Nate Silver, take a victory lap. The New York Times blogger—who had recently received a boatload of criticism from Republicans over his forecast model that for months had predicted a victory for President Obama—is the real winner of Tuesday’s night election.
The FiveThirtyEight blogger had correctly predicted 49 out of the 50 states in the 2008 presidential election. But Silver may do even better than that this election. Not only did he predict Obama’s victory, the statistician still has a chance of going a perfect 50 for 50 provided Florida, which had not been called as of early Wednesday morning, goes the president’s way.
So much for the critics.
What does this victory mean? That mathematical models can no longer be derided by “gut-feeling” pundits. That Silver’s contention — TV pundits are generally no more accurate than a coin toss — must now be given wider credence.
The great thing about a model like Silver’s (and that of similarly winning math nerds, such as Sam Wang of the Princeton Election Consortium) is that it takes all that myopic human bias out of the equation. The ever-present temptation to cherry-pick polls is subverted.
You set your parameters at the start, deciding how much weight and accuracy you’re going to give to each poll based purely on their historical accuracy. You feed in whatever other conditions you think will matter to the result. Then, you sit back and let the algorithm do the work.