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.
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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.
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Sales of his recent book, “The Signal and the Noise,” jumped 500 percent on Wednesday to reach the No. 2 book on Amazon.com, just behind the latest in the children’s “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” franchise.

A NERDY SCHTICK

Unlike traditional pollsters, who put questions to a field of voters, Silver incorporates the averages of several polls and weights them based on factors like the past accuracy of the polling firm, the number of likely voters on Election Day and the composition of each state’s electorate. He then runs multiple simulations of the results, which results in his probability forecast.

The end result often mirrors other aggregate data that is available. Real Clear Politics and Pollster.com, for instance, also showed that Obama held an advantage in all of the swing states except North Carolina. Yet Silver’s probability simulations as well as his status as, essentially, a one-man shop, has helped burnish his image and reputation, especially in light of the performance of traditional polling firms.

Rasmussen Reports, for instance, was wrong on six of the nine swing-state polls and showed Romney winning the popular vote by one percentage point. The NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist College poll incorrectly predicted that Obama would win North Carolina, while the CBS/Quinnipiac University poll incorrectly showed Obama losing Colorado.

Silver’s track record in the 2008 election led Penguin Books to sign him to a two-book deal worth more than $700,000, according to a person with knowledge of the deal. The New York Times reached a license agreement with Silver to host his blog through at least the 2012 election.

At the Times, Silver has branched out from politics to include more day-to-day topics, including a post that investigated whether KFC’s Double Down Sandwich was the unhealthiest sandwich ever. But it is his electoral predictions that have paid dividends: on the day before the election, 20 percent of all visitors to the Times website clicked on a 538 post, according to press reports.


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