Perhaps the most deliciously ironic element of the election was watching all the wingnuts convince themselves that Nate Silver (always him and not Nate Cohn, Sam Wang or anyone else for some reason) was using mathematical voodoo to make it falsely look like Obama was winning and then watch him be almost dead on in his projections. On Facebook, someone said, “After tonight, Nate Silver now has the right to end every sentence with the word ‘motherfuckers.’”
In reality, Silver called every swing state correctly, 9 for 9. And when all the votes are counted, he’ll be off on the popular vote by .3% or so. And just as Silver said, Gallup and Rasmussen were way off. Not a bad track record, especially after his equally accurate projections in 2008 and 2010. In fact, all of the major poll aggregators and analysts were damn close in their projections. I guess math actually works, eh?
Drew Chambers of Unskewed Polls went into almost total radio silence on election night. Nothing on Twitter, no updates to his site, nothing. To be fair, he’s probably busy working on unskewedelections.com, where he’ll explain that if you unskew the votes by reducing Democrats by 5% and boosting Republicans by 5%, Romney really won and is now the true president. Come out, come out wherever you are, Dean. You can’t hide forever. You’re going to have to admit that the “thin and effeminate man with a soft-sounding voice” just showed how irrational and delusional you were all alone.
Here’s the punchline: The morning after the election, Jonah Goldberg published an article complaining about Silver’s “numbers racket.”
Now, I have no idea whether Silver’s model is the psephological Rosetta Stone some hope — or fear — it to be. And no one else does either.
The truth is that any statistician can build a model. They do it all the time. They make assumptions about the electorate, assign weights to polls and economic indicators, etc., and then they wait for the sausage to come out. No doubt some models are better than others, and some models are simply better for a while and then regress to the mean. But ultimately, the numbers are dependent on the values you place on them. As the computer programmers like to say, garbage in, garbage out.
I’m not saying Silver’s just lucky or shoveling garbage. He’s a serious numbers guy. But so are the folks at the University of Colorado’s political science department whose own model is based on economic indicators. Its Oct. 4 findings predicted Romney would win, as did many other models.
They couldn’t all be right.
Actually, we do know, Jonah. We know because he’s been right every time so far. And for you to publish this after he was proven right and all those right wingers who’ve been criticizing him were proven wrong is taking the idea of ducking into the punch to a whole new level.