Nate Silver: By How Much Has the National Popular Front Deviated from the State Poll Average?
Today's Employment Report Is Genuinely a Big Fracking Deal!

Today's War on Nate Silver: The Don Flows Home to the Sea Edition

His logistical difficulties resolved, Sam Wang' elite 5th Guards Tank Army rumbles out of the Don River bridgeheads heading for Rostov and the Sea of Azov:

Perverse media incentive watch: Chris Cillizza: Today, the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza has moved Ohio from "lean Obama" to "tossup." Yet the current margin in Ohio is Obama +3.0+/-0.5% (n=14 polls, Oct. 13-Nov. 1) and probably insuperable. What could be Cillizza's reason?

He writes:

….the absolute necessity for Romney to win the state if he wants to be president - leads us to move it back to the 'tossup' category.

Now here is some problematic reasoning. Romney needs Ohio, so therefore it's a toss-up. Ah yes, the "let's not bicker about who killed who" argument.

Cillizza is hardly alone. A few days ago, Wolf Blitzer at CNN cited a single Ohio poll, done by his own organization, showing Obama up by 4%. He then proceeded to call this a "tie," revealing an amazing inability to interpret a simple number. Compounding this is the fact that dozens of polls have been conducted in Ohio. The odds of an Obama lead are extremely high. So why does he persist?

The news media have an incentive to fuzz up the picture: ratings and profit. A message that the cake is fully baked does not automatically bring back the viewers. Without the artificial suspense, Cillizza and Blitzer are put in a position of having to say something substantive or interesting that gets beyond a horserace number. Think how much work that would be.

The same problem extends to the aggregation of polling data, which many sites do (FiveThirtyEight, Oct. 31). But think of all the headlines you have seen about "Romney ahead nationally," "Obama pulls ahead in Wisconsin," "it's a dead heat," and other permutations. Each of these headlines was based on a single poll. But aggregation would lead to fewer news stories - and less of the breathless horserace coverage we are used to.

When I started doing the Meta-Analysis of State Polls in 2004, I thought it would be a useful tool to get rid of media noise about individual polls. If we had a sharper picture of the race from day to day, a "polling thermometer," would tell a simpler story of the race that looks like this.

This story in hand could provide a common set of facts. Space would be opened up for discussion of what really mattered in the campaign - or even discussion of policies. To my disappointment, this has not happened. Maybe it just takes time. Or perhaps polling nerds need to get a few more races right. Let's see if we move the ball forward for Team Geek on Tuesday.

Local Foods reports from Silvergrad, on the banks of the Volga River:

Daily Kos: Nate Silver unskews Morning Joe: Nate Silver has been the target of rabid right wing extremists lashing out at him for stretching their pea brains with arithmetic, calling him ""a man of very small stature" and "a thin and effeminate man with a soft-sounding voice." (That's coming from a lardass named Dean Chambers who is basically a front man for Rasmussen)…. Monday on MSNBC, Joe Scarborough joined the dogpiling of poor, innocent (but definitely not mathematically challenged) little Nate:

Nate Silver says this is a 73.6 percent chance that the president's going to win. Nobody in that campaign thinks they have a 73.6 percent -- they think they have a 50.1 percent chance of winning…. Anybody that thinks that this race is anything but a tossup right now is such an ideologue [that] they should be kept away from typewriters, computers, laptops, and microphones for the next ten days, because they're jokes.

Here's Nate's pulling out the canned whoopass on Joe today:

Nate Silver @fivethirtyeight: .@JoeNBC: If you think it's a toss-up, let's bet. If Obama wins, you donate $1,000 to the American Red Cross. If Romney wins, I do. Deal?


8:41 AM PT: Joe replied: "Why don't we both agree to donate $1,000 to the Red Cross right now? Americans need our help now."

Nate replied: "Better idea: Let's bet $2,000."

Hat tip to kossack social democrat

Ta-Nehisi Coates opens up on Dylan Byers and Dean Chambers--Dean for thinking that only tall fit mesomorphs with deep voices can count and Dylan for not understanding that "coffee" tastes different from "cafe latte":

Toward a Fraudulent Populism: I wanted to double down on this post about Nate Silver from yesterday and point out something in Dylan Byers's column that really should have been left on the cutting floor (emphasis added):

For all the confidence Silver puts in his predictions, he often gives the impression of hedging. Which, given all the variables involved in a presidential election, isn't surprising. For this reason and others -- and this may shock the coffee-drinking NPR types of Seattle, San Francisco and Madison, Wis. -- more than a few political pundits and reporters, including some of his own colleagues, believe Silver is highly overrated.

I just want to say that this is the most bizarre slur I have ever read, and seems to be the sort of thing you write when you're really grasping. I think it's meant to evoke the kind of effete intellectualism which you see targeted in a piece like this one from Dean Chambers:

Nate Silver is a man of very small stature, a thin and effeminate man with a soft-sounding voice.

I don't really know. Anyway, Byers goes on to quote David Brooks and Joe Scarborough, manly-men who can't find San Francisco on a map and are so macho that they chew coffee beans whole, leaving the French press for you wimpy-ass, Terry Gross-listening, Steve Urkel-looking motherfuckers.

Look, I'm nobody's tough guy. But as someone who spent a significant portion of my life seeking ways to not get punched in the face, it's really amazing how much interaction -- even now -- boils down to, as Chris Rock would say, "Can you kick my ass?"

I want to be careful to not conflate Dean Chambers's direct invocation of manly manliness with Byers's more oblique reference. But I think the point holds true. Silver's work is humiliating to people who are little more than gossipmongers. The response is to accuse them of listening to public radio and living in Seattle.

What struck me was that Dylan Byers had never learned the attack line: it was not coffee but lattes--and lattes were bad because they were French. My reaction was: "Dylan Byers is not only innumerate, but also wants to be a Dean Chambers-like culture warrior even though he cannot find his own ass with both hands."

Rothschild and Wolfers drive a brand-new untested machine fresh off the assembly line at Magnitogorsk into the fray:

People Can Predict Elections (Even When Polls Can’t): New research from David Rothschild and Justin Wolfers:

Most pollsters base their election projections off questions of voter intentions, which ask “If the election were held today, who would you vote for?” By contrast, we probe the value of questions probing voters’ expectations, which typically ask: “Regardless of who you plan to vote for, who do you think will win the upcoming election?” We demonstrate that polls of voter expectations consistently yield more accurate forecasts than polls of voter intentions. A small-scale structural model reveals that this is because we are polling from a broader information set, and voters respond as if they had polled twenty of their friends. This model also provides a rational interpretation for why respondents’ forecasts are correlated with their expectations. We also show that we can use expectations polls to extract accurate election forecasts even from extremely skewed samples.

In an Oct. 26-28 YouGov poll, 45% said Obama would probably or definitely win, 18% said Obama and Romney were equally likely to win, and 29% said Romney would win (8% did not know).  In Gallup’s most recent poll, Obama’s advantage is 54%-34% (11% did not know).  Gallup notes that its own question accurately predicted the winner of the popular vote in the 1996-2008 presidential elections.  Wolfers is working on an estimate from 2012, which I’ll report here when it’s ready.

In the Caucasus Mountains, Commissar Josh Marshall corrects New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan:

Sorry, Margaret, You Need to Get Out More: Times public editor Margaret Sullivan has a post up taking Nate Silver to task for daring Joe Scarborough to a bet over who would win the election. Basically, she says making a bet like this diminishes the Times and he shouldn’t have done it. That may be so. I don’t know and don’t really care.

But she concludes with this line…

When he came to work at The Times, Mr. Silver gained a lot more visibility and the credibility associated with a prominent institution. But he lost something, too: the right to act like a free agent with responsibilities to nobody’s standards but his own….

I think this is almost a demonstrably false assumption and a sign Sullivan doesn’t fully grasp the politics and new media environment… [T]he reason [Silver] is getting attacked so ferociously on the right right now is because he’s view as being the standard for poll prognostication…. [T]here are 7 ro 8 different organizations running different flavors of systematic presidential poll analysis right now…. And they all show pretty much the same numbers that Silver’s showing. But Silver’s the one who has the public rep as the brainiac polling-meister….

Like a number of media personalities/experts (and I mean that in a positive sense), Silver is not really reliant on the Times at all. He’s his own brand. In the political realm he built it in the 2008 cycle (he obviously had a baseball sabermetrics rep before that)…. [T]he Times gained considerably more than he did…. I suspect they’re paying him quite a lot of money and he was able to negotiate a deal in which the entire 538 franchise is still his. He’s just leasing it to them.

And in the distance, we can hear the rumble of the "Wonkette Organs" as she munches her bulgogi-beef-and-kimchi burrito and commands her batteries of truck-mounted rocket-launchers to fire:

Sad Pundits: Why Won’t Insiders Tell Us Who Will Win The Election?: THIS ELECTION, YOU GUYS! It is … confusing? Like, some people say that Barack Obama will win re-election, while others say that his opponent, Mitt Romney, will prevail! WHO ARE WE TO TRUST? Normally, of course, we’d turn to the literally of hundreds of people who are employed full-time by various old- and new-media outlets to report on and offer opinions about politics, because they know things. But as a survey of these sages in the Politico reveals, they’re completely at sea as well!

You must click the “MORE” clicky in order to read the single greatest quote in a Politico article of all time, which reveals the utter bankruptcy of the pundit class. Then you can spend the next six days doing something productive and rewarding with your life! Here it is, ABC News’s highly compensated reporter Jon Karl, offering an extremely clear explanation of why his job should not exist:

I think more than any other race I’ve covered this is one where both sides genuinely seem to believe they’re going to win. That’s different … Given that, it’s hard for somebody covering the race to make a call. I’m completely confused. I have no idea who’s going to win. And I usually have a sense of who’s going to win.

Oh no, reporters aren’t getting “inside scoops” from triumphalist and/or fatalist campaign staffers. There’s literally no other way to tell! Like if only there were people … surveying Americans on how they plan to vote? And those surveys could be aggregated and analyzed, somehow? In totally unrelated news, this Politico article was brought to our attention by your math and numbers boyfriend Nate Silver, whose Twitter feed is growing increasingly catty:


Anyway, allow us here at Wonkette to tell you that we have zero “insider information” but we are reasonably sure Barry will win anyway. Now, go, shoo, read a novel or watch a movie or something and then read a newspaper next Wednesday to find out who won! (Just kidding, refresh Wonkette dot com constantly for election updates, THE OUTCOME OF THE ELECTION DEPENDS ENTIRELY ON YOU PAYING ATTENTION TO EVERY DETAIL AT ALL TIMES.)