He earned it

A tribute to the mathematician who predicted the outcome of all 50 states correctly in 2012. Nate Silver, of http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/

Nate Silver is my statistician; I shall not fret.
He maketh me to lie down in blue states:
He leadeth me beside the bicoastal urban elites.
He restoreth my faith in the electoral college:
He leadeth me in the path of accuracy for his name brand’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of Diebold,
I will fear no recounts: For he is with me;
His blog and his stats, they comfort me.
He preparest a table of odds before me in the presence of partisan hacks;
He filleth my head with possible outcomes; My brain bloweth up. Surely middle class tax relief and affordable health care shall follow me all the days of my life,
and Obama will dwell in the House of White for the next four years.

This map, and the electoral vote distribution, turned out to be exactly correct in forecasting the US presidential election 2012. Among other things, Nate Silver correctly evaluated:

  • That Florida flipped to Obama on Nov 5 due to a last minute poll surge
  • That Romney will get an early lead in Virginia but lose the state in the end because the final two counties are strong Obama territories
  • That Mitt Romney had only an 8-10% chance of winning, which is why he lost
  • That Obama has never been in any danger of losing Ohio, the critical swing state
  • That Gallup was wrong when they forecasted a +7% lead for Romney in October
  • That Obama was in fact ahead in the popular vote when national polls collectively showed him behind (because the state polls are more accurate)
  • That Obama’s most likely electoral vote was 332, winning every single swing state except North Carolina
  • That national polls “oversampling” democrats in fact are telling the truth (democrats were indeed more than the republicans)
  • That Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as VP will still fail to deliver Wisconsin

All this was not by intuition. Not by gut feeling. But by a cool understanding of the numbers. He took the hundreds of polls and measured their accuracy. He understood which outlets had a “house bias”. He measured the error bars and crunched the numbers. Yet he explained his findings in simple terms. The result was unerring accuracy.

In 2008, Nate Silver called 49 out of 50 states correctly. This time, he improved his performance with a perfect score.

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3 thoughts on “He earned it

  1. Pingback: dotCommonweal » Blog Archive » The 538th Psalm

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