In praise of Nate Silver – the election and polling analyst for the New York Times

In praise of Nate Silver – the election and polling analyst for the New York Times

Tomorrow could be the day that his approach is vindicated

One person who has had to face an extraordinary amount of abuse over the past fortnight has been the New York Times election analyst, Nate Silver.

The basic problem is that his complex statistical model has been showing that Obama has a good chance of victory predictions that have not gone down well will GOP campaigners who have been eager to talk up the momentum of their campaign.

So rather than getting into the detail of his approach they’ve attacked the man in, often, particularly nasty terms. This was from the Examiner and was widely reported:-

Nate Silver is a man of very small stature, a thin and effeminate man with a soft-sounding voice that sounds almost exactly like the “Mr. New Castrati” voice used by Rush Limbaugh on his program.

In fact, Silver could easily be the poster child for the New Castrati in both image and sound. Nate Silver, like most liberal and leftist celebrities and favorites, might be of average intelligence but is surely not the genius he’s made out to be. His political analyses are average at best and his projections, at least this year, are extremely biased in favor of the Democrats….”

Having followed Nate for years I have little doubt that his approach would have been the same irrespective of what his prediction outcomes were.

Nate’s also been ready to take on parts of the polling industry and has even gone so far as to suggest that some firms fiddle their results so that they do not appear to be out of line.

I particularly liked a test he has for whether a pollster isn’t making “post-fieldwork adjustments” – that they will on occasions produce outliers.

Nate’s latest prediction is above.

Mike Smithson

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