Josh Jordan | Nate Silver’s Flawed Model

Silver gained fame by correctly predicting 49 of 50 states in the 2008 election using a statistical model that assigns weight to the various polls based on a number of factors. After the 2008 election, Silver partnered with the New York Times, and he has been quoted by many media outlets as the gold standard for predicting what will happen in November.

Some note that 2008 was a wave election, where the enthusiasm and underlying fundamentals were so favorable to Obama that the outcome was easy to foresee, with the exception of a few of the GOP-turned-Democratic states such as Indiana and North Carolina where Obama won a razor-thin victory. Others argue that Silver’s access to the Obama administration’s internal polling gave him information that most other analysts never saw, which allowed him to make more adjustments to his model and increase his accuracy.

Whatever the reason, Silver’s strong showing in the 2008 election, coupled with his consistent predictions that Obama will win in November, has given Democrats a reason for optimism. While there is nothing wrong with trying to make sense of the polls, it should be noted that Nate Silver is openly rooting for Obama, and it shows in the way he forecasts the election.

On September 30, leading into the debates, Silver gave Obama an 85 percent chance and predicted an Electoral College count of 320–218. Today, the margins have narrowed — but Silver still gives Obama a 67 percent chance and an Electoral College lead of 288–250, which has led many to wonder if he has observed the same movement to Romney over the past three weeks as everyone else has. Given the fact that an incumbent president is stuck at 47 percent nationwide, the odds might not be in Obama’s favor, and they certainly aren’t in his favor by a 67–33 margin.


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