Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Future Is Nate

Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight blog predicted Obama's reelection months ago. I'm an Obama supporter, and I knew about Nate's extraordinary success predicting the 2008 election, so I found his 2012 predictions comforting. And, when Obama's numbers started to climb a couple of weeks ago, I stopped worrying about the outcome.

Meantime, I wasn't surprised that many pundits on the right predicted a big Romney win. I'm sure some of them really believed they had better intel. I suspect some knew the truth, but were willing to deceive their audiences. FoxNews has more or less dissolved the boundary between news and entertainment. Why risk a sweet gig by giving people bad news early?

But I was dismayed when NPR stuck with its "too close to call" story, even on election day. If I'm reading Nate's blog, most media folks are reading it. (And both campaigns, too, of course.) But they stayed locked into their poll anyway. As Nate put it in his November 2nd discussion of poll bias:

Nevertheless, these arguments are potentially more intellectually coherent than the ones that propose that the leader in the race is “too close to call.” It isn’t. If the state polls are right, then Mr. Obama will win the Electoral College. If you can’t acknowledge that after a day when Mr. Obama leads 19 out of 20 swing-state polls, then you should abandon the pretense that your goal is to inform rather than entertain the public.

Ouch. The world has changed, NPR. No single poll is the definitive truth, but Nate has a poll aggregation model that comes pretty close. Keep polling, and report your results, but don't ignore the best available information. Your listeners deserve better.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.