I’m a big fan of Silver, not because he’s a lefty, but because he has a pretty spectacular track record. A short one, yes, but pretty impressive. He doesn’t get excited by much other than data. So of course some people hate him.
This Deadspin thing sums it up pretty well. As does this New Republic thing. (Link fixed.) Apparently there’s some pushback to Silver’s consistent projection — for months now — that Barack Obama has a 79 percent chance of being re-elected. It’s gone up and down a few points, but the race has never been nearly as close as the horserace narrative would have you believe. At least in the electoral college. The popular vote will be close, but close enough for hand grenades, anyway.
What his model comes down to are probabilities:
That probabilities do not ensure outcomes—something every blackjack player who has busted while hitting against a face card has long known—has escaped Silver’s detractors. Brendan Nyhan at CJR and Ben Jacobs at Daily Download have emptied an ample volume of bullets into this barrel of fish. Ezra Klein put it succinctly: “If Mitt Romney wins on election day, it doesn’t mean Silver’s model was wrong. After all, the model has been fluctuating between giving Romney a 25 percent and 40 percent chance of winning the election. That’s a pretty good chance!”
But Silver and his defenders have run aground on the same problem sports statisticians used to face: the failure of laymen to grasp the difference between predictions and probabilities. “The criticism of Nate is that he’s predicting something, when he’s trying to explain that’s not what he’s doing at all,” said Dave Cameron, a baseball statistician at FanGraphs who briefly worked with Silver at BP. “He’s putting the odds on something.” Cameron added, “It is kind of like what we do in baseball. We recognize there are multiple outcomes. A utility infielder can hit a home run off [reigning Cy Young winner Justin] Verlander. It’s just not probable.”
Romney could still win. But — Silver’s model says — it’s just not as likely.
Now, a waltz through the bloggage:
A kale salad recipe. Because kale is the new spinach, right?
And I should have one more, but honestly — I’m so out of gas they need another word for it. Have a great weekend, all.