Month: April 2016

Will Montenegro become a NATO member in 2016? (update)

Here’s a little nugget: NATO Secretary General Jens “Stoltenberg…noted that the Alliance [i.e., NATO] will take an important step next month, with the signature of the Accession Protocol for Montenegro”[a]. There’s at least one source confirming this: “A protocol on the accession of Montenegro to NATO will be signed on 19 May”[b]. So what happens next? Glad you asked: “Then you want to start in the NATO member states to ratify the accession agreement, [Vesko] Garčević [Montenegro Coordinator for NATO membership] said. My conclusion is expected by spring 2017 Representatives of Montenegro will be enabled immediately after the signing of the Protocol, the NATO meeting to attend, including the taking place in July NATO summit in Warsaw”[c]. By the way, Vesko Garčević has a Twitter account[d]: @VeskoGarcevic. That might be a good source of information. Wish I’d thought of it before, though on closer examination, he tweets a surprising number of cat gifs.

Anyway, let’s not bury the lede. If Garčević doesn’t expect doesn’t expect Accession to occur until early 2017, I don’t think I should either. Lowering my forecast accordingly.


[b] (translated from the original German by Google).

[c] Ibid.

[d] -NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (@jensstoltenberg) also has a Twitter account:



Who will win the Republican Party nomination for the US presidential election? (update)

Another minor update. I think Mr. Trump’s chances of winning on the first ballot have improved from 63% to 70%[a]. So that fact requires a modification to the probability distribution in my last forecast[b]. The new one looks something like this:

  • Mr. Trump: 71.5% (=70%+(%5*30%))
  • Sen. Cruz: 23.75% (=[30%*75%]+[5%*30%])
  • None of the above: 4.75% (=30%*15%)

After I ran the numbers, I peeked at the betting market’s current spread, which looks like this:

  • Mr. Trump: 79.37%
  • Sen. Cruz: 17.86%
  • Gov. Kasich: 2.78%

There are also some long-shot odds to be had on Speaker Ryan, Gov. Romney, and Sen Rubio. And – what the hell? – you can also bet on Mayor Bloomberg, Gov. Haley, and even Jeb! himself[c]. I’m not sure whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing that my own numbers aren’t too far from the house’s, but it certainly is a thing.





Will the Republican candidate for president win the party’s nomination on the first ballot, at the party’s convention in July? (update)

Mr. Trump’s better than expected showing last night moved his mean expected delegate count from 1,191 to 1,200[a]. Quoth Nate Silver: “Based on provisional results,1 it looks as though Trump will sweep every pledged delegate in Maryland (as a result of winning every congressional district), Connecticut (as a result of winning every congressional district and getting more than 50 percent of the vote statewide), Pennsylvania (where statewide delegates are awarded winner-take-all) and Delaware (ditto), along with 11 of 19 delegates in Rhode Island (which is highly proportional). Combined with the New York results,2 that gives Trump 200 delegates since we issued the path-to-1,237 projections, five delegates ahead of his original targets”[b].

But what about variance? That’s a hard question. I estimated the standard deviation among the expert predictions to be 45[c]. (An estimate was necessary since the description of the individual predictions was pretty sketchy.) But that number is now a month out-of-date, and we don’t have (to the best of my knowledge) an updated survey from which to work (not a publicly available one anyway). I’d guestimate that the variance is narrowing since there are now far fewer delegates in play, but I don’t have any confidence in that idea, so let’s go with the status quo ante. Here’s the probability distribution:

  • 1,237+ = 0.21
  • 1,200-1236 = 0.29
  • 1187-1199 = 0.11
  • 1161-1186 = 0.19
  • 1137-1160 = 0.11
  • Less than 1137 = 0.09

Nothing’s happened to change my mind since last time about the likely outcomes, which are

  • 1,237+ –> 0.99 (If Mr. Trump goes over 1,236, he’s almost sure to win on the first ballot)
  • 1,200-1236 –> 0.85 (If Mr. Trump is over 1,200, he’s very likely to win on the first ballot)
  • 1187-1199 –> 0.68 (If Mr. Trump is within 50 delegates, he’s about a 2-to-1 favorite)
  • 1161-1186 –> 0.50 (If Mr. Trump is in the upper 1,100s his chances to securing enough delegates are about even-money)
  • 1137-1160 –> 0.25 (If Mr. Trump is this far away from 1,237 he’ll look weak and wounded, and delegates will be much less likely to to be wooed)

So the probability that Mr. Trump will win on the first ballot is 0.99*0.21+0.85*0.29+0.68*0.11+0.50*0.19+0.25*0.11+0*0.09 = 0.65. Applying my 0.05 fudge factor[d], that gives a forecast of 0.70.

I suppose that this passes the laugh test, but I’m highly unsure about it – especially given my cluelessness regarding variance here. GIGO, I suppose. Another approach would have been to look at the estimated delegate outcomes in each of the remaining states and then look at how far Mr. Trump has been from his expected outcomes in states that have already had primaries, using the latter to estimate variance. That’s more work than I have time for, sadly. It’s also problematic since in many of the earlier primaries Mr Trump had more than 1-and-a-half opponents, as he will in the remaining primaries. So I guess I’m sticking with my guns until I can think of something better to do.






More on the Renwick Effect

In response to my last post on this topic, rjfmgy writes

Not to call into question the Renwick effect, which I am neither competent nor inclined to do, but when it comes to voting for actual people, Bill Clinton’s political guru Dick Morris said the opposite of what Renwick said about referendums. Morris said that, all things being equal, late deciders will vote against the incumbent, his thinking being if they don’t like the incumbent already, they’re not going to decide at the last minute that they like the incumbent. I don’t know if that applies in this case; just mentioning it.

I think there’s also a matter of what the “status quo” is in this case. Is a pro-Brexit vote against the status quo, or was UK accession to the Common Market a temporary disruption of the status quo that ought to be reversed? What Britons voted for in the 1975 is not the same as what they have now. So was the status quo that Britons adopted 40 years ago disrupted by the expansion of the powers of the Common Market, transforming it into the EU? The real question is, what vote do average Britons feel is the expression of the natural and legitimate political order?

Thanks, rjfmgy. Great thoughts and questions!

As I understand it, the Renwick effect only applies to referenda, not to, e.g., incumbent politicians. Why? Hell if I know. I don’t recall Renwick discussing the matter, but he probably should. If I were forced to guess, I’d say that swapping a new politician for an an incumbent politician is seen as a pretty small change when compared to swapping, say, the uncertainty of national autonomy for the certainty of several hundred years of being part of the UK (to take the most recent referendum I can think of as an example). In other words, the Renwick effect might be thought to apply only in cases where the change from the status quo is of a very large scale (and/or a potentially irrevocable). But as I say, I’m just guessing.

I completely agree that there’s a question about what counts as the status quo in the Brexit case, and I worried about that somewhere or another on the GJ site. Here, I think[a], but maybe somewhere else. What I said, IIRC, was that (obviously) Britain’s connections with the EU are less deep than Scotland’s connections with the UK or Quebec’s connections with Canada. So if the historical roots of the change away from the status quo is what matters, then we’d expect to see far less in the way of the Renwick effect. But there might be other things that matter. A move away from the EU would be highly disruptive to economic life in Britain. If that is what makes the status quo important, then the Renwick effect should come into play. It’s also worth noting that the average age of a UK voter in the last parliamentary election was less than 35[b]. Britain’s been moving toward the Europe for the entire lives of these voters. Of course there are still voters around who remember fighting a bitter war against a German-dominated Europe, but they’ll be in the minority. That said, if the opponents of EU membership manage to frame the issue primarily in terms of whether Britons feel like legitimacy flows from Brussels, then I think it’s rather unlikely that the UK will remain in the EU. The status quo ante just won’t matter if that’s the question.



Who will win the Republican Party nomination for the US presidential election? (update)

Just a minor update. I think that Mr. Trump currently has a 63% chance of winning on the first ballot, though only about a 16% of actually getting to 1,237 delegates by the end of the primaries[a]. So there’s a 37% of going 2 or more ballots at the convention. Wow!

And that’s where things get freaky. Stat-head conventional wisdom is that it would be very hard for Mr. Trump to win the nomination, if he doesn’t do so on the first ballot, since after that (most) delegates are released from having to vote in line with the primary results, and the delegates tend to be party functionaries who are not fond of Mr. Trump[b]. I agree with my fellow stat-heads, though with one small qualification to which I’ll return. The second and, perhaps, the third ballot would be Sen. Cruz’s big opportunities. My best guess is that Sen. Cruz has about a 75% chance of landing the sale during the 2nd or 3rd ballots. I’m not quite sure where I’m getting that number, but 3-to-1 sounds about right. If anyone has a better idea, I’d love to hear it. Anyway, that gives Sen. Cruz a 28% chance at winning the nomination.

If we go past the 3rd ballot, we’re officially through the looking glass, and I don’t know what happens next. But that won’t stop me from taking a guess or two! If Sen. Cruz fails to cobble together support on the 3rd ballot, I think he is greatly weakened and has no more than a 5% chance of winning on subsequent ballots. Mr. Trump probably comes back into play as well since he can make the case that Sen. Cruz was just a usurper, and after the failed coup, the crown should go to the true king. His odds of pulling that off can’t be much better (or worse) than those of Sen. Cruz at that point. Finally, the possibility of a white knight is on the table: Gov. Romney, Speaker Ryan, Cthulhu – why vote for the less evil?[c].


Complicating matters somewhat is the possibility that the white knight might be Sen. Rubio or even Gov. Bush. For the moment, I’m going to ignore those possibilities (which I think are very unlikely). So that leaves us with the following:

  • Mr. Trump: 65% (=63%+(%5*37%))
  • Sen Cruz: 29%(=(37%75%)+(5%*37%))
  • None of the above: 6% (=37%*15%)


[b] – This piece is must reading for making sense of the muddle that is the Republican nomination process.



Will a majority of voters in Britain’s upcoming referendum elect to remain in the European Union? (update)

Are there do-overs in this league? After a bit of reflection on my last forecast, I think further revision is in order. The central thesis of my last forecast was that, if we squint really hard, we can probably see the beginning of the Renwick effect[a]. I now think that I was mistaken. We might or might not see the Renwick effect in the future, but we’re not seeing it yet. Or at least I’m not seeing it yet, which is a somewhat different proposition.

Why the change of mind? Using the metadata from “The Financial Times”[b] we see that

  • The average results for the Brexit polls in April (so far) are as follows: stay=42.75, go = 40.83, don’t know=14.58.
  • The average results for the Brexit polls in March were as follows: stay=42.87, go=40.50, don’t know=18.75.
  • The average results for the Brexit polls in February were as follows: stay=43.38, go=39.38, don’t know=15.77[c].

I grant you that I’m taking all of this data at face value and not attempting to weight for the reliability, size, or temporal proximity of the polls. I leave that to smarter folks. But I just don’t see what I thought I saw: the beginning of a shift toward the status quo (i.e. stay in the EU) that the Renwick effect predicts. In fact, we see a very slight movement _away_ from the status quo, though I think that the size of the shift is too small to mean much. What’s most remarkable to me is the stability of the opinion polling data over the last 3 months. (It would be super-freaking-awesome if someone tried to determine whether this level of stability prior to the referendum predicts a greater or lesser degree of variability in the final weeks before the referendum, but the low sample size might render this information less than fully helpful.)

You know, this one might be a nail-bitter, folks.



[c] So “stay”+”go”+”don’t know” doesn’t always equal 100% in the average of polls because it doesn’t do so in some of the individual polls that the FT reports. That’s odd; this seems like an exhaustive trichotomy, but I don’t think it makes too much of a difference to the outcome.

Will a majority of voters in Britain’s upcoming referendum elect to remain in the European Union? (update)

The GJ consensus forecast has started to climb, largely on reports of recent polling data[1]. Color me *a little* skeptical though. The average of the 12 (12!) polls taken in April (as reported by The Financial Times[2]) shows less than a 2% gap between thems that wants to stay and thems that don’t: 42.75% = “stay” and 40.83% = “go.”


Of course that leaves 14.59% who haven’t made up their minds. If you assume that the undecided won’t break in large numbers for either of “stay” or “go” (and I don’t know of any evidence that counts strongly against this assumption), then “stay” gets 51.1% of the vote, and “go” gets 48.8%, with a standard deviation of a little more than 4%. That gives us about a 61% chance of “stay” winning, and that seems too close for comfort.

But maybe the numbers shouldn’t be taken at face value. So I tried weighting the polls for temporal proximity. I gave those polls done within a week a weight of 1.0, those within 2 weeks a weight of 0.75, those within 2 weeks a weight of 0.50, and those done at the beginning of the month a weight of 0.25. The average outcomes barely changed: “Stay” = 51.5%, “leave” = 48.5%, but the lower standard deviation (2.6%) predicts a much higher probability of a victory for “stay”: 72%. And I also tried giving more weight to the polls that have larger groups of respondents, roughly giving a poll that has 3 times as many respondents 3 times as much weight. Yes, I know that’s a pretty naive approach, but what ya want for free? The results were “stay = 51%, “go” = 49%, with a standard deviation of 2.2%, and a 67% chance of victory for “stay.” Things look better for “stay” than they did a month ago, but not as much as the GJ consensus forecast would suggest.

Of course, it might be that the consensus forecast is higher because people expect to see the Renwick effect[3]. I do too, at least to some extent. But my understanding of the Renwick effect involves the shift being visible in the polls in the time leading up to the referendum. Maybe we’re starting to see it, maybe not. I’m moving my forecast up 2 very cautious ticks to “stay” = 73%.