Eric ChavezOk, so I’m going to say upfront that I like Nate Silver.  I read Five Thirty Eight.  I definitely would have read Burrito Bracket had I been aware of it.  He seems like a cool guy.  For those of you who were not interested in the future of the country back in October, Nate Silver is the stat-head who launched the poll aggregating website Five Thirty Eight.  Given the infantile way most website and media outlets measured polls (yes, RealClearPolitics, that means you), Five Thirty Eight was a breath of fresh air.  Silver did a solid job analyzing polls and conveying to non-math oriented people (ie just about everyone) what a poll’s data actually means.  So what’s the problem?  Everybody. Loves. Him.  They can’t stop raving about him, like he’s the ayatollah of poll aggregation.

He built an interesting website, give the man his credit.  This has gone way too far, though.  Much like Jack Donaghy, I think it’s hard to call the man a genius based on this work (Burrito Bracket, however, is another matter altogether).  But that’s exactly what’s going on.  Everybody treats his website like it’s gospel, or the latest dailysalad post, as though he can do no wrong.  Really, he’s the Bill Simmons of electoral projections.  Yeah, he’s still cool, but the hype is just too much.  And it’s just getting worse.  The other day, he projected the Minnesota recount down to the individual vote (Franken by 27).  Recently he signed a lucrative two book deal.  He was named one of the sexiest men of the year.  Just last week Rachel Maddow claimed that Silver was the best prognosticator ever, that he exactly nailed the election results, and that everyone in America should buy him a beer (all 300 million of us).  But really?  This should be a pretty easy claim to verify.

Actual Results:

2008 Election Results

Nate Silver’s Projections:

Nate Silver's Projection

So that’s pretty close, right?  I guess Ms. Maddow and I have a different definition of what “exact” means, though.  While I would wholeheartedly endorse ignoring Indiana and Omaha out of general principle (let’s face it, the world would be much better off), the fact is that Silver did not get those electoral votes right.

So what is The Terrible Secret of Nate SilverRead the rest of this entry »