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Nate Silver predicts Hillary Clinton has a 79 percent chance of beating Donald Trump

But that doesn't mean Clinton has it in the bag.


Alexandra Samuels


Posted on Jun 29, 2016   Updated on May 26, 2021, 12:57 pm CDT

FiveThirtyEight statistician Nate Silver predicts presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has a nearly 80 percent chance of winning the presidency. 

Nicknamed the “ultimate political numbers cruncher,” Silver correctly predicted 49 out of the 50 states in 2008, and he was correct on every state in 2012. Silver projects Clinton has a 79 percent chance of winning, compared to presumptive GOP nominee, Donald Trump, whom Silver says has just a 20 percent chance of winning the overall election. 

“Here’s how to think about it: We’re kind of at halftime of the election right now, and she’s taking a seven-point, maybe a 10-point lead into halftime,” Silver told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “There’s a lot of football left to be played, but she’s ahead in almost every poll, every swing state, every national poll.”

Silver notes that a lot of states are toss-ups, including Missouri and Arizona, which are typically Republican. New polls, however, suggest that in these states Clinton is either leading, tied, or following Trump by a tight margin. 

“Trump has never been ahead of Clinton in the general election campaign,” Silver said. “He did a great job of appealing to the 40 percent of the GOP he had to win the election, the primary—a lot different than winning 51 percent of 100 percent. Silver added that “both candidates have a lot of room to grow.”

However, just because Silver gives Clinton a good chance of winning doesn’t mean she definitely will be victorious. In August 2015, Silver incorrectly predicted that Trump had a 2 percent chance of winning the nomination. 

In response, Silver says his older previous numbers weren’t based on polling numbers and said it’s unreasonable to expect data journalists like himself to be correct 100 percent of the time—although, he admits he and his team “made a big mistake.” 

“Almost nobody expected Trump’s nomination, and there were good reasons to think it was unlikely,” Silver said in a May 18 blog post titled “How I Acted Like A Pundit And Screwed Up On Donald Trump.” “Sometimes unlikely events occur, but data journalists shouldn’t be blamed every time an upset happens, particularly if they have a track record of getting most things right and doing a good job of quantifying uncertainty.”

Silver continues: “We didn’t just get unlucky: We made a big mistake, along with a couple of marginal ones.”

The last person to blow a lead as big as the one FiveThirtyEight predicts for Clinton was when former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis lost to George H.W. Bush despite maintaining a 17-point lead coming out of the convention. 

While terrorists attacks, including the recent one in Orlando, Florida, and economic crisis have not previously helped Trump’s poll numbers, Silver says the public thinks these events may affect his predictions. 

What may have the biggest impact on FiveThirtyEight’s results, however, is third-party voters. 

“To me, it’s a huge number of undecided party voters,” Silver says. “When Clinton’s only at 43 percent, low 40’s, [she’s] better than Trump, but she can’t feel all that secure.”

FiveThirtyEight’s general election forecast will be updated every time new data is available, every day until the election on Nov. 8. 

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*First Published: Jun 29, 2016, 3:13 pm CDT