I honestly don’t understand what the kerfuffle is over what Nate Silver has been doing at his 568 blog at the NYT. Here’s one side of the story:
On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” today, Joe Scarborough took a more direct shot, effectively calling Silver an ideologue and “a joke.”
“Nate Silver says this is a 73.6 percent chance that the president is going to win? Nobody in that campaign thinks they have a 73 percent chance — they think they have a 50.1 percent chance of winning. And you talk to the Romney people, it’s the same thing,” Scarborough said. “Both sides understand that it is close, and it could go either way. And anybody that thinks that this race is anything but a tossup right now is such an ideologue, they should be kept away from typewriters, computers, laptops and microphones for the next 10 days, because they’re jokes.”
For those new to this, Nate is a sports statistician turned political statistician, who has been maintaining a model that takes lots and lots of polling data — most of it at the state level, which is where the presidency gets decided — and converts it into election odds. Like others doing similar exercises — Drew Linzer, Sam Wang, and Pollster — Nate’s model continued to show an Obama edge even after Denver, and has shown that edge widening over the past couple of weeks.
This could be wrong, obviously. And we’ll find out on Election Day. But the methodology has been very clear, and all the election modelers have been faithful to their models, letting the numbers fall where they may.
Yet the right — and we’re not talking about the fringe here, we’re talking about mainstream commentators and publications — has been screaming “bias”! They know, just know, that Nate must be cooking the books. How do they know this? Well, his results look good for Obama, so it must be a cheat. Never mind the fact that Nate tells us all exactly how he does it, and that he hasn’t changed the formula at all.
The definition of “objective” is that something is not based on feelings or opinion. Are Nate Silver’s results objective? I honestly don’t know. To the best of my knowledge he hasn’t shared the details of his model with us, just the results. That he expresses those results in numbers does not make them objective. That’s what’s been referred to as the “illusion of accuracy”.
Perhaps someone can explain it all to me. I really don’t understand.
There’s one thing I think we can have very high confidence in: one candidate or the other will be elected. There’s a 100% expectation of whoever wins winning and the other candidate losing. The result will be the result.