Saturday, October 15, 2016


My wife and I just had a baby. I'll keep updating the election model because that's quick and easy, but college football is much more labor intensive and won't be updated this week. Hoping to be back next week.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

10/9 Election Update: Debate Night

Remember 3 days ago when I wrote that Clinton had quite a good week and was now an overwhelming favorite? That was roughly 18 hours before the now infamous Trump tapes were released, where Trump brags about committing sexual assault, so I imagine he may look back on the days when he was just calling Alicia Machado fat as the good old days.

The Vox string I linked to above contains many insightful takes. The two that most resonated with me were:

  • I don't need to invoke my wife or my daughters to feel horrified about his comments, they should horrify all of us
  • There's no chance Trump drops out, and when attacked he attacks back ten fold (he's nothing if not predictable)
But my own take is for those saying: "Why didn't you abandon Trump before? Why was this the last straw after he did 55 other putrid things?"

I agree with you, and there should be a reckoning for politicians who are jumping ship now, probably because it's politically convenient. They gave us Trump and, I hope, there will be consequences for that. But this news is very bad for Trump. It makes him even less likely to become president, and that is very good. So instead of lecturing people on their hypocrisy, let's stop and ask what it is we're trying to achieve, then take actions consistent with that.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

10/6 Election Update: The NBC/SM National Poll

It's been quite the good week for Hillary Clinton. Not only did she crush the debate, but Trump has had several awful news cycles since (some self-inflicted, some not). The model has moved sharply in Clinton's favor this week, and now considers her the overwhelming favorite. If you're curious as to why, skip to the NBC/SM National Poll below, but the short version is:

  • A very large national poll came out that's favorable to Clinton
  • The state polls are also very favorable to Clinton
  • Time is running out
  • My model incorporates information from national polls into its poll aggregation in a way other models don't. This gives it more information to work with, and makes it more confident.


Nearly all of the key post debate polls have either been neutral or good for Clinton. Here's a sampling of them:

  • Good for Trump
    • Gravis National poll shows Clinton and Trump tied
    • Rasmussen national poll shows Trump +2
    • FL poll showing Trump +1
  • Good for Clinton
    • NBC/SM National poll showing Clinton +6
    • Reuters National poll showing Clinton +7
    • Economist/YouGov national poll showing Clinton +5
    • PA polls showing Clinton +5, +12
    • CO poll showing Clinton +11
    • FL Polls showing Clinton +7, Clinton +5
    • OH poll showing Clinton +2
  • Neutral
    • LAT/USC tracking poll holding at Trump +4
    • Lots of polls in states that won't impact the election

The NBC/SM National Poll

If you're not familiar with how state and national polls interact in my model, you can read about it here. The short version is that national polls are, at their core, individual polls of 50 states, and they can and should be treated as such.

NBC and SurveyMonkey release a large online-only national poll once per week. The sample size is huge (YUGE). The 12 NBC/SM polls released since July have had an average sample size of  17,000 voters, much larger than the typical national poll of 1,100 voters. Parsing that large sample out to 50 states ended up having a material impact many of those states. For example, the model is treating the most recent NBC/SM poll the same as if each of the following state polls were added to the model:
  • 660 voter poll in OH showing Clinton +5
  • 390 voter poll in AZ showing Trump +1
  • 180 voter poll in IA showing Clinton +7
  • 581 voter poll in NC showing Clinton +3
  • 163 voter poll in NV showing Clinton +8
  • 1142 voter poll in FL showing Clinton +4
For reference, the average sample size in all of my state polls is 900.
Adding each of those polls to the model, all at once, causes significant movement in the model, especially when they tell a different story than the one we're working with (in the case of the most recent poll, one more favorable to Clinton). Pair that with the influx of excellent state polls for Clinton, and the model feels very good about her chances.

Monday, October 3, 2016

College Football Week 6

  • I was inspired by the Huskies' amazing performance on Saturday to be super on top of blogging and modeling and everything is up to date. 
    • Week 6 schedule is below 
    • Rankings and games of the week have been updated on the left hand side
    • Team Dashboards have been updated through week 5
  • The Huskies play Oregon this week. They haven't been the ducks in 12 years. I was still in college then!

  • Watchability combines how good the two teams are and how likely the game is to be close
  • A team is shaded green according to their chance to win (darker = better chance)
  • This post has more detail on the math behind Watchability

Friday, September 30, 2016

9/30 Election Update, Actuarial Exams, and Poker

It's been a surreal couple of weeks. Even my model's movement, though much smaller than others, was making me sweat. On 9/25 Trump reached an all-time high of 16% chance to win in my model. But then that glorious debate happened, and the trend started going back in my preferred direction. America's preferred direction, really.

A couple of thoughts on the debate, related to two of my favorite things: actuarial exams and poker

Actuarial Exams

Once you get in a rhythm of taking actuarial exams, and you understand what they are, there's no excuse for not being prepared to take one. You know what material is going to be covered, you know when the exam is, and being prepared is just a matter of discipline and motivation. What's more, if you are unprepared, no amount of flash, razzle dazzle, or bullshit is going to save you. If you are unprepared, you'll be exposed and fail, unless you get very, very, very lucky.

That is, of course, exactly what happened to Trump on Monday night. He had prepared a couple of responses (trade, his ridiculous birther defense) but he was otherwise left floundering, frustrated, exposed. His lack of prep should have surprised no one, but it really was a stunning demonstration of why he can never be president. Here's your chance to make your case to 80+ million people, all at once, and you can't be bothered to do your homework? Amateur hour.


I think Trump's chance to win the presidency might be even less than my model is estimating, and poker is the reason why. When I was playing poker and I would spot a specific, consistent flaw in my opponent's strategy, I would make full use of that flaw as often and as frequently as possible. As a consequence, I would end up winning even more money than the skill difference between me and my opponent might predict.

Trump has a flaw, and Clinton has noticed. When you attack him, he attacks back tenfold. He can't help himself, it's incredibly predictable. It's actually kind of ironic; Trump often talks about not taking things off the table or not revealing your strategy to the enemy, and yet his own behavior is incredibly predictable. He lashes out at anyone who attacks him, indiscriminately. It doesn't matter if his attacker is incredibly sympathetic (the Khan family) or a member of a demographic group(s) he's really struggling with (Alicia Machado), and it makes him look like the angry impulsive buffoon he is. The Clinton campaign has noticed, and I expect them to keep using that flaw to their full advantage.

College Football Week 5

  • The return of the huskies to relevance is easily my favorite part of the college football season thus far! A top 10 matchup, in Husky Stadium, on Friday night??? GO DAWGS
  • Louisville - Clemson ought to be pretty good too, along with the rest of the week. Because College Football is glorious and perfect and fabulous.
Thanks for your patience on getting these up. Politics & Football & unexpected bugs are testing my limits. But I'll have dashboards updated and up on Monday. 

  • Watchability combines how good the two teams are and how likely the game is to be close
  • A team is shaded green according to their chance to win (darker = better chance)
  • This post has more detail on the math behind Watchability

Saturday, September 24, 2016

College Football Week 4

For most of the week my model has been producing gobs of #N/A errors and until yesterday I couldn't figure out why. Then yesterday I realized (as is usually the case) that it's one of the dumbest possible things and a bunch of scores are just attached to the wrong games for weeks 2 and 3. Luckily the only impact is the "Last Week's Ranking," and the Team Dashboards, so I've taken down the former and have updated the sidebar to reflect this week's ranking only.

  • Watchability combines how good the two teams are and how likely the game is to be close
  • A team is shaded green according to their chance to win (darker = better chance)
  • This post has more detail on the math behind Watchability