Nate Silver shows polling may have value

This is Nate Silver’s final projection map on Election Day. The map correctly predicted all 50 states correctly.
This is Nate Silver’s final projection map on Election Day. The map correctly predicted all 50 states correctly.

The 2012 Presidential Election may have featured President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney, but that wasn’t the only raging debate.

Nate Silver, blogger at the New York Times, projected who would win the race in June.

Despite his success in both 2008 and 2012 (on the sidebar of his blog) with projecting the election, there are still skeptics.

Silver’s system uses polls heavily and not everyone trusts polling.

Melanie Spransy, Civics and Economics teacher at Leesville, said, “I think polling is an interesting phenomenon. I’m not against polling. I think it can be very affective.”

Silver fixes the issue of polls being unreliable with a few different methods. First, he mathematically weighs polls based on past accuracy, making sure that he doesn’t use unreliable polls. Second, Silver factors in other things such as economic variables and approval ratings by weighting them according to their predictive values.

Spransy made the interesting point that individual polls have many pitfalls, and Silver himself agreed. He told a little over a month before the election:

“If you go back through history and see what the polling spread is like at any given time, you often will see a 5- or 7- or even 10-point gap between one poll and another,” said Silver.

Silver and Spransy shared the same sentiment regarding polls being unreliable, and Silver actually examined which ones are most trustworthy recently on his blog:

“A number of polling firms that conduct their surveys online had strong results. Some telephone polls also performed well. But others, especially those that called only landlines or took other methodological shortcuts, performed poorly and showed a more Republican-leaning electorate than the one that actually turned out.”

Silver has not only received criticism from those who question the accuracy, but from conservative outlets that believe he was biased in his predictions. A good article that looks at some of those criticisms can be found here at the Washington Post.

Despite many flaws still existing, Nate Silver has gotten us one step closer to being able to predict the election.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.