Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Predictions Are Hard, Especially About The Future

First the prologue from TBogg:

As you may have heard, Nate Silver, who is the Punxsutawney Phil of electoral prognosticators, emerging  from his Fortress of Gay Mathmagic every four years to choose our president for us so that we have more time to devote to eating Hot Pockets, watching reality teevee shows, and developing diabetes foot, has taken  leave from the New York Time to join ESPN where he will explain wins against replacement (WAR) and Defense-Independent Component ERA to Skip Bayless until he explodes in a flash of blue smoke that smells like fried Slim Jims.

Then the story.

Silver's political analysis is better than his sports analysis.  The reason is pretty simple.  Every sports contest can be subject to random chance or flukes.  But every election has dry runs in the form of polling that show us the lay of the land.

Put another way, it is impossible to predict the outcome of a game, because there is no data that tells you what will happen in any particular game, whereas elections come with polling and polling CAN tell you what will happen if you read it right.

All Silver did was read it right.

But then again, so did a number of other people.  Silver is not the Gay Wizard, he's just the highest profile practitioner of using polling averages.  Blumenthal, Wang, Moulitas, Cohn and plenty others called the election the same way.

This wasn't Silver vs. the Old School, it was Numbers vs. the Old School.  And Numbers won, with or without Silver.

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