In praise of Nate Silver
Barack Obama wasn’t the only big winner on Tuesday night. Nate Silver, an unassuming statistician who analyses and aggregates huge volumes of polling data, was being hailed for his prognosticatory skills after he perfectly called the results of all 50 states.
He earned a reputation for predicting electoral outcomes with uncanny accuracy in 2008, and he maintained his record this time. It was reported that his FiveThirtyEight blog, which is hosted by the New York Times’s website, accounted for 20 per cent of all traffic to the site in the run-up to the election.
However, Silver’s insistence throughout the seemingly tight race that US president Barack Obama remained a strong favourite led to him becoming a lightning rod for Republicans. His methodology and impartiality were called into question by many commentators on the right, irked at his figures showing a consistent lead for Obama.
As it became increasingly clear that his forecast was being vindicated in a big way on election night, Silver resisted the temptation to gloat, merely tweeting: “This is probably a good time to link to my book, The Signal and the Noise.”
In being proven so spectacularly right, Silver has demonstrated that facts, maths and numbers are above partisan bickering.