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This week’s new forecasts focus on the Superforecasters’ expected outcomes for the 2020 US presidential and congressional elections.
Why feature election forecasts on our COVID recovery dashboard? The COVID pandemic will almost certainly be front-and-center on voters’ minds in November. And, the outcome of the 2020 US elections will undoubtedly impact the manner in which the US manages both the pandemic and the recovery in 2021 and beyond.
Check back often – we update our probability forecasts daily at 7am EDT, refresh commentary periodically, and launch new questions weekly.
A Superforecaster® explains his reasoning:
Yes, I’ve read the counterarguments. But I think they’re better suited to fight/argue the last war. The Dem candidate is different. The demographics of the country are (slightly) different. The media is even more polarized, which would mute the effect of any Oct. surprise. Even the electorate is more polarized (fewer undecideds). And Trump’s numbers, while they appear to have a hard floor, also appear to have a hard ceiling − just below what he would need to win, even with an electoral college advantage. Meanwhile, coronavirus.
A wave election? Not so fast, says this Superforecaster:
Recent polls and models are increasingly indicating that this will be a wave election. However, a lot can change between now and November.
We’re running at over 200k/week now, so what could occur that would bring that total below 200K/wk by October 7 and continue to keep it below that number throughout the winter?
A vaccine would do this, but probably not in time to avoid a yes resolution before the end of the year. Test, trace, isolate would work, but I’ve seen no evidence the US is capable of effectively doing this.
Superforecasters see politics as playing a role here:
There’s a chance of political pressure to have something approved before November. A good chance of it being applied and slight chance of it working.
However, another Superforecaster notes:
But why wouldn’t EUA [Emergency Use Authorization] be sufficient for political purposes?
Despite promising news stories, a Superforecaster warns:
Drug manufacturers know that to get attention, they need to make unrealistic time commitments.
Nonetheless, another Superforecaster points out that:
… a vaccine which increases immunity in some fraction [of the population] would still [count]. The flu vaccine is not effective in a large fraction of those treated.
The narrative that COVID-19 doesn’t strongly impact younger people has been a good enough reason for many to give up on any attempt to control the spread.
One Superforecaster’s historical comparison:
If the 1957 and 1968 flu pandemics are adjusted to 2020 population, they give us 230,460 and 180,675 deaths.
Will public-health reporting shift from confirmed to estimated cases? Such a shift will make a huge difference, as one Superforecaster explains:
Based on current linear projection [of WHO data], 35.3 million is the current projection. [But] final estimated cases may be a multiplier of 8 to 10 times confirmed cases.
Data quality is increasingly problematic:
This is going to be determined by estimates based on “iffy” data given how some countries (and some US states) are limiting or even removing data or not accurately reporting. I think there is enough subjective evidence to say that the 412K deaths currently measured understates the actual numbers.
A Superforecaster asks:
Increase in social unrest can be expected as the shortcomings in government programs have been highlighted by the pandemic. Might 2021 be a year of more regional conflict that further slows economic recovery?
A Superforecaster comment on central-bank statements:
I see a lot of aversion to negative rates but at least a few countries are considering it or not ruling out which itself may aim to send signal to markets.
Another Superforecaster wonders if the central banks doth protest too much:
Ruling something out is itself a step towards adopting it.
… the problems that we have all seen in travel, hospitality, retail, etc., are spreading to the secondary suppliers and to the general public who are being very cautious and bracing for a jump in unemployment. ….
The better the safety net of support for the unemployed and the sick, the more economic risks people will take, the more they will spend and innovate and mitigate the economic affects of COVID-19.
A Superforecaster updates expectations in light of new information:
Fitch’s decision on 24 June to downgrade Canada from the AAA rating it had for about 18 years to AA+ now has surprised me. By that reckoning, we could see several more countries with top notch (A or better) ratings that depend on export of commodities (or exports in general) to be considered vulnerable. …. The UK was already on most lists. The US still looks least likely.
A Superforecaster notes:
Demand will be largely contingent on COVID-19 containment, whether the economic crisis has deepened or is in recovery, and whether travel has substantially returned. There is enough uncertainty in all of these parameters that [27-30 million barrels per day] is the most likely result but with a low degree of confidence in either direction.
One Superforecaster’s “pre-mortem” (imagining how current forecasts could be wrong):
What we have here is a failure of imagination. We have a new situation, and a lot of things are going to change. The only thing that is certain is that if you plug current data into the pre-pandemic econometric models, you’re going to come up with a very rosy picture that is very wrong.
A Superforecaster notes:
Even if you account for the 3% “miscalculation”, a rate of 16.1% in May remains better than April and better than many had expected.
With real interest rates negative, where will people park their money?
The market has very high volatility. This means certainty about valuations is low. These are ripe conditions for herding to either side and means variance is high.
Current movement seems to be a reversion to the mean, which is probably a reasonable expectation.
A Superforecaster observes:
I think Germany will move cautiously, especially now that they have a few fresh outbreaks. Also, normally there’s a winter break in the soccer season that starts in December and lasts until the end of January. I don’t expect a change in policy before then.
The Major League Baseball deal is uncertain, as one Superforecaster explains:
The start of the season in July (or potentially at all) will in large measure hinge upon just how many players test positive at their training camp intake screenings next week.
One Superforecaster’s take on comparing London airports to LAX:
It seems forecasters think that London will likely have a bigger drop than LAX in passenger numbers. This seems justified by the international/domestic mix. It must surely be easier to get agreements between airports on what the rules are for transporting passengers on a domestic flight than on an international flight.
There are optimistic signs that the reopening is going well in some areas. But, social distancing requirements of airlines have put a hard ceiling of around 60-65% on passengers in a given plane at capacity, we probably have some permanent loss of business travelers, and country travel restrictions may continue to inhibit flights in general.
One Superforecaster explains his expectation for a “normal” fall opening time:
Things are looking better in New York, and a general attitude that some risks have to be taken, especially to get education back on track. Early start being considered in some areas, but New York won’t have time to consider that.
Superforecaster comment about the expected partial reopening:
Many universities are warning students to expect a new normal. Parties will be minimal or nonexistent, if schools have their way. Seating at sports events will be limited, if spectators are allowed at all. Many lectures will be online. Food service will be grab-and-go. Foot traffic will be routed one way through specific exits and entrances. Coronavirus testing will be widespread, with quarantines expected for those who test positive. In many places, face-to-face instruction will end by Thanksgiving.
News re Disneyland Anaheim had little impact on this Superforecaster’s views:
Inertia is on the side of opening as scheduled. People have made their reservations, travel plans, and scheduled vacation time. Putting it off means a lot of the expense incurred in re-hiring and re-training will go to waste.
I think they’ll go for it and hope the infection rates peak shortly after opening. But even if they cancel and wait until mid-August to again announce an opening and provide another six weeks for hiring and training, that still puts the opening before the end of September.
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