Nevada data poll with near-ignorance priors and Python

I will show how to apply the models described in a-description-of-bayesian-near_ignorance_prior to predict USA2016 election results in Nevada. The polls data are from, in particular KTNV/Rasmussen poll (see below). In a future post, I will discuss how to take into account of the three polls. We start by importing the data.

In [4]:
import pandas as pd
data_df = pd.read_table('nevada.csv')
Poll Date Sample MoE Clinton (D) Trump (R) Johnson (L) Spread
0 RCP Average 7/7 – 8/5 43 40.7 6.3 Clinton +2.3
1 CBS News/YouGov* 8/2 – 8/5 993 LV 4.6 43 41.0 4.0 Clinton +2
2 KTNV/Rasmussen 7/29 – 7/31 750 LV 4.0 41 40.0 10.0 Clinton +1
3 Monmouth 7/7 – 7/10 408 LV 4.9 45 41.0 5.0 Clinton +4
In [245]:
#KTNV/Rasmussen poll

N=750 #sample size
pt=0.40 # percentage votes for Trump
pc=0.41 # percentage votes for Clinton
pu=1-pt-pc  # percentage votes Other (Johnson)

#compute the number of votes

We now define the function we aim to compute in the Bayesian inference. We call the function $g$: it returns the difference between the chance of Trump $\theta_1$ and those of Clinton $\theta_2$

In [254]:
#define the function of interest for Bayesian inference
def g(theta):
    #x is a numpy vector
    return (theta[:,0]-theta[:,1])

We now write the function to compute the posterior samples of the posterior Dirichlet distribution

In [251]:
#function that computes the posterior sampels
def compute_posterior_samples(ap,Np):
    #ap: posterior Dirichlet distribution vector parameters
    #Np: number of MC samples
    return np.random.dirichlet(ap,Np) #we use numpy

We can now compute the posterior expectation of interest. We use a uniform prior.

In [256]:
import warnings

%matplotlib inline
import numpy as np
import seaborn as sns

#data from the poll
#uniform prior 
#number of MC samples
postsamples = compute_posterior_samples(datapoll+a,Np)

# Set up the matplotlib figure
sns.distplot(g(postsamples), axlabel="Trump-Clinton", 
             kde=True, hist=True) #, hist_kws={"range": [-1,1]}
print('Posterior probability of Trump winning is', prob)
Posterior probability of Trump winning is 0.38011

The posterior probability in favor of Trump is the area of the curve from 0 to 1, while the one in favor of Clinton is the are from -1 to 0. This is a standard Bayesian analysis using a uniform prior. We have already explained that this type of prior is not noninformative. We now use a better model: a near-ignorance model (

In [264]:
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
fig, ax = plt.subplots()
#prior for a swing scenario in favor of Clinton
#prior for a swing scenario in favor of Trump

postsampleslower = compute_posterior_samples(datapoll+al,Np)
postsamplesupper = compute_posterior_samples(datapoll+au,Np)

# Set up the matplotlib figure
sns.distplot(g(postsampleslower), axlabel="Trump-Clinton", 
             kde=True, hist=True) #, hist_kws={"range": [-1,1]}
             kde=True, hist=True,color='darkred') #, hist_kws={"range": [-1,1]}

print('Posterior probability of Trump winning is in [',problower,probupper,']')
Posterior probability of Trump winning is in [ 0.31903 0.44139 ]

We can see that a change of only two votes from Clinton to Trump (or vice versa) changes the probability of 12 points. This means that the prior has a significative effect on the posterior. A near-ignorance model automatically provides a sensitivity analysis of the inferences to the prior strength. This explains why we should always use near-ignorance models. In the next post, we will discuss how to combine polls from different States and return the overall winning probability. Then it will be even more evident the importance of using a near-ignorance models.

In [ ]:


  1. Pingback: Bayesian winning lower and upper probabilities in all 51 States – Alessio Benavoli

  2. Pingback: Combining polls data from different sources using covariance intersection – Alessio Benavoli

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