It would appear that Google has been showing Arizona for Democrats since several days ago, and continues to do so even now when at 90% reporting there's only a 1.2% lead between D and R -- meaning that if Republicans continue to get 60% of the remaining votes as has been the case for the late counting in Arizona, then they're clearly on a path to winning Arizona. In fact, this has been widely reported in the media, and even CNN has not called Arizona yet as of Friday, November 6, afternoon.

I did some quick math myself just to make sure the reported 60% figure does check out based on Google's data of 90% Reporting for Arizona and 1.561M votes for D and 1.520M votes for R, as of Friday, Nov 6 around 13:00 MST:

  • (1.561+1.520) / 0.90 / 2 = 1.711M expected total votes each when we go from 90% reporting to 100% reporting;
  • with D at 1.711 - 1.561 = 0.150 M more votes required for equilibrium at 100%;
  • with R at 1.711 - 1.520 = 0.191 M more votes required for equilibrium at 100%;
  • the equilibrium would then be reached if the remaining votes are 0.191 / (0.150 + 0.191) = 56.0% R to 46.0% D -- not even 60% as reported elsewhere in the media; plus there's the third-party vote, which means it can even be sufficient to get slightly less than the full 56% of the remaining 10% of ballots to get the election swung back to R (as has been the case for Arizona since 2000, or even since 1952 if we ignore the 1996 performance and the lack of ranked-choice voting).

Given that Alaska is still not called for Trump -- even though it's not considered at play, and it's been Republican since 1968, far longer than California has been continuously Democrat since only 1992 -- why did Google/AP not retract their clearly premature calling of Arizona yet? Do they not expect it to flip, even though many local sources in Arizona expect the flip to still occur, after all? Or do they not plan to retract the call until it actually happens, betting on the possibility that it might not happen?

  • 4
    I don't think we can answer this without actually being in the room when they made their decision. Clearly, the calls by AP and Fox look a bit premature now (Nate Silver has been ragging on that call for a few days), but it must have made sense based on the data and models they had. Without knowing what those were, though, we can't answer this question.
    – divibisan
    Nov 6, 2020 at 20:45
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    The AP and Fox News have published articles explaining their claims, but they just amount to "we believe this call is correct based on our analysis of the numbers". I typed up an answer citing these but ended up deleting it because it didn't amount to anything interesting. Nov 6, 2020 at 20:54
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    @cnst The explanation for why they made the call is the same as for every call: they thought, based on the information they had, that Biden was almost certain to win the state. What you're asking is why did they think that, which is a question about internal motivations.
    – divibisan
    Nov 6, 2020 at 20:59
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    It seems clear that at least some of these decisions are absurd. While it plausibly makes sense to call several states before counting even begins (as did occur), it's strange to wait until minutes before polls close in those states. It's also strange, given that willingness to make predictions, that Florida wasn't called until well after it should have been mathematically impossible (based on the expected number of votes outstanding) for the result to change. Nov 7, 2020 at 2:44
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    Related: politics.stackexchange.com/questions/59720/…
    – stevec
    Nov 8, 2020 at 1:23

2 Answers 2


It is because Google is reporting what the AP has. I agree with Nate Silver in that it was called way too early. But you need to know that he did say that it is likely for Biden to win Arizona. They are (probably) not going to call Georgia for Biden right now to avoid that criticism.

Beyond that I can't answer about the AP but I can say that is where Google got their data from.

  • But why did AP report that then? Nov 18, 2022 at 17:47
  • @Trilarion The AP wasn't the first national news organization to call Arizona for Biden in 2020. FoxNews was, by about 3 hours. To make that projection, both FoxNews and the AP relied on reporting from the state regarding which precincts were reporting their results early versus which precincts were lagging in their reports, exit polls, and other information. Neither FoxNews nor the AP saw a path by which Trump could win Arizona. It turned out that FoxNews and the AP were correct. Nov 18, 2022 at 18:39
  • @DavidHammen "Neither FoxNews nor the AP saw a path..." I guess this is the important point, not that in hindsight it turned out that they were right. They could also just have been lucky. The question here is why they did not see that path. It's probably (hopefully) a complex statistical model. Maybe a general question about the way these things are modeled and how valid they are, would be interesting. Although faster counting would alleviate the problem greatly. If for example all votes could be counted within 24 hours, people would probably simply wait for the official result instead. Nov 18, 2022 at 19:57
  • @Trilarion News organizations want to be first. Sometimes they're wrong, e.g., the infamous "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline in the Chicago Tribune and several other newspapers in 1948. Despite that call, Truman won. The AP has had to recant some of their projections. Regarding If for example all votes could be counted within 24 hours, people would probably simply wait for the official result instead. (1) That's not possible, particularly with so many states going to vote by mail, and (2) people would still want to know the winner on election night, or soon thereafter. Nov 18, 2022 at 20:51

Why did Google/AP call Arizona for Democrats when at 90% reporting Ds only have a 1.3% lead, still shrinking?

The projections from the Associated Press, which is what Google uses as the basis for its projections, are not official.

The AP politely called results for several states at the instant polls closed in those states. The AP could have called those results two years ago. Arizona is a curious case, and perhaps the AP will get mud on its face for making a premature call.

But whether the Associated Press was right or wrong in its call regarding Arizona is irrelevant because election calls by the Associated Press, or any other media organization for that matter, are irrelevant. Those projections are not official. The states where the AP has made a call will continue counting ballots per the laws of those states, regardless of the AP projection. The states where the AP has not made a call will continue counting ballots per the laws of those states.

If the official declaration lines up with what the AP declared days ahead of time, that's good for the AP. If the official declaration does not line up with what the AP declared days ahead of time, that's bad for the AP. Regardless of the outcome, the AP will not face criminal or noncriminal liabilities.

  • Does anywhere track just the official declarations? Is it still 0-0 officially?
    – Jontia
    Nov 6, 2020 at 21:51
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    @Jontia, still 0-0 officially. No state has certified their results yet.
    – Mark
    Nov 6, 2020 at 22:06
  • @Jontia States have until December 8 to make their results official, which is a good thing. That gives plenty of time to deal with provisional ballots, military ballots, and protests. That date is the safe harbor deadline. Or perhaps December 14, which would be a bad thing, which is when the Electoral College delegates meet in the states. This later date is a "bad thing" because passing the safe harbor deadline means states cannot make up their minds. Or perhaps January 6, which would be a very bad thing. We are nowhere close to the "bad thing" outcomes. Take a deep breath and relax. Nov 6, 2020 at 22:15
  • The AP is not the basis for Google's projections. Google makes no projections. It simply shows the AP's projections.
    – phoog
    Nov 7, 2020 at 6:23
  • "election calls by the Associated Press, or any other media organization for that matter, are irrelevant" legally yes, but politically no. Media organizations in my eyes have to be accountable and stay with the truth to the best of their abilities. It's not irrelevant what they report because people trust them. Nov 18, 2022 at 17:49

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