Nate Silver is a tool


“Oh, people can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent. Forfty percent of all people know that.” — Homer Simpson.

In the days before the first debate in Denver, President Obama held more than a four-point lead in the Real Clear Politics average, and Romney had been left for dead by most of the media. Then the debate came, and overnight Romney seemingly rid himself of the weaknesses that had been tacked on to him by over $100 million dollars in negative advertising. Now here we are a few weeks later with a dead heat in nationwide polls.


As worry built up among Democrats that Romney had tied the race nationally and had clear momentum heading into the final stretch, they began attaching their hopes to what BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith called “the bulwark against all-out Dem panic” — Nate Silver.

Silver gained fame by correctly predicting 49 of 50 states in the 2008 election using a statistical model that assigns weight to the various polls based on a number of factors. After the 2008 election, Silver partnered with the New York Times, and he has been quoted by many media outlets as the gold standard for predicting what will happen in November.

Some note that 2008 was a wave election, where the enthusiasm and underlying fundamentals were so favorable to Obama that the outcome was easy to foresee, with the exception of a few of the GOP-turned-Democratic states such as Indiana and North Carolina where Obama won a razor-thin victory. Others argue that Silver’s access to the Obama administration’s internal polling gave him information that most other analysts never saw, which allowed him to make more adjustments to his model and increase his accuracy.

Whatever the explanation, Silver’s strong showing in the 2008 election, coupled with his consistent predictions that Obama will win in November, has given Democrats a reason for optimism. While there is nothing wrong with trying to make sense of the polls, it should be noted that Nate Silver is openly rooting for Obama, and it shows in the way he forecasts the election.

On September 30, leading into the debates, Silver gave Obama an 85 percent chance and predicted an Electoral College count of 320–218. Today, the margins have narrowed — but Silver still gives Obama a 67 percent chance and an Electoral College lead of 288–250, which has led many to wonder if he has observed the same movement to Romney over the past three weeks as everyone else has. Given the fact that an incumbent president is stuck at 47 percent nationwide, the odds might not be in Obama’s favor, and they certainly aren’t in his favor by a 67–33 margin.

The main reason that Silver feels Obama is still an overwhelming favorite is that while Romney has surged in the polls to tie (or lead) Obama nationally, the challenger is still, in Silver’s opinion, a long shot to pull together enough battleground states to get to 270 electoral votes. This is the real problem with Silver’s model in the eyes of many Romney backers — the “weighting” he puts into state polls gives an edge to Obama, and the distribution of that weighting is highly subjective. For example, Silver currently gives Obama a 70 percent chance of winning Ohio. A component of this is a weighted “polling average” of Obama’s support at 48.2 percent to Romney’s at 45.2. The current Real Clear Politics average is nearly a full point more favorable to Romney: It has Obama at 48.1 and Romney at 46.0. The difference comes from the fact that Real Clear Politics gives equal weight to all of the polls it includes and uses only the most recent polls from each polling organization in a given timeframe.

While many in the media (and Silver himself) openly mock the idea of Republicans’ “unskewing polls” (and I am not a fan of by any means), Silver’s weighting method is just a more subtle way of doing just that. I outlined yesterday why Ohio is closer than the polls seem to indicate by looking at the full results of the polls as opposed to only the topline head-to-head numbers. Romney is up by well over eight points among independents in an average of current Ohio polls, the overall sample of those same polls is more Democratic than the 2008 electorate was, and Obama’s two best recent polls are among the oldest.

But look at some of the weights applied to the individual polls in Silver’s model. The most current Public Policy Polling survey, released Saturday, has Obama up only one point, 49–48. That poll is given a weighting under Silver’s model of .95201. The PPP poll taken last weekend had Obama up five, 51–46. This poll is a week older but has a weighting of 1.15569.

The NBC/Marist Ohio poll conducted twelve days ago has a higher weighting attached to it (1.31395) than eight of the nine polls taken since. The poll from twelve days ago also, coincidentally enough, is Obama’s best recent poll in Ohio, because of a Democratic party-identification advantage of eleven points. By contrast, the Rasmussen poll from eight days later, which has a larger sample size, more recent field dates, but has an even party-identification split between Democrats and Republicans, has a weighting of .88826, lower than any other poll taken in the last nine days.

Furthermore, Silver explained on Saturday that a tie in the Gravis Marketing Ohio poll is actually a negative for Romney in his forecast because Gravis shows a Republican-leaning bias in polling. But the Gravis poll released Saturday has a nine point advantage in party identification for Democrats — almost double the Democrats’ advantage in the 2008 election. Then, regarding the PPP Ohio poll mentioned above (where Romney cut Obama’s five-point lead to one in a week), Silver notes that “Public Policy Polling has lost most of the strong Democratic lean that it had earlier in the cycle.” He means that PPP’s polling results have tended to favor Obama less than they used to, and thus that the “house effect” of their Democratic tilt has lessened. But this subjective measure fails to take into account the possibility that Romney is doing better among the same samples. The PPP poll of Ohio actually leaned more Democratic this week; Democrats had an eight-point party-ID advantage this week but only a four-point advantage last week. So while the poll swung more to Obama’s advantage in the sample, Silver declares that it has actually lost its “Democratic lean.”
Nate Silver was closer than any pollster/blogger/analyst.

You should all suck his dick.

Who is the tool now?

Obama's win a big vindication for Nate Silver, king of the quants

Despite some incredulous political pundits, the FiveThirtyEight statistician appears to have correctly predicted the winner in all 50 states in the presidential election.

by Daniel Terdiman
November 6, 2012 11:50 PM PST

Nate Silver at work, on his way to correctly predicting the winner in all 50 states.
In the end, big data won.
Not the presidential election -- although there's no doubt that President Obama's victory tonight was aided by a sophisticated understanding of the American electorate borne of years of analysis of voting trends and demographic shifts.
No, big data -- and its patron saint, Nate Silver, won the battle to predict the outcome of the contest between Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Where breathless pundits brandishing equivocating polls shouted from the rooftops over the last few weeks that the race for the White House was a "tossup," or "too close to call," Silver and other poll aggregators sat back and calmly told anyone who would listen that the math told another story: Obama's re-election was never in danger.

CBS Sunday Morning profile of Nate Silver

To be sure, after the president's dismal performance in last month's first debate against Romney, his prospects dimmed somewhat. But those who regularly visited Silver's New York Times-hosted FiveThirtyEight blog -- and there's no getting around it: many Democrats lived on the site throughout the fall -- knew that Silver never pegged Obama's chances of victory at less than 61.1 percent.
To those unfamiliar with the notion of poll aggregation and more accustomed to gleaning their perceptions of the trajectory of presidential elections by following venerable polling organizations like Gallup, Silver's numbers never made any sense. With a wide variety of polls showing Obama struggling, and often trailing Romney nationally, how could someone who'd never even run a poll credibly tell the world that the president was actually comfortably ahead?
Indeed, critics of the notion of poll aggregating -- a complex system that analyzes hundreds of state and national polls in order to arrive at numbers that focused not on who would win the popular vote, but rather who would take the Electoral College -- increasingly echoed their skepticism as the calendar edged ever closer to November 6. No one more clearly voiced that skepticism than Politico's Dylan Byers who, on October 29, penned an incredulous article titled, "Nate Silver: One term celebrity?" In it, Byers wrote, "more than a few political pundits and reporters, including some of his own colleagues, believe Silver is highly overrated."
Tonight, after seeing that FiveThirtyEight is poised to have correctly predicted the winner in all 50 states, Byers should be considering that maybe, just maybe, Silver knew what he was talking about.

FiveThirtyEight blogger Nate Silver's Election Day morning map of the United States. It appears that Silver correctly predicted the winner of all 50 states.
(Credit: Screen shot by CNET)

Silver, of course, wasn't alone. There were at least four other prominent poll aggregators -- TPM's PollTracker, HuffPost Pollster, the RealClearPolitics Average, and the Princeton Election Consortium -- and all of them correctly predicted not just that Obama would emerge victorious tonight, but that he would dominate in the swing states of Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin, Nevada, New Hampshire, Colorado, and Iowa. They all also correctly agreed that Romney would carry North Carolina. But just Silver and HuffPost Pollster went out on a limb and predicted that the president would take Florida, in both cases turning that state blue just one night ago.

Although pollsters like Gallup and Rasmussen Reports maintained until the end that Romney would win the national popular vote, many national polls did predict Obama's victory. And some critics of Silver's methods may point to that as proof that Silver got lucky in the end. As MSNBC's Joe Scarborough told Byers in the Politico story, "'Nate Silver says this is a 73.6 percent chance that the president is going to win? Nobody in that campaign thinks they have a 73 percent chance -- they think they have a 50.1 percent chance of winning."

But it's hard to argue with going 50 for 50 at the state level -- the only measures that really matter in a presidential election. Though Florida, Virginia, and Nevada are still formally too close to call as of this writing, the president is winning in each state.

And to be sure, Silver may not have been quite as accurate when it came to predicting the margins of victory at the national and state levels as he was in 2008. For example, as of this morning, he had Obama winning nationally by 2.5 percentage points, and in Ohio by 3.6 points. As of this writing, the president was winning nationally by just half a point, and in Ohio by two points or less.

Still, there can be little doubt that the methods used Silver and his aggregator brethren -- even RealClearPolitics, which did nothing more than average recent polls -- performed as advertised and gave those who believed in such a system ample reason to count on their accuracy in future elections.

Silver himself may have best summed up the difference between the computational underpinnings of his system and the critics who mocked it. "You may have noticed some pushback about our contention that Barack Obama is a favorite (and certainly not a lock) to be re-elected," he wrote on November 2. "I haven't come across too many analyses suggesting that Mitt Romney is the favorite. (There are exceptions.) But there are plenty of people who say that the race is a 'tossup.' What I find confounding about this is that the argument we're making is exceedingly simple. Here it is: Obama's ahead in Ohio."

And how did he know? Not through irrational belief or blind wishes. But through a painstaking analysis of every poll of the Buckeye State available to him, and 100,000 simulated elections that showed, when all was said and done, that the most crucial state in this year's election, one that Romney could not win without, was not the nailbiter many said it was, but rather a comfortable lead for the president. Score one for the quants, especially the most famous one of them of all, a statistician who is now, unquestionably not a one term celebrity, but a political prediction machine to be taken very, very seriously.
I love how Silver has become this polarizing figure.
I'm sure if someone was predicting a Romney win, I'd be all "Yeah, but his data is flawed, his methodology is shit" "He's bias", etc.

But when it comes down to it, the guy is just good with stats and data


I can keep rhythm with no metronome...
He still takes a cock in his ass. I can't imagine that being that great.


Silence, you mortal Fuck!
I thought he didn't make predictions?


Liberal Psycopath
I thought he didn't make predictions?
They sell creams at the pharmacy for that much butthurt.

So I guess this means that Colorado Poll that has successfully predicted the President for 30 years......not so much.

And the fat dude from Unskewedpolls is still fat.


Silence, you mortal Fuck!
They sell creams at the pharmacy for that much butthurt.
Making fun of you for that is just my current bit until I find something else to do. Don't worry, it will soon pass, I have a feeling I'm about to be challenged to a fight...


All are welcome
Making fun of you for that is just my current bit until I find something else to do. Don't worry, it will soon pass, I have a feeling I'm about to be challenged to a fight...

Oh shit, it's on!



All are welcome
I really wish I was a photoshopper. Those jumpin Jets would look great in front of a Holiday Inn Express.
he might take it in the ass, but he has the balls to put his reputation on the line over this, unlike must pundits who kept calling it "too close to call" when it really wasn't.

Dick Morris also had the balls to risk his credibility, have to admit, but he obviously lost.
Dick Morris also had the balls to risk his credibility, have to admit, but he obviously lost.
But Dick Morris is too much of a clown to admit he fucked up.
Today he said something like, "I predicted a landslide for Romney, when in fact it was a squeaker by Obama"
331-206 doesn't feel "Squeaker" to me, but what do I know


Liberal Psycopath
But Dick Morris is too much of a clown to admit he fucked up.
Today he said something like, "I predicted a landslide for Romney, when in fact it was a squeaker by Obama"
331-206 doesn't feel "Squeaker" to me, but what do I know
As someone on another message board pointed out.....Obama squeaked by Romney, the same way the Bears squeaked by Tennessee on Sunday.

Stay classy Pubs!
I understand that his margins of victory in some states are small, but they still count. You still get all the electoral votes, except for Nebraska maybe?.
And it's not like he trounced him 60-39 in popular vote, but just getting 50% now is somewhat impressive.


Liberal Psycopath
Kudos to Unskewed Polls douche for admitting Nate Silver was right, but fuck him for blaming Rasmussen. How Obama of him :cool:

'Unskewed' Pollster: 'Nate Silver Was Right, And I Was Wrong'
Dean Chambers, the man who garnered praise from the right and notoriety on the left for his "Unskewed Polling" site, admitted today that his method was flawed.

"Nate Silver was right, and I was wrong," Chambers said in a phone interview.
Chambers' method of "unskewing" polls involved re-weighting the sample to match what he believed the electorate would look like, in terms of party identification. He thought the electorate would lean more Republican when mainstream pollsters routinely found samples that leaned Democratic.
But as it turned out, the pollsters were right — self-identified Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 6% in election exit polls.
"I think it was much more in the Democratic direction than most people predicted," Chambers said. "But those assumptions — my assumptions — were wrong."
Chambers' official Electoral College prediction ended up being much more tame than other conservatives, including Dick Morris. Chambers predicted Romney would win 275 electoral votes to Obama's 263.
But he said he probably won't go back to "unskewing" polls next time. He actually thinks conservative-leaning pollsters like Scott Rasmussen have a lot more explaining to do.
"He has lost a lot of credibility, as far as I'm concerned," Chambers said. "He did a lot of surveys. A lot of those surveys were wrong."
The four assumptions about polls that people got completely wrong >

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