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Nov 09, 2012


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Mike Aubrey

I think you're not giving Silver enough credit. His model is more complex than that. And this analysis ignores the fact that he was very nearly just as accurate in his predictions in 2008. It also ignores the fact that he's also be incredibly successful with his numbers in sports predictions and gambling.

The critique sounds nice. It sounds convincing. But only if the only thing Silver has been successful with was this 2012 election. Silver himself has emphasized that the polls are really accurate.

The weather analogy is an interesting one. Particularly because the description of it demonstrates that its flawed by unnecessarily simple assumptions about weather and that correlates directly with the unnecessarily simple assumptions about Silver's approach. The chances of it raining everyday this week are more complex than that just the numbers from each individual day and should also include:

How big of an area does the prediction involve?
Historical data for a given season.
And so forth.

For Silver there's also the issue that weather patterns influence each other. One day's likelihood of rain will impact the next day's likelihood. That's not the case for Colorado's likelihood of going Obama vs. Florida's likelihood. They're essentially independent of each other and thus probabilities of predicting one and not the other isn't particularly relevant.

If anything this person's critique of Silver doesn't comprehend the issues sufficiently enough to give a critique.

Also all of the bookies essential agreed with Silver. Silver was right. And the bookies are generally right. Silver just capitalized on that for marketing himself using essentially the same methods. He was basically just the right person in the right place a the right time to demonstrate how pundits make fools of themselves.

Michael W. Kruse

Whether the weather analogy is imperfect or not, the math is that Silver had a 6% chance of predicting the result he did. The RCP map shows the same result except for Florida, which was as close to a straight coin toss as it could be without being one at 50.3% by Sliver's data. Silver beat RCP because of a coin flip.

The most plausible explanation is that the predicted winner's chances were much higher in each of the swing states (90% and above?) than Silver's model estimated.

I'm not ragging on Silver. I think his work is interesting but the math doesn't add up. I think crowd-sourcing with the polls is probably as good or better than an individual experts models. I need some math to sway me and the professional math folks I'm reading aren't persuaded (and it has nothing to do with partisanship.)


Maybe, just maybe, and I'm just spitballing here now, perhaps he's trying to find ways to account for impacts on how regular national polling would affect turnout? After all, with poll data themselves becoming the news in itself, campaigns seem to use either favorable poll results to whip up enthusiasm or unfavorable poll results to increase the urgency.

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