-- - --to message it. - --why do you think I was playing a poker tournament. Right? I'm tired of trying to deal with people. You know, it's not that hard to message. Right? The message is that, like, it's pretty hard to hit it exactly on the nose where if Democrats do even a little bit better than their forecast, they start to be competitive in the House. The GOP does even a little bit better, then they certainly win the House and can win the Senate as well. All right. So you kind of are, like-- it's a very narrow lane that you have to-- - That you got to drive through. - --pass through. Even though there's, like, a center lane, right, it's not a lot of margin for error in that lane. Right? And so, yeah. To hit that right in the nose-- I guess the good thing is, like, we'll probably at least be half right. - [LAUGHS] I'm sure that people will give us credit for that. - Yeah. But I don't really give a [MUTED]. - But it-- I mean, isn't that kind of amazing that that's how statistics works? That if we-- - I know. I mean living, you know-- - Living what? - I mean, certainly-- has your impression of Americans understanding of statistics-- like, I mean, it's not been very encouraging. I don't think. - No. But when you look at a situation like this, it's not that hard to understand why people might be confused too. If we're, like, there's a 70% chance Democrats win the Senate, 70% chance Republicans-- - Yeah. - --win the House. But the likeliest outcome is that neither of those things is-- - Yeah - --the correct outcome, like, feels-- you have to really focus on the numbers, the percentages, and not focus on who controls the chambers almost. Like, we're not saying-- - No, I mean who controls the chambers is-- - I mean, obviously-- - --important. - --for people who care about politics, like, yes, that's the main-- that's the name of the game. - Yeah. I mean, the key-- - That's why people are listening-- - The key-- - --to this podcast. - --is that these outcomes are highly correlated. GALEN DRUKE: Mhm. - Right? I mean, literally, in our model, it's just one model that runs, Senate, House, gubernatorial races. You're not much going to have like a different dynamic in the House than in the Senate. And because the Senate is easier in this cycle for Democrats, even though to add to the confusion, ironically, like, in the long run the Senate is probably harder for Democrats to maintain. Right? GALEN DRUKE: Mhm. - But, like, given the races that are up this year, that's the easier lift for Democrats. So you know, they would get that first. Then they would, maybe if they're lucky, get the House. And the GOP is just the reverse. Right? House is still pretty easy for the Republican Senate, is very achievable but more difficult. Yeah. Maybe the road analogies-- I mean, it's more like you're kind of feeling like a tub or something. Right? And you have to, like, get the water level between these two markers on the tub. Right? - Mhm. - I don't know some, like, Price Is Right game or something. Right? It's pretty hard to, like, get between. You can err in both directions. - OK. Like, if what? If you just don't know how to turn the faucet off? - Yeah. You have to turn the faucet off at the right time. And you can undershoot or overshoot, basically. - OK. - And it's actually pretty hard to shoot correctly. - OK. - I don't know why faucets - All right. I get-- yeah. I think we got to workshop that one a little bit. - OK. OK. - Next question-- - We can ask Five V. - --from Will. Next question from Will-- when your Senate model first launched, you had Lisa Murkowski favored with about an 85% chance of winning and Kelly Tshibaka with about a 10% chance of winning. But since Alaska's August 16 primary election, that has flipped. You now have Tshibaka at 69% and Murkowski at 30%. Why did your model suddenly start favoring Tshibaka? - So Alaska is new. This top four system is new this year. So initially just, when there weren't any polls, it defaulted toward Murkowski being an incumbent, I think. And now, we've seen polls with Tshibaka leading. So that's why it flipped. Right? It was at a prior before there were polls. Now we have polls. And they show Tshibka ahead. - And they're both Republicans. - They're both Republicans. Yeah. - And so our forecast says that there's over a 99% chance that a Republican will win. - That's right. Which is in contrast to the Alaska House race, which is now a toss up. The issue there is that the Democrat, Peltola, she's an incumbent. But, like, now there is polling there. She actually will probably lead the first choice vote. Right? And the question is whether Palin and Begich, the two Republicans, whether their votes will combine in such a way that-- GALEN DRUKE: Mhm. - --whichever one is second overtakes her. Right? It's more likely that if it's Begich in second place, that he would gain Palin's voters than the other way around, where they're kind of rivals at this point. There's also one poll that showed the Democrat with 50% of the vote already. In which case, you don't have to worry about the rank. - The ranked choice. - Right. So yeah, she's-- you know, that race is actually like a toss up. - So-- - Could you put in, like, even more work in to our Alaska model? I mean, we probably could. It's not that material, really. Right? Like, in the Senate, it's going to be one of the two Republicans, we think, almost for sure. Right? - Well, right. Although-- - In the House, it's one race out of 435. - Although, in a, you know, marginally controlled Senate chamber, the difference between Tshibaka and Murkowski-- - That's true. - --is pretty significant. - That's true. That's true. Yeah. - And so what our model is showing is that Murkowski is potentially in trouble. - Potentially. I mean, I'm not sure if we're incorporating runoff results from those polls that would be, like, kind of, a late October edition, if they're showing, kind of, how the two ways would go in those polls. That would take some work that we may or may not have time to do. But Murkowski is, you know, trailing in the first choice vote. And that's not great for her. Yeah. - Next question. For House races, do you consider possible coattail effects from Senate or governor's races when there is more polling? For example, in Pennsylvania, the Democratic candidate for Senate and Governor are doing very well. Does this have spillover effects on the estimates for House races because, to add some context here, we're not really getting a lot of polling on House races. So when we think about who's going to win in these House races, oftentimes we're looking at generic ballot polling, other indicators of the environment, and not a poll that was conducted in Pennsylvania's fourth district or whatever it may be. - No. It probably would be smart to account for that. But we don't. - [LAUGHS] - Build your own model, people. - [LAUGHS] All right. There's your answer. Spencer asks, what is the rationale behind placing certain likelihood benchmarks where you did? For example, slightly favored at 55%, favored at 70%, very likely at 98.5%, or likely at 75%. - I mean, there's some degree of literature on how people empirically perceive these intuitively and how that translates to natural language. And we actually have big arguments about this stuff. Right? - Mhm. - So we think about it carefully. - Yeah. - Again, we're just trying to, like, have, like, little nudges and, you know. I don't know. I mean, we had one year where we had, like, all those ratios was like 6 out of 7 and stuff like that-- - Mhm. - --which I, kind of, liked. Other people didn't like. More and more, I'm like-- - Well, also, we used to do-- - Yeah. - --like, decimal points. Do you remember the 2016 election? - Yeah. More and more I'm just, like-- - Do you remember when-- - Yeah. - Do you remember when the-- was it the Nowcast? The Nowcast, in the 2016 election, showed, I think, like, Hillary Clinton with a 66.6% chance of-- - Oh, man. - --winning. And like-- - Wow. - --the devil was speaking through-- - Yeah. - --the Nowcast. - Wow, man. - What happened to the Nowcast? - I mean, the Nowcast was-- - That's a deep cut for a long-time listeners, by the way. - --was shot to death by Five V. - [LAUGHS] Five V packs of pistol? - I mean, Five V-- people hunt foxes. So Five V has to defend himself. - That was a good comeback. - Yeah. - All right. Next question. This is also a pretty wonky one, but I like it. When you launched the forecast, the 80% error, or, like, the band within which 80% of the outcomes will happen, showed Republicans getting 48 to 54 seats in the Senate. Today it shows 46 to 52 seats, both having a spread of six seats, if you follow. Given the high number of polls since the launch, why hasn't the forecast become more certain with a more narrow margin of error? - I mean, let me look at what we have-- I mean, to some extent, like, a lot of the races in the Senate have stayed competitive when you wouldn't necessarily expect them to. Right? - Mhm. - So that can be, like, quirky based. And like, Ohio remaining competitive. Right? There are some polls that are showing Colorado and Wisconsin, or Colorado and Washington, competitive. Right? If you look at the House, which is more-- there's less noise because it's just more races. Right? There you do see, like, these confidence intervals narrowing-- - Mhm. - --in a more intuitively satisfying way. With that said, you know, again, as we've seen years where the polling was not that accurate on election day itself, right, a fair amount of the error comes, that we don't know that much in November, anyway. Right? Also, you know, we don't know what the final news environment will look like. So kind of between now and November is the, kind of, homestretch of the campaign. And this is where the model starts to get, like, get more confident, right, is, kind of, in this period through election day and not so much, you know, in the summer. - Yeah. Yeah. That makes sense. Next question. How much do you think the Democrats current advantage in the midterm Senate forecasts is due to poor candidate selection by MAGA Republicans? They go on to say, I'm wondering if voters are turned off by candidates continuing to ride the Trump train, even after he was voted out of office. If there were more boring, classic, Romney-style GOP candidates, would their numbers be better? - I think combined it's probably worth like a Senate seat to one and a half Senate seats, or even two Senate seats. So yeah. No, I think if you had, like, if you had, quote unquote, more mainstream normal GOP candidates, I think they would be at least 50/50 to win the Senate. Right? But that's not exogenous from the fact that, like, it is a Trumpian party. It is a party that doesn't have a lot of respect for traditional credentials. It is a party that cultivates a lot of people that have conspiratorial views about politics. Right? And so you, kind of-- this is not, like, oh, some unfortunate circumstance the GOP. Right? This is-- - Oh, this is so random. Yeah, right. Of course. We've been covering this for how many months-- - Yeah. - --at this point? This isn't random. We went primary by primary by primary. - This is what you get when you don't really do anything to punish Trump. And you don't really take January 6 seriously. And you know, you had-- the House passed a bill to reform the Electoral Count, which might make things a little bit better in the event of another January 6. You know, Kevin McCarthy whipped Republicans in the House against that. - Mhm. - Relatively, frankly, minor. It's an important bill. Right? But the changes themselves are not that material. Right? But whipping against that-- - Right. Like, it literally prevents another January 6, where someone tries to stop the counting in the actual chamber. But it doesn't prevent all kinds of other ways that the elections could [INAUDIBLE]. - Well, it depends. They're different. The House bill and the Senate Bill are different. - Mhm. - Right? I do not have a comprehensive list of which differences are in which Bill. So I can't speak to that in as educated way as I would like. - Well, we'll bring it up on-- - It probably-- - --the Monday podcast. - It probably will pass the Senate. Mitch McConnell-- - Oh, yeah. - --has said, the Senate version of this, with minor tweaks at most, I will approve. And there are enough GOP co-sponsors where that will probably pass. But no. I mean, like, the GOP is-- the chickens are kind of coming home to roost. And now, it's kind of up to voters for how much they care about these unconventional, quote unquote, candidates. Right? I mean, the one of them that is, like, a little bit weird in just an odd way is, like, Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania. I mean, I don't think he's necessarily even that, like, right-wing or Trumpy. It's not clear, like, why he wants-- - Well, there's a difference between right-wing and Trumpy is kind of the whole-- - OK. Yeah. - --issue-- - Yeah. - --in a way. In that, like, sure, you know, he supported liberal policies at certain points. I mean, like, Trump, I think he supported abortion at one point. - Well, in that one sense he is like Trump. Right? But I would expect Oz, if he got elected somehow, I would expect him to be pretty moderate, which is not true for, like, a JD Vance or a Blake Masters. Right? I mean Vance is also another slightly weird case where you, kind of, have this brand isn't moderate. But like, you know, Blake Masters is like very right-wing. - Yeah. - Yeah. - OK. Final question of the day comes from Vivian. Why does Nate hate Five V Fox? What in his childhood made him like this? I didn't get the impression that you hate Five V Fox. - I like-- I like Five V. Yeah. I mean-- - Have you said something on the podcast? - --I was in-- when I was in Maine, by the way-- - Yeah. - I was in Maine. - You saw Five V? - I saw Five V. I have to tell you, Five V is thinking about leaving polling and becoming, like, a park Ranger at Acadia National Park. - That's crazy. You know, my sister did that. - Really. Yeah. - Yeah. My sister loves National Parks. - Yeah. - Like, my brother is a lawyer. And I do this. And my sister was, like, no. Like, I'm working at a National Park. - No. I mean, I see-- I mean, both Five V and I are dismayed at, like, at the lack of people's understanding of statistics, right, and probability, and, like-- so, yeah. No, Five V, I don't know. I don't know. - Well, you know, maybe Five V is the smart one after all. - I think so. Yeah. - Well, Nate, it's been another model talk. - Thank you, Galen. It has been. It has been. - My name is Galen Druke. Sophia Lebowitz, Michael Tabb, Emily Venezky, and Kevin Ryder are in the control room. Michael Tabb is part of the audience. Emily Venezky is our intern. Kevin Ryder is on audio. Sofia Lebowitz is often on video and is behind the camera right now. Thank you for making this a more joyful occasion. Our editorial director is Chadwick Matlin. You can get in touch by emailing us at podcast@fivethirtyeight.com. You can also, of course, tweet us with any questions or comments. If you're a fan of the show, leave us a rating or review in the Apple Podcast store. Or tell someone about us. Thanks for listening. And we will see you soon. And one more thing, we have a live show on October 25 in Washington DC at Sixth and I. There's a link in the show notes. Go get your tickets. It's going to be a fun time. [MUSIC PLAYING]

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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