Which Electoral Numbers to Believe?
November 5, 2020 6:42 PM   Subscribe

NPR and other outlets are saying Joe Biden has 264 while President Trump has 214. TV Networks are saying Biden has 253. Why the discrepancy?
posted by CollectiveMind to Law & Government (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Some outlets have already called Arizona; others have not. Fox News was the first to call Arizona but as more numbers have come in that decision is looking potentially premature - certainly the count remains quite close - so outlets that didn't call it for Arizona earlier are not rushing to do so.
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:45 PM on November 5, 2020

AP called Arizona way too soon, and Fox also called it. They haven't walked it back since and other outlets have waited on calling Arizona.
posted by NotTheRedBaron at 6:46 PM on November 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

Some speculation on why AP and Fox called Arizona
posted by BungaDunga at 6:47 PM on November 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

AP explains why and still stands by it.
posted by cooker girl at 6:49 PM on November 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

NPR uses the AP's election calls. AP called Arizona for Biden; it has sparked disagreement. NYTimes and others have not called Arizona.
posted by theora55 at 7:04 PM on November 5, 2020

Why has the Times not called AZ?
posted by knownfossils at 7:24 PM on November 5, 2020

I've been reading up about this, and here's my current understanding:
Each organization has their own staff that looks at all the data they have, and determines when they have enough confidence in the result to announce their projection. But they have different data, and different policies about how much confidence they need.

Through the 2016 election, the main source of data for almost every organization was the National Election Pool, which uses exit polls from Edison Research. But after 2016, Fox and the AP decided to go their own way, creating AP VoteCast, which uses more than just exit polls. It was first used publicly in 2018; this year, PBS NewsHour, NPR, WSJ, and USA Today all decided to use that data as well, while the big tv networks (ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN) decided to stick with the traditional method and sources. So there's literally two different data sets, plus I'm sure that each organization has at least some proprietary/in house data. This Washington Post article explains this in the context of the Arizona situation.

Additionally, some organizations decided to take a more conservative approach. ABC does not project a race until they have 99.5% confidence (538 Podcast), and I think (but can't find a citation any more) that they decided not to project any race where the margin is close enough that it is subject to a statutory recount. At this point, they have still not called Wisconsin, but since all the vote is counted, they're calling Biden the "apparent winner".
posted by yuwtze at 7:49 PM on November 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

The discrepancy is Arizona, but it doesn’t really matter. The important number is 214. Trump would pretty much have to sweep what’s still on the board to reach 270. Trump needs both Georgia and Pennsylvania; Biden can win without either. If Biden wins either of those, Arizona is irrelevant. Although I think it’s interesting that one of the outlets calling Arizona for Biden is Fox. That is telling, IMO.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:25 PM on November 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

Although I think it’s interesting that one of the outlets calling Arizona for Biden is Fox. That is telling, IMO.

Note that the Fox polling department (which is also involved in the Decision Desk that is making these calls) has long been pretty independent from the rest of the Fox News universe. Given high marks for accuracy & reliability & impartiality by 538 and the NYT & etc.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:43 AM on November 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

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