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Which US Senate Seats Will Flip in 2014? A Survey of Media Rankings

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Media election forecasters can only agree on one slot of the Top 12 U.S. Senate seats most likely to change control after the November elections

senateseal10.pngWith Democrats seemingly given no shot at taking control of the House of Representatives this November, a significant amount of the 2014 election coverage has focused on whether or not Republicans can net the six seats required to win back the U.S. Senate.

Toward that end, many media outlets have been issuing Senate rankings for some months forecasting the top seats in the chamber most likely to flip in 2014.

Over the last three weeks, such rankings have been published in five national outlets: PBS NewsHour (issued June 30th), New York Times' The Upshot (June 30th), National Journal's The Hotline (June 26th),
Washington Post's The Fix (June 20th), and FiveThirtyEight (June 8th).

Note: Each outlet listed at least a dozen states in their respective rankings (including a top 'honorable mention' from Newshour to determine its #12 spot). The rankings by the New York Times and FiveThirtyEight were determined by the outlets' statistical forecasts of the likelihood a state would be won by the challenging party.

Overall, all five outlets did agree on the pool of 12 states which would comprise these dozen slots. They are, in alphabetical order: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia.

All but Georgia and Kentucky's seats are currently held by Democrats.

The contests in Minnesota, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Virginia made a few expanded lists, but were generally viewed as states with a very slim chance at seeing a change in partisan control.

All five outlets also agreed on the three states that should appear in the Top 3, with PBS, Washington Post, FiveThirtyEight and National Journal all agreeing on a South Dakota, West Virginia, and Montana 1-2-3 rank order.

The New York Times, meanwhile, gave the same odds of a Republican takeover of the seats in South Dakota and Montana (99 percent) with West Virginia slightly behind in third (96 percent).

South Dakota, at #1, was the only state in which all five outlets could agree on its relative ranking.

The Mount Rushmore State has been viewed as the most likely seat to flip for quite some time by forecasters, despite the entry of former three-term Republican U.S. Senator Larry Pressler into the race several months ago.

Republican nominee Mike Rounds has been held under 45 percent in each of the last two public surveys of the contest with Pressler polling in the high teens and Democratic nominee Rick Weiland hovering around 30 percent.

Summing the rank tally of all five outlets gave South Dakota five points (rank average 1.0), West Virginia 11 (2.2), and Montana 13 (2.6).

Louisiana was next at 21 points (rank average 4.2) - deemed the fourth most likely to flip by all outlets except the New York Times, which gave Arkansas that slot with a 70 percent likelihood of moving into the GOP column next year and the Pelican State only a 64 percent chance.

Democratic seats held each of the Top 9 slots for the cumulative ranking of these forecasters, with Arkansas next at #5 (rank average 5.4), North Carolina at #6 (6.0), Alaska at #7 (7.6), Colorado at #8 (8.4), and Iowa at #9 (8.6).

Mitch McConnell's Republican-held Kentucky seat was next at #10 (9.4), followed by the open GOP seat in Georgia (10.2) and the open Democratic seat in Michigan (11.4).

As for the two outlets relying on statistical modeling - FiveThirtyEight and The Upshot at the New York Times - the largest disagreement came in Arkansas, which the former gives just a 55 percent chance of flipping to the GOP, while the latter gives a 70 percent chance. (Note: The ratings for each outlet were published three weeks apart).

At least two outlets agreed on the specific ranking for each of the 12 states listed above.

In addition to the universal agreement among the five forecasters that South Dakota should be ranked #1:

· Four ranked West Virginia #2
· Four ranked Montana #3
· Four ranked Louisiana #4
· Three ranked North Carolina #5
· Three ranked Colorado #9
· Three ranked Iowa #8
· Three ranked Georgia #11
· Three ranked Michigan #12
· Two ranked Arkansas #6
· Two ranked Alaska #6
· Two ranked Kentucky #12

Media Forecasting of U.S. Senate Seats Most Likely to Flip in 2014

Rank
State
Status
PBS
Wash Post
538
Nat'l Journal
NYT
Ave.
1
South Dakota
Open DEM
1
1
1
1
1
1.0
2
West Virginia
Open DEM
2
2
2
2
3
2.2
3
Montana
DEM
3
3
3
3
1
2.6
4
Louisiana
DEM
4
4
4
4
5
4.2
5
Arkansas
DEM
7
6
4
6
4
5.4
6
North Carolina
DEM
5
5
6
5
9
6.0
7
Alaska
DEM
11
8
6
7
6
7.6
8
Colorado
DEM
9
9
8
9
7
8.4
9
Iowa
Open DEM
9
10
8
8
8
8.6
10
Kentucky
GOP
6
7
12
10
12
9.4
11
Georgia
Open GOP
8
11
11
11
10
10.2
12
Michigan
Open DEM
12
12
10
12
11
11.4
Table compiled by Smart Politics based on rankings published/update by PBS NewsHour and New York Times' The Upshot on June 30th, National Journal's The Hotline on June 26th, Washington Post's The Fix on June 20th, and FiveThirtyEight on June 8th.

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1 Comment


  • This is enormously helpful.Thanks to the Smart Politics people at the Hubert Humphrey Center of the University of Minnesota.
    mark shields

  • Leave a comment


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