US Presidential Election Guide

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7 November 2016

Matthew Ryan

Senior Market Analyst at Ebury. Providing expert currency analysis so small and mid-sized businesses can effectively navigate international markets.

An expected 120 million Americans will go to the polls on Tuesday 8 November and cast their vote in the 58th US Presidential Election.

T
he polls will begin opening from as early as 5am Eastern Standard time (EST) (10am GMT), and will close throughout the evening based on their location. Indiana will be the first to close at 6pm EST (11pm GMT), with Alaska the last to close at 1am EST on Wednesday morning (6am GMT).

How does the Electoral College system work?

The President of the United States is not directly elected by popular ballot. Instead elected via the “Electoral College” system, by which the 538 formal electors cast a vote.

Each state in the US is assigned a different number of electors, which is based on the population within the state. The most populous state, California, has the most electoral seats (55) and no state has fewer than 3. The Presidential candidate with the highest percentage of votes in each state will receive all of the seats, with the winning candidate needing to obtain at least 270 electoral votes in order to be elected.

The key battlegrounds will undoubtedly be the swing states where both candidates are polling very close and particularly those that control a large number of votes. The results in Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Michigan are likely to prove crucial. It’s worth noting that Hillary Clinton continues to hold a slight advantage in most of these crucial swing states (Figure 1).

Figure 1: US Electoral College Map

What are the last minute polls saying?

Opinion surveys have narrowed dramatically over the past week, although the news on Sunday that Hillary Clinton will face no FBI charges over the content over her emails has provided a significant boost to her chances.

Nonetheless, the latest poll of polls still only gives Clinton a very slender lead over Trump, a lead that is amplified by the Electoral College system into a substantial advantage (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Clinton’s Lead in Poll of Polls (April ’16 – November ’16), FiveThirtyEight, a US opinion poll website which generates probabilities on the outcome of the election, shows that the chances of a Donald Trump victory have increased sharply since mid-October. This now gives Clinton around a two in three chance of winning compared to close to 90% only a week ago (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Fivethirtyeight US Presidential Election Odds (June ‘16 – November ’16), Betting markets now peg her chances somewhat higher since the weekend and give Trump around a 15% chance of victory compared to 35% last week. The PredictIt website, where users bet on the outcome of various political events, also gives Clinton around a four in five chance of winning (Figure 4).

Figure 4: PredictIt US Presidential Election (August ‘16 – November ’16),

Key battlegrounds for the election

Given the closeness of the polls, the outcome of the swing states could prove decisive and we expect volatility in the currency markets to be highest around these announcements.,

When will the election result be announced?

The timing of the final result will depend heavily on the outcome of the early swing states, in particular Florida, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. However, there are a numbers of factors to bear in mind. As sometimes happens, voting hours could be extended should there be any issues on voting day, whether mechanical or human errors.

There will also be little in the way of exit polls while the final result remains in the balance, for risk of influencing how people vote in the West. Any state where the vote is extremely close could also go to a recount such as the disputed contest in Florida in 2000 between George W. Bush and Al Gore.

However, barring any last minute recounts there is a good possibility that we will know the likely winner soon after 1:00 UK time, which is when Pennsylvania and Michigan exit polls will be available. The final result will likely be announced between 4:00 and 5:00 UK time on Wednesday morning.

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