Oct 24, 2020 - Politics & Policy

No spinning needle on Election Night

Mike Allen
The Needle
How the world looked on NYTimes.com at 9:20 p.m. Nov. 8, 2016

The memory most likely to conjure Election Night 2016 nightmares for Democrats is The Needle, AP's David Bauder writes.

The Needle, a half-clock graphic by the N.Y. Times' Upshot, displayed in real-time the candidates' probability of victory as votes were counted.

  • Its gyrations triggered anxiety for Hillary Clinton supporters, who frantically refreshed the page, and elation for Trump fans.

The Needle won't be back Nov. 3 — one change in the world of election probability gurus following the 2016 shock.

  • The Times said in announcing its Election Day plans: "Given the changes in the ways voters cast their ballots this year, we anticipate that it may not be possible to declare a winner in a number of key states on election night."

Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight used a number on Election Night four years ago (final forecast: 71% Clinton), but won't this year.

  • Silver said the change had more to do with uncertainties created by the high volume of early voting this year than any failures in 2016: "I just think people need to be exceptionally careful."
Go deeper