Next-to-Real-Time Polls

Number crunchers rejoice!  With the U.S. presidential election only two weeks away, polling is in full swing.  It’s continual, in fact, and spews out a steady stream of fresh data for the waiting analysts.  For their part, the analysts are now able to spin out probable outcomes of the election faster than in any earlier presidential races.  The data crunching takes place in close to real time.

For those who want the inside track on what it all means before the election results leave no doubt, there are a number of web sites that show current–up-to-the-last-minute, in fact–projections:  270towin, FiveThirtyEight, and RealClearPolitics.  Although the results you see when you visit these sites are hardly what you could call risk analysis or risk assessment, they are products of simulations by Monte Carlo software.

If you visit one of these sites more than once in quick succession, you may notice that the projections are slightly different numbers.  This is because the Monte Carlo method is based on statistical analysis of ranges of probabilities.  So, while the press may give you the impression that two weeks from now anything is possible, the polling websites churn through the flood of data to give you only those results that are most probable.

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