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I’ve been inundated with comments and emails telling me that Nate Silver at the 538 Blog is crazy and he will be out of a job soon after he blows his predictions and analysis of this presidential election. I still think Silver is an interesting source. Here’s why.
I started reading Silver’s blog during the 2008 and 2010 elections and have paid more attention to him this election season than any other polling site. He called all but one state correctly in 2008, and did nearly as well in 2010. He’s tirelessly anal retentive and weighs more factors than just polling data in his model. Most importantly, I follow Silver because he’s not an ideologue. He’s a math nerd – a statistics guy. The guy was a professional gambler at one point. He doesn’t care who wins, but his is neurotically obsessed with getting the analysis down perfectly in order to give the most accurate probabilities. That’s another important aspect of Silver’s model. He doesn’t give predictions, he gives probabilities. He’s not banking on polls being right or wrong, so much as he’s banking on his own ability (via his statistical model), to interpret polling data over time.
Silver consistently demonstrates that he understands all of the polls, how they are conducted, what their bias is, what they tell you, and most importantly what they don’t tell you, and thereby how to weight the polls and put them together in an accurate probability structure. The New York Times (who purchased his blog), seems to have stayed out of his way in terms of editorial pressure. They’ve allowed him to just crunch his numbers and keep progressing with his model.
Right now 538 Blog gives President Obama an 85.5% chance of winning. He gives Romney a 14.5% chance of winning.
Three Ways to Know Your Side is Going to Lose
Even though Romney trails in most of the battle ground states, especially in Ohio, his supporters continue to predict a victory. However, a few chinks in the armor are beginning to appear. Republican Strategist Matthew Dowd told ABC News,
“Every time you feel a losing campaign, these three things happen. The first thing happens is, “don’t believe — the public polls are wrong.” That’s the first sign of a campaign that’s about to lose. The second thing, we’re going to change the nature of the electorate, and you’re not seeing it reflected in the polls. And the third thing is, the only poll that counts is Election Day. When you hear those things, you know you’re about to lose.”
I hear every one of those coming from right wing pundits right now, as well as from my right leaning friends. They predict that the polls are wrong, that the electorate has switched on Obama, and of course “The only poll that counts is on election day.” It’s not that this is untrue, of course, so much as that you only say it when you are about to lose.
Although the race is still in the too close to call category, it’s looking more and more like Obama will coast to a reasonably comfortable electoral win on election day. Based on Silver’s analysis, I’ve changed one prediction. I thought Romney would carry Iowa, but I am now thinking it looks like Obama will squeak by in Iowa. Here’s how I think the map will end up on election night.
What’s your map look like? Tell me which states you think will flip Romney’s way or Obama’s way.