Nate Silver

Fear and loathing in the media

Andrew Sullivan blogs about the knives shoved into Nate Silver’s back and why.

The part that resonates strongly with me is this:

[F]ear that his analysis could render moot some of the horse-race journalism that the NYT still does and does well. It’s a misplaced fear. Campaigns are narratives driven by human beings – no statistical analysis could begin to describe them adequately. There’s no reason the two approaches cannot work together and inform each other. But the pretensions and defensiveness of the old media guard seem to have made that a tough compromise to settle on – to the detriment of NYT readers.  Read more »

What Nate Silver leaving means for NY Times and why he left

I blogged about the news that Nate Silver was leaving NY Times and moving to ESPN.

Tech Republic writer Marc Tracy looks at what this all means…for the NY Times and for ESPN. The NY Times loses traffic…eyeballs, that came for Nate and stayed.

Silver was the Times news section’s most recognizable politics writer. As I reported last November, in the run-up to Election Day, one-fifth of visits to included stops at Silver’s 538 blog. In many cases, visitors arrived at the site by searching for him. “He has been a journalist of great value to the Times in this election,” executive editor Jill Abramson told me at the time. “What’s interesting is a lot of the traffic is coming just for Nate.” (Abramson declined to comment Saturday.)

So of course it is a “blow.” But it is at least worth noting that what Silver did was never the Times’ core competency when it comes to politics. And the sort of thing that Silver grew famous for condemning, in which cable-news prognosticators discuss “narratives” while disregarding the polls that sit right in front of them, is also not a good description of what Times politics coverage does best.    Read more »

Nate Silver leaves NY Times, takes his blog to ESPN

This is big news. Nate Silver has packed up his blog at NY Times and moved to ESPN. His traffic will go with him. That is the nature of blogs where personalities are followed not mastheads.

Nate Silver, famous for his eerily accurate election predictions, is dumping the Gray Lady for the network of Keith Olbermann. The math wizard is taking his FiveThirtyEight blog — which was a must-read during the 2012 presidential election — and jumping ship to ESPN, reports his former co-worker Brian Stelter in The Times. Silver will now write and crunch numbers for the sports network while also “most likely” contributing to Keith Olbermann’s new show, according to theTimes report. In what is a classic Times-ian understatement,  Stelter writes, “[Silver’s] departure will most likely be interpreted as a blow to the company.”

To which one might say: ya think?   Read more »

The bet is being paid today


In about 15 minutes I will be sitting down with Leighton Smith collecting my winnings from our bet last year.

Readers will remember that Leighton Smith and I made a bet on the outcome of the US presidential election, months ahead polling day. He said that Mitt Romney would win easily, and I said that though i wanted Romney to win I believed that he wouldn’t be able to do it and that Barack Obama would win a second term.

I based my opinions on the mathematical and statistical approach of Nate Silver.

As you all know Obama romped home and I won the bet.

The vagaries of holidays, overlapping commitments, timing and extraneous matters meant that this was the earliest we could do it.

Never let it be said that Leighton Smith doesn’t honour his bets.

I will post photos from the event later.

Nate Silver predicts win to 49ers in Superbowl

Nate Silver has predicted the San Francisco 49ers will the Superbowl…so far the silence is deafening from Karl Rove on what his guess may be:

Nate Silver, the famous poll expert for the New York Times who correctly called the U.S. presidential election for Barack Obama, has really gone out on a limb today, prognosticating that the San Francisco will win 49ers will likely win the Super Bowl.

“The reasons that exceptional defenses fare so much better in the Super Bowl are still somewhat murky, but this factor bodes well for this year’s 49ers, whose defense belongs in the elite group, according to S.R.S. (it ranks 17th among Super Bowl teams),” wrote Silver, in part.

The football team is the favorite already, so it’s not that much of a limb to crawl out on — and it’s also unlikely to attract as much controversy as Silver’s election calls that sent Republicans into a tizzy.  Read more »

The testing of pundits

In the recent US election many notable pundits kept their partisan blinkers firmly affixed to their faces. As a consequence they called things wrong.

Pundits are almost never held to account for the calls…it certainly would be interesting if someone did.

One person though has made a study of pundits in all sorts of areas, from economics to politics, and the results are interesting.

The shocking and little-acknowledged truth is that most expert forecasts are wrong. Not only wrong, but more wrong than if they had been generated at random.

Two decades ago psychologist Philip Tetlock, of the University of California, Berkeley, began testing the forecasts of 284 famous Americans who made their living pontificating about politics and economics.

As he says in his book Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? it wasn’t easy to pin them down. When stripped of rhetoric their predictions were surprisingly slippery.

Read more »

Nate Silver rates the polls

Nate Silver has rated the various polling companies, many of which are included in his algorithms. When you look at their results you can see why Romney conservatives were so far off, they were relying on Gallup and Rasmussen and they were so dreadfully wonky it is lucky they have any credibility at all.

There were roughly two dozen polling firms that issued at least five surveys in the final three weeks of the campaign, counting both state and national polls. (Multiple instances of a tracking poll are counted as separate surveys in my analysis, and only likely voter polls are used.)

For each of these polling firms, I have calculated the average error and the average statistical bias in the margin it reported between President Obama and Mitt Romney, as compared against the actual results nationally or in one state.

For instance, a polling firm that had Mr. Obama ahead by two points in Colorado — a state that Mr. Obama actually won by about five points — would have had a three-point error for that state. It also would have had a three-point statistical bias toward Republicans there.

The bias calculation measures in which direction, Republican or Democratic, a firm’s polls tended to miss. If a firm’s polls overestimated Mr. Obama’s performance in some states, and Mr. Romney’s in others, it could have little overall statistical bias, since the misses came in different directions. In contrast, the estimate of the average error in the firm’s polls measures how far off the firm’s polls were in either direction, on average.


Apparently I should listen more to Dick Morris…not going to happen

I have been told that I should listen more to Dick Morris, rather than Nate Silver and Andrew Sullivan…

Here is why that won’t be happening anytime soon. The man is a fool and a partisan hack who gets things dreadfully wrong.

His spin on getting his arse handed to him in the election is also ridiculous:

I’ve got egg on my face. I predicted a Romney landslide and, instead, we ended up with an Obama squeaker. The key reason for my bum prediction is that I mistakenly believed that the 2008 surge in black, Latino, and young voter turnout would recede in 2012 to “normal” levels. Didn’t happen. These high levels of minority and young voter participation are here to stay. And, with them, a permanent reshaping of our nation’s politics.

Snigger…an Obama squeaker…what shit. He is a shameless hack, when he predicted a Romney 325-213 win it was a “landslide,” but a 332-206 Obama win is a “squeaker.” I mean WTF?

Some one who is paid to analyse polls and comment as though he is wise and all knowing who gets things so wrong and then shamelessly spins even more crap should be sacked…and ignored.

Knowing the math

Nate Silver was a legend before the US elections, now he a super legend and so people are re-writing the Chuck Norris meme. Nate Silver was also prepared to back himself with a bet against a journalist from the NY Times.

Adored or despised during the campaign, depending on how you felt about his robust certainty that President Obama would serve a second term; fingered as an Obama-loving ideologue who fudged the data by stacking the algorithmic scales; and then derided by MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough as a joke for failing to call the election a toss-up when it was—clearly! —a toss-up, Silver ended up kicking sand in the eyes of all the political jocks rooting against a political future where bloodless number crunching would replace bloody partisan opining.

And while his very public $2,000 bet on Twitter with Scarborough that math would beat intuition struck the Times as indecorous (and viewed by some in the media as reckless), it may well be the easiest money Silver ever made. You always bet on the math, especially when you know the other guy doesn’t really know math the way you know math.

A $2000 bet kind of puts Leighton’s lunch bet with to shame.

One Man Traffic Machine

Nate Silver’s approach has been vindicated and he is a one man traffic machine for the New York Times, watch this video as he explains the polls: