Math Has a Liberal Bias

Looks like Nate Silver’s predictions were spot on again:

In the end, big data won.

Not the presidential election — although there’s no doubt that President Obama’s victory tonight was aided by a sophisticated understanding of the American electorate born of years of analysis of voting trends and demographic shifts.

No, big data — and its patron saint, Nate Silver — won the battle to predict the outcome of the contest between Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Where breathless pundits brandishing equivocating polls shouted from the rooftops over the last few weeks that the race for the White House was a “tossup,” or “too close to call,” Silver and other poll aggregators sat back and calmly told anyone who would listen that the math told another story: Obama’s re-election was never in danger.

To be sure, after the president’s dismal performance in last month’s first debate against Romney, his prospects dimmed somewhat. But those who regularly visited Silver’s New York Times-hosted FiveThirtyEight blog — and there’s no getting around it: many Democrats lived on the site throughout the fall — knew that Silver never pegged Obama’s chances of victory at less than 61.1 percent.

To those unfamiliar with the notion of poll aggregation and more accustomed to gleaning their perceptions of the trajectory of presidential elections by following venerable polling organizations like Gallup, Silver’s numbers never made any sense. With a wide variety of polls showing Obama struggling, and often trailing Romney nationally, how could someone who’d never even run a poll credibly tell the world that the president was actually comfortably ahead?


  1. Election studies have, as any other social science, the responsability to take in consideration a disturbing factor: themselves. The previsibility of victory of one or another candidate counts as a factor – even if minimal – to determine the resolve of the voter, and thus, the outcome of the thing it is predicting itself.

    That’s why it is part of political speech to toss around made-up polls and analysis that, by assuring his or her victory or warning about the risk of a demise, favors a candidate by inciting participation and activism. These practices attempt to access not the actual data, but only this particular side-effect.

    So I am very proud of having done that.

    1. And so many of them will hold up one of these maps and say “How could Obama win when so much of our country is obviously red?” Without realizing that… land doesn’t vote. People do, and they’re concentrated mostly in cities. Which tend to vote blue.

Comments are closed.