Q&A: Neuroscience professor Wang discusses results of his election predictions
Daily Princetonian: The networks have called Ohio for Obama and said that a win there has put him over 270 votes – can we say decisively that he’s won the election?
Sam Wang: Yes, at this point it’s determined because there are enough states that President Obama has won by a larger margin, and so the question mark was states that were closely divided like Ohio. And so, Ohio going over the top pretty much secures it.
DP: What electoral surprises have you seen so far in the results this evening?
SW: Well, I would say that overall state polls, which have historically had a very good record in predicting outcomes, both in states and in the Electoral College, did just as well this year. Fifty out of 51 races were an easy call, Florida was close to a tie, and so therefore it was a bit of a coin toss. But, yeah, I think state polls have done quite well, and so any concerns about polling accuracy that were brought up in the media turned out to be unfounded.
DP: Did you expect the Florida race to be so close?
SW: In my final analysis, I had a lot of trouble coming up with a measurement of which way we’d go. The polling measurements indicated that it would be a tie or close to a tie. And it looks like President Obama’s margin, if he does win, will be less than a percentage point. In Florida, a recount is triggered if the margin is less than half a percentage point, and there is some possibility that we are headed toward a recount there.
DP: Do you expect the Democrats to retain control of the Senate and the Republicans to keep the House?
SW: Yes, that is also expected. The overall picture this year for the entire election season has been pretty much the same, which is: All the numbers have pointed toward President Obama being re-elected, Democratic gains on the Senate and smaller Democratic gains in the House. But yet the Senate thing was a little bit of a surprise because even a year ago ... there was a lot of talk about Democrats possibly losing control of the Senate because they had so many seats that were in play on their side. But it turns out that they’ve essentially run the table, and that ... the great majority of races that were up in the air have split their way. There are a few that we’re still waiting to hear from, but at this point it’s looking likely that Democrats will at least hold 53 seats, along with the Independents who caucus with them, and perhaps pick up a few seats.
DP: What is your current prediction for number of Electoral College votes that each candidate will receive?
SW: Well, at this point, it’s looking like Obama is going to get 332 electoral votes if he wins Florida and 303 if he does not. And it’s looking more likely that he’s going to get 332. I will say that this all depends on Virginia, which is up in the air, and Virginia will be up in the air by the time you go to press. Virginia is not going to be settled. We’re going to have to wait until morning to hear about that.