North Carolina is a key state in the 2016 election, one of a few battlegrounds that Donald Trump must win if he wants to become president. Although Barack Obama won the state in 2008, it went red again in 2012, with voters choosing Mitt Romney over Barack Obama by a margin of about two percentage points. So who is currently favored to win North Carolina: Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton?
Among election forecasters, there is some disagreement on this. FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver’s election forecast website, currently has North Carolina going to Donald Trump, with Trump having a 51.2 percent chance of victory there. This is a huge shift from just a few weeks ago, as on October 18th, Hillary Clinton had a 72.2 percent chance of winning North Carolina. This change is largely due to the release of many new polls that show Trump in the lead; Trump is currently ahead of Clinton by 1.8 percentage points in Real Clear Politics’ North Carolina polling average. Clearly it’s going to be a close race, though, and FiveThirtyEight forecasts that Donald Trump will win 48.0 percent of the vote compared to Hillary Clinton’s 47.9 percent. For comparison, in 2012, Mitt Romney won 50.39 percent of the North Carolina vote and Barack Obama won 48.35 percent.
The New York Times’ The Upshot has a different conclusion. Their model currently suggests that Hillary Clinton will win North Carolina, and The Upshot gives her a 66 percent chance of doing so. The Upshot has Clinton winning most of the swing states, but usually with a much better odds than that. For example, their model gives her a 70 percent chance of winning Florida, an 80 percent chance of winning New Hampshire, and an 89 percent chance of winning Pennsylvania. Trump’s chances in North Carolina have, however, gone up in recent days; with The Upshot’s model, he previously had a 28 percent chance of winning the state, but he now has a 34 percent chance.
A cool feature of The Upshot is that it illustrates every single possible path through which Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump can reach 270 Electoral Votes. This feature makes it clear how important it is for Donald Trump to win North Carolina. At the moment, Donald Trump has 315 possible ways to reach 270 Electoral College votes. But if he loses North Carolina, he only has 101 possible paths left. On the other hand, Hillary Clinton would be far less affected by a loss in the state. Clinton currently has 693 ways of reaching 270, and if she loses North Carolina, she still has 289 left, not many less than Trump originally started with.
The Huffington Post’s election forecast is more convinced that Hillary Clinton has North Carolina put away; they give the Democratic nominee a 90 percent chance of securing North Carolina’s electors. That’s shockingly high, but this forecast is also much more sure of a Clinton victory than any other, as it gives Trump just a 1.3 percent chance of winning the election. In fact, the only two battleground states that The Huffington Post gives Trump a remote chance of winning are Nevada and Ohio, but they still project both will go to Hillary, with Clinton having a 78.5 percent chance in Nevada and a 57.4 percent chance in Ohio.
Then there’s PredictWise, which uses data from prediction markets and polls to forecast the results of the election. North Carolina is more of a tossup here, but Clinton is still predicted to win it; PredictWise gives her a 61 percent chance of victory in the state. This makes it one of the most uncertain of all the swing states, as Clinton has a 73 percent chance of winning Florida, a 79 percent chance of winning New Hampshire, a 91 percent chance of winning Nevada, and a 92 percent chance of winning Pennsylvania.