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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Back to Reality, Back to Nate Silver

Posted by on Tue, Oct 30, 2012 at 1:43 PM

WaPo says it like it is...

Which brings me to the backlash against Nate Silver.

Before we get too deep in the weeds here, it’s worth being clear about exactly what Silver’s model — and that’s all it is, a model — is showing. As of this writing, Silver thinks Obama has a 75 percent chance of winning the election. That might seem a bit high, but note that the BetFair markets give him a 67.8 percent chance, the InTrade markets give him a 61.7 percent chance and the Iowa Electronic Markets give him a 61.8 percent chance. And we know from past research that political betting markets are biased toward believing elections are more volatile in their final weeks than they actually are. So Silver’s estimate doesn’t sound so off.
Moreover, Silver’s model is currently estimating that Obama will win 295 electoral votes. That’s eight fewer than predicted by Sam Wang’s state polling meta-analysis and 37 fewer than Drew Linzer’s Votamatic.
So before we deal with anything Silver has specifically said, it’s worth taking in the surrounding landscape: Every major political betting market and every major forecasting tool is predicting an Obama victory right now, and for the same reason: Obama remains ahead in enough states that, unless the polls are systematically wrong, or they undergo a change unlike any we’ve yet seen in the race, Obama will win the election.

The heart of the matter...

It’s important to be clear about this: If Silver’s model is hugely wrong — if all the models are hugely wrong, and the betting markets are hugely wrong — it’s because the polls are wrong.

There is no Romentum, and the real money is on Rmoney losing.

 

Comments (24) RSS

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Will in Seattle 1
The force is strong with this one, Mickey.

A lot of the negative impact is most D votes are already banked, and the tweets from Mitt's staff spreading lies plus the defunded FEMA quotes are not helping him.
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on October 30, 2012 at 1:58 PM · Report this
Fnarf 2
The really classy part of the anti-Silver brigade is all the meatheads saying Silver can't be right because he's slight of build and has a high voice, like some kind of faggot or something. Yes, they really are making this argument. I'm waiting for Rush Limbaugh to call him "four eyes".
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on October 30, 2012 at 2:24 PM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 3
Oh, dare we hope? Are we jumping the gun? Obama is the better man, by a long shot, but do the people see that? I have never wanted to believe anything so much in my life.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on October 30, 2012 at 2:26 PM · Report this
Cracker Jack 4
@2: So, they're calling him a nerd and implying that a nerd can't be that smart? Morons are so bad at logic...
Posted by Cracker Jack on October 30, 2012 at 2:31 PM · Report this
5
Shooting the messenger never changes the message.

At the end of the day, American voters, as long as they do vote, more often vote for the candidate whose character they trust and admire.

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) political scientists have not yet been able to qualify or quantify those political "assets".
Posted by Fairhaven on October 30, 2012 at 2:36 PM · Report this
6
@2 -- Seriously? Because he's small and squeaky, he's wrong? Oy gevalt.

And to the point about the polls being seriously wrong, what's the possibility of the election being bought/subverted in some way (viz., Bush/Gore)? I'm still deeply suspicious on that score.
Posted by Calpete on October 30, 2012 at 2:38 PM · Report this
7
To be fair, Nate Silver started it by pointing out the hilarious inaccuracy of typical pundit predictions. Veracity is a harsh mistress.
Posted by stating the obvious on October 30, 2012 at 2:48 PM · Report this
Fnarf 8
Nate Silver is a man of very small stature, a thin and effeminate man with a soft-sounding voice that sounds almost exactly like the “Mr. New Castrati” voice used by Rush Limbaugh on his program. In fact, Silver could easily be the poster child for the New Castrati in both image and sound.

http://www.examiner.com/article/the-far-…

If there is any group of people on earth who are more insecure in their masculinity than conservatives, I can't imagine who it would be. Maybe in the last days of the campaign we will be treated to someone holding down and animal so that Paul Ryan can shoot it to show what a tough man he is.
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on October 30, 2012 at 3:02 PM · Report this
TVDinner 9
Yeah! And he's also a total poindexter who wears loafers! Nyah!
Posted by TVDinner http:// on October 30, 2012 at 3:24 PM · Report this
10
@8 "Maybe in the last days of the campaign we will be treated to someone holding down and animal so that Paul Ryan can shoot it to show what a tough man he is. "

Fnarf, you have--uncharactistically--missed it; in the final days of the campaign, we will be treated to Paul Ryan holding down Nate Silver so that Mitt Romney can cut off his hair.
Posted by Clayton on October 30, 2012 at 3:42 PM · Report this
11
@7 'To be fair, Nate Silver started it by pointing out the hilarious inaccuracy of typical pundit predictions.'

Yes. His "Are you smarter than a Television Pundit?" chapter was pretty brutal.

Which brings me to this sentence from the article 'If you had to distill the work of a political pundit down to a single question, you’d have to pick the perennial “who will win the election?”' I believe Nate indicated you'd actually have to pick some variant of, "Will they bring me back next time?" and would agree with that analysis.
Posted by Guy Reading Signal and Noise on October 30, 2012 at 3:44 PM · Report this
Fnarf 12
My Facebook friend Gabriel, who I know posts here but whose Slog nickname I've forgotten because of stupidity, points out that this is an exact recapitulation of the battle Silver fought against people saying the exact same things about him (and others) in baseball a decade or so ago. "Get yer nose out of yer calculator in yer mom's basement and watch a damn game, faggot". We (I am one of those SDCNs) beat them in baseball, and now Silver will beat them in politics too.
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on October 30, 2012 at 3:47 PM · Report this
bleedingheartlibertarian 13
The thing that a lot of Silver's detractors seem to miss is that by predicting that Obama has a 75% chance of winning the election, he's also predicting that Romney has a 25% chance of winning. That's not exactly a low probability event.

You wouldn't get on a plane if you knew it had a 25% chance of crashing, would you?

They make it sound like he's dismissed the possibility of Romney winning the race entirely. Nothing could be further from the truth.

But, dipshits tend to be bad at math...
Posted by bleedingheartlibertarian on October 30, 2012 at 4:03 PM · Report this
14
...unless the polls are systematically wrong, or they undergo a change unlike any we’ve yet seen in the race, Obama will win the election.


There's another possibility: The polls are right, and the vote count given to the public is wrong.
Posted by Proteus on October 30, 2012 at 4:26 PM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 15
@14 Bingo. I remain deeply suspicious that the only reason that wasn't done in 2008 is that the Pukes didn't want to win that one badly enough to risk rigging the voting machines in a year when the Dims losing would look so suspicious (due to Bush's massive unpopularity and incompetence), and the political cost of managing the financial crisis any longer would be so high. Better to take a breather from being in charge, rally the kooks when recovery isn't immediate (2010) and save the outright vote theft for the out years when holding the White House would be more rewarding. Which would be now?
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on October 30, 2012 at 5:02 PM · Report this
16
I want to believe this more than I've wanted to believe anything since, well, November 2008. I was terrified then and I'm terrified now. Nothing to do but wait it out and remember how exhilarating it was last time.
Posted by crone on October 30, 2012 at 6:45 PM · Report this
17
I think Nate Silver is a sexy beast.
Posted by wxPDX on October 30, 2012 at 8:11 PM · Report this
18
I get a creepy feeling they are just planting the seed so that after the election is stolen they can say "See, we knew the polls were wrong all along. We even talked about it the last couple weeks. Silly liberals."

Check out Hacking Democracy at 1:07:40 to see how easy it is to alter the vote tally on a Diebold machine and leave no trace: http://www.hulu.com/watch/192687

I know it's a little paranoid, but there is good evidence that election fraud took place in 2004 and is going on today.
Posted by rubus on October 30, 2012 at 11:37 PM · Report this
19
Nate Silver has a track record that extends one election backwards in time. Because he's telling the lefties what they want to hear, he must be defended no matter what.

On the other hand, in 15 of the 16 presidential elections since World War II, the challenging party's candidate won the White House if the unemployment rate failed to decline in the second quarter of the election year.

So it's Nate Silver, liberal hero du jour, versus boring history from 1948 through 2008 except for 1956. Seeing as how I voted for Obama last week (along with McKenna, by the way) I want Silver to win the contest, but I won't be betting the ranch on this one.

Oh, by the way, this is the fifth election since 1948 where the unemployment rate was unchanged in the second quarter. Two of the other four were stolen, one by the Democrats (1960) and the other by the Republicans (2000). The other two (1968 and 1976) were whisker close in the popular vote.

So that part of the historical rule has almost certainly already been proven correct: This will be a very close election. History says it's Romney's to lose, which makes the Kool-Aid drinkers here puke their guts out at anyone who even mentions the history. The effeminate little geek (did anyone get a look at the old toad who called Silver an effeminate little geek?) says this time it'll be different.
Posted by Mister G on October 31, 2012 at 1:17 AM · Report this
aureolaborealis 20
@19: So, uh, Nate Silver was telling lefties what they wanted to hear when he predicted the 2010 House takeover? And just to head off the "anyone could tell that was going to happen," when I say he predicted it, I mean down to the details -- the who, what, where and by how much.

You're getting boring.
Posted by aureolaborealis on October 31, 2012 at 9:54 AM · Report this
21
I am not on the bash-Silver bandwagon. I hope Silver is correct about this year's presidential election.

The 2010 congressional elections were a different animal. Silver runs a metadata operation; he's only as good as the polls he slices and dices, and there isn't comprehensive polling in each congressional district. So, like everyone else including even Rasmussen, the Republican today, Silver underpredicted the magnitude of the Republican off-year landslide. Which, I would point out, they've consolidated this year.

At the moment Silver is telling the lefties what they want to hear, which is that Obama will win a close race. History strongly suggests exactly the opposite. You can kick and scream and stamp your little feet all you want, but it's true.

Posted by Mister G on October 31, 2012 at 11:04 AM · Report this
22
I tried to edit #21 but for some reason the unedited version is what posted. Beyond what I wrote, I had included some more:

There is a chance that both Silver and the historical pattern are correct. Last spring, when May unemployment unexpectedly rose, a few analysts noted some oddities in the seasonality over the past couple years. They said that anomalies have made fall unemployment numbers look better than they actually are, and spring numbers look worse. This has been happening since about 2009, I think I recall reading.

So it could be that the flat U-3 number from March through June (at 8.2%) was actually better than that. Maybe the Bureau of Labor Statistics will eventually take a second look, and revise monthly unemployment numbers to show a decline in the second quarter. If Obama wins and that revision gets made, then Silver and the history would agree,.

Until then, though, as someone with a pretty deep background in federal economic data, I'm always skeptical of the "it's different this time" thesis that pops up when the numbers are different than what someone would like them to be. In fact, I cut my teeth on learning lessons along those lines about 20 years ago. And mainstream economists have done the same thing, the most famous example being when individual food categories began to show inflation in the late 1960s, but economists ignored them by saying things like, "It was only tomatoes, and the economy is much bigger than tomatoes." Well, eventually it wasn't just tomatoes.

Bottom line is that, at least for now, it's either Silver or the historical pattern. One or the other, but not both can be right. As for me, I think your real beef is that I'm not the Obama Girl. Well, you're right about that. I voted for Obama, warts and all, but I'll never be any politician's fangurl.
More...
Posted by Mister G on October 31, 2012 at 11:15 AM · Report this
Theodore Gorath 23
@22: Except that the polls are showing the incumbent to be strongly ahead, which completely goes against your historical argument, as this should not happen with the economy the way it is. Your assertion that Romney will take a strong victory is completely batshit crazy, and dismisses all the evidence to the contrary for an idea that because something usually happens one way in the past, it has to happen again.

Stop pretending that everyone is against you because you are a contrarian, or not an "Obama girl." People disagree with you because you often make very stupid statements, are immature, and steal comments made by other people on other sites to pass them off as your own.
Posted by Theodore Gorath on October 31, 2012 at 12:37 PM · Report this
24
The incument is "strongly ahead?" All of the polls are showing within the margin of error. The national polls have Romney ahead, and the conglomeration of state-level polls have Obama ahead. In both cases, slightly.

I never asserted that "Romney will take a strong victory." That's your illusion, not mine. In fact, I wrote the following: So that part of the historical rule has almost certainly already been proven correct: This will be a very close election.
Posted by Mister G on October 31, 2012 at 1:01 PM · Report this

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