Donald Trump has made small gains in the polls over the last week or so, but the basic state of this race is the same as it's been throughout most of the campaign: Hillary Clinton is the overwhelming favorite to win the election. Forecasts by The New York Times, FiveThirtyEight, the Daily Kos, PredictWise, Reuters, and the Princeton Election Consortium all put Clinton's odds of victory at between 79 and 95 percent. Most of these forecasts rely on demographic assumptions about the election, however, and a new analysis by Reuters detailed one simple way Democrats could help Trump win if those assumptions are tweaked only slightly.
The basic idea is this: If Democratic turnout is slightly lower than anticipated, and Republican turnout is slightly higher than anticipated, Trump's chances of winning actually skyrocket and he becomes the favorite. That may sound somewhat obvious, but what's surprising is how little the margins have to change. Reuters currently gives Clinton a 95 percent chance of winning the election. But if the Democratic turnout is 10 percent lower than Reuters' current projection, and Republican turnout 10 percent higher than it, the odds completely reverse themselves, and Trump's chances of victory shoot up to 95 percent.
Reuters presented a modified version of the above scenario under the heading "How Trump Could Win." It also presented several other hypotheticals, though, and collectively, they reveal how strong Clinton's lead truly is. If millennials who aren't Republicans stayed home, for example, Clinton would still have a 95 percent chance of winning. She'd have the same odds even if turnout among white men making less than $75,000 a year — one of Trump's core pillars of support — surged by 20 percent. Reuters even tested a bizarro-world situation wherein only men voted, and guess what? Even in that nightmarish situation, Clinton would still be the favorite to win, albeit with a much smaller margin for error.
While considering these scenarios is largely just harmless fun for political nerds, the numbers do, in totality, illustrate the depth of Clinton's support. Although much has been made of her strength among women and minority voters, the truth is that her support isn't lopsidedly weighted toward one demographic or another. She's supported by Americans of all ages, ethnicities and genders. But as expected, Clinton voters do have one big thing in common: They're Democrats. And for Democrats, the takeaway from Reuters' simulation is clear: Stay home on election day, and you'll hand the election to Trump.