Nate Silver

Nate Silver is a statistician who has successfully predicted the last two US presidential elections at the state level calling 49 of 50 states correctly in 2008 and nailing all of them in 2012 (although at the time of writing this post results from Florida are not clear), and all of the Senate races in 2008 and all but two in 2012.

Baseline Scenario has an interesting article about Silver and the pros and cons of using a statistical approach to predicting political results.

To my mind, the crux of the debate was between: (a) people who believe that it is meaningful to make probabilistic statements about the future based on existing data (both current polls and parameters estimated from historical data); and (b) people who believe that there is something ineffable about politics that escapes analysis and that therefore there is something fundamentally wrong, or misleading, or fraudulent about the statistical approach

The author of the article, James Kwak, comes down on the side of the statistical approach which is based on existing data such as current polls and parameters based on historical data. LSW finds the discussion very interesting especially as Silver uses an approach he developed looking at baseball stats which LSW sometimes finds too lacking in the ineffable that Kwak mentions in his article as well as bearing a hint of preachers and the pedantic when applied by certain baseball commentators.

Nate Silver was cited pre-election by people who claimed that the election was nowhere as close as the media would have had it to be. Silver was right. Very interesting article, and man and approach.

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