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Filler: Nate Silver and data win the election

Screen shot of Nate Silver's projection

Screen shot of Nate Silver's projection (Credit: FiveThirtyEight)

Nate Silver, and data, won this presidential election. And really, hard as it might be for charlatans, fortune tellers and political hacks of either party to believe, data always wins.

Silver is a blogger and former professional poker player who has made a name for himself (and pretty decent cash) by devising a statistical system to analyze professional baseball, and then by devising a system to assess political races. He first gained fame with his “538” blog running it on his own, and then sold it to The New York Times, and continues to run it for that paper.

Silver has been saying that President Barack Obama was a favorite to win this race for a quite a while, and he’s been arguing of late that Mitt Romney’s chances had evaporated to practically nothing. In return, he’s been lambasted by a cohort of conservative columnists and “statisticians” who claim the polls are all wrong (yes, all of them), and Silver is a tool of a vast left-wing media conspiracy.


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Silver may be a lefty in his private life, or a John Bircher, or an apolitical Druid. I have no idea, and it doesn’t matter. What’s made his reputation is his spot-on assessments of the 2008 presidential election and the huge Republican pick-ups in the House of Representatives in 2010.

And he clearly wasn’t being a liberal conspirator when he projected the Republicans would pick up more than 50 seats that year.

What naysayers claimed was that pollsters were “oversampling” Democrats, because when they dug into the poll methodology, they were seeing pools of respondents that contained three, or five, or seven percent more Democrats than Republicans.

What they couldn’t seem to get through there heads was the fact that there’s no way to “oversample” Democrats, or Republicans. The pollsters were calling people at random. What the “D +7” in the poll methodology meant was that when the people they randomly called were asked whether they were Democrats or Republicans, more of them answered “Democrats.”

Which is why Obama won.

Silver, in his final estimate, gave Obama a 91 percent chance of winning, estimating the Electoral College tally at 313-225 and the popular vote at 51-48 Obama.

He’ll likely miss a state or two. It’s too early to tell if his popular vote projection will be on the nose.

But in general, he got the race right because he analyzed the data properly and honestly, something his critics were unable, or worse, unwilling, to do.
 

Tags: nate silver , statistics , politics , election , barack obama , karl rove

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