Category: Uncategorized

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

This question has come back to life as a result of NATO’s immanent signing of the accession agreement with Montenegro. But what does this mean for the question of whether Montenegro will become a member of NATO before 2017 begins? “Diplomatic sources say they expect it will take the 28 member states some 18 months to ratify the Montenegro accession accord, which Russia has condemned as another case of NATO encroaching on its strategic interests,” one media outlet tells us[1]. That would put Montenegro in NATO near the end of 2017, much later than Vesko Garčević, Montenegro Coordinator for NATO membership, has suggested[2]. So why 18 months? The outlet doesn’t say. Thanks a lot, dude. Other outlet who report this piece of news don’t mention the amount of time that they expect the ratification process to take[3]. So I’m inclined to think the reporter pulled the number out of his butt. By the way, Garčević’s Twitter feed is full of encouraging retweets from the likes of Denmark[4]. Really adorable stuff.


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

[3] One exception is the Daily Star, but it repeats the Defense News article almost word-for-word, which means one is cribbing off of the other or both are just taking dictation from a source who wants to stay off the record, probably the latter –



Which party will control the US Senate after the November 2016 election? (update)

According to Slate, “Choosing [Senator Elizabeth] Warren would be an uncharacteristically bold and thrilling move for the cautious Clinton, one that would help unite Sanders supporters behind her candidacy while throwing its feminist promise into high relief”[1].

I think it is unlikely that HRC would choose Sen. Warren as her running mate, but notice that if she did, and the Clinton/Warren ticket won the White House, there would be consequences for control of the Senate. Massachusetts has a Republican Governor who would, presumably, choose a fellow Republican to replace Sen. Warren in the upper chamber. True, an election for a replacement would follow in 145-160 days[2]. But there’s no guarantee that the electorate would return a Democrat. As recently as 2010, Republican Scott Brown was elected to the Senate by the voters of the mayflower state. That fact alone might be a deal-breaker for a Clinton/Warren ticket. But if it’s not, control of the Senate might be even harder to predict.


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:


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.



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%.




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 surprisingly good showing in the New York primary requires some changes to my forecast. It’s not that I didn’t expect him to win; it’s that I didn’t expect him to win by such a significant margin. 90 out of 95 delegates? Reach for the smelling salts. Living oracle Nate Silver tells us that Trump’s expected (mean) outcome is now 1,191 delegates[1]. Let’s assume that the standard deviation is still 45 delegates. The result is the following probability distribution:

  • 1,237+ = 0.16
  • 1,200-1236 = 0.26
  • 1187-1199 = 0.11
  • 1161-1186 = 0.20
  • 1137-1160 = 0.13
  • Less than 1137 = 0.14

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 new forecast is that there’s a 0.58 [= (0.16*0.99)+(0.26*0.85)+(0.11*0.68)+(0.20*0.50)+(0.13*0.25)] chance that Mr. Trump will win the nomination on the first ballot. That’s a pretty sharp uptick in his chances, and frankly I’m a little concerned that my model responded so decidedly because of a difference of about 20 delegates. The culprit might well be the half-assed way that I estimated variance; further study is in order. But I’ll continue to update this business as primary results role in.