Nate Silver Proves 'Em Wrong by Getting Vote Right

New York Times Polling Geek Calls Election to Tee

Running the Table: Conspiracy theorists claimed New York Times poll guru Nate Silver was in the tank for President Obama. He shut them up with a sterling Election Day predicition.
getty images
Running the Table: Conspiracy theorists claimed New York Times poll guru Nate Silver was in the tank for President Obama. He shut them up with a sterling Election Day predicition.

By Reuters

Published November 07, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

So much for gut feeling.

After correctly predicting the results in 49 of the 50 states that have been called in the U.S. election (Florida remains too close to call), Nate Silver, the statistician behind the popular FiveThirtyEight blog, woke on Wednesday to find himself the poster child of what is sure to be a new data-driven approach to politics.

While Obama was declared the winner of the election, Silver won the polling race. Television anchors from Rachel Maddow on the left-leaning MSNBC, to Bret Baier on the right-leaning Fox News, praised his accuracy. A comedian on Twitter called him “The Emperor of Math.” Silver’s publicist said he had been so inundated with requests she had been unable to reach him.

The victory lap of sorts was well-deserved for a man who received widespread criticism from conservatives for giving President Barack Obama a 90.9 percent chance of re-election in the weeks leading up to Election Day, said Clifford Young, managing director of polling at firm Ipsos, the polling partner of Reuters.

But beyond getting the results right overall, as other pollsters did in this election cycle, Silver’s true genius is his ability to make statistical modeling accessible to a lay audience, Young said.

“Ultimately, what he’s done is take a lot of the mysticism out of politics. This puts a check on the traditional pundits and the state of punditry in general. It makes me wonder if we have a changing of the guard,” Young said.

It has been an impressive start for a man who does no polling himself. After graduating from the University of Chicago with a degree in economics in 2000, Silver worked as an economic consultant at an accounting firm before creating a model to predict baseball player’s future performance. He sold it to stats firm Baseball Prospectus for an undisclosed amount and then turned to politics during the 2008 primaries with a model that emphasized demographics and past polling history.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • In the six years since Dothan launched its relocation program, 8 families have made the jump — but will they stay? We went there to find out:
  • "Jewish Israelis and West Bank Palestinians are witnessing — and living — two very different wars." Naomi Zeveloff's first on-the-ground dispatch from Israel:
  • This deserves a whistle: Lauren Bacall's stylish wardrobe is getting its own museum exhibit at Fashion Institute of Technology.
  • How do you make people laugh when they're fighting on the front lines or ducking bombs?
  • "Hamas and others have dredged up passages form the Quran that demonize Jews horribly. Some imams rail about international Jewish conspiracies. But they’d have a much smaller audience for their ravings if Israel could find a way to lower the flames in the conflict." Do you agree with J.J. Goldberg?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.