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‘Unskewed’ Pollster: ‘Nate Silver Was Right, And I Was Wrong’
Courtesy of Dean Chambers
Dean Chambers, the man who garnered praise from the right and notoriety on the left for his “Unskewed Polling” site, admitted today that his method was flawed.“Nate Silver was right, and I was wrong,” Chambers said in a phone interview.
Chambers’ method of “unskewing” polls involved re-weighting the sample to match what he believed the electorate would look like, in terms of party identification. He thought the electorate would lean more Republican when mainstream pollsters routinely found samples that leaned Democratic.
But as it turned out, the pollsters were right — self-identified Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 6% in election exit polls.
“I think it was much more in the Democratic direction than most people predicted,” Chambers said. “But those assumptions — my assumptions — were wrong.”
Chambers’ official Electoral College prediction ended up being much more tame than other conservatives, including Dick Morris. Chambers predicted Romney would win 275 electoral votes to Obama’s 263.
But he said he probably won’t go back to “unskewing” polls next time. He actually thinks conservative-leaning pollsters like Scott Rasmussen have a lot more explaining to do.
“He has lost a lot of credibility, as far as I’m concerned,” Chambers said. “He did a lot of surveys. A lot of those surveys were wrong.”
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There are a lot of predictions floating around out there about who will win the presidential election on Tuesday. So why not round them all up in one place?
Here are the electoral vote predictions from various modelers, political scientists and pundits from around the Internet. All predictions are as of Monday evening. And yes, this will be a fun thread to revisit the day after the election:
Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight: Obama 332, Romney 203. This appears to be the most likely scenario in Silver’s model, which now gives Obama a 91 percent chance of winning and shows Florida as basically a tossup. “In order for Mr. Romney to win the Electoral College, a large number of polls, across these states and others, would have to be in error, perhaps because they overestimated Democratic turnout.,” Silver writes.
Intrade: Obama 303, Romney 235. The betting markets also give Obama a 70 percent chance of winning as of Tuesday morning. The main difference from Silver’s model is that Intrade gives Romney a fairly strong chance (65 percent) of winning Florida.
Washington Post’s Outlook contest: There are a slew of different predictions here. Chris Cillizza of the Fix predicts a narrow 277-261 Obama win. Andrew Beyer, our horse-racing columnist, predicts a 284-254 Romney win. And Jason Samenow of the excellent Capital Weather Gang predicts a 281-257 Obama victory.
Sam Wang, Princeton Election Consortium: Obama 303, Romney 235. “In terms of EV or the Meta-margin, [Obama has] made up just about half the ground he ceded to Romney after Debate #1.”
Drew Linzer, Emory University: Obama 326, Romney 212. “The accuracy of my election forecasts depend on the accuracy of the presidential polls,” Linzer writes. ”As such, a major concern heading into Election Day is the possibility that polling firms, out of fear of being wrong, are looking at the results of other published surveys and weighting or adjusting their own results to match.”
Michael Barone, The Examiner: Romney 315, Obama 223. “Both national and target state polls show that independents, voters who don’t identify themselves as Democrats or Republicans, break for Romney.”
Ezra Klein, The Washington Post: Obama 290, Romney 248. “I have a simple rule when predicting presidential elections: The polls, taken together, are typically pretty accurate. Systemic problems, while possible, aren’t likely.”
Larry Sabato, UVA Center for Politics: Obama 290, Romney 248. “Who could have imagined that a Frankenstorm would act as a circuit-breaker on the Republican’s campaign, blowing Romney off center stage for three critical days in the campaign’s last week, while enabling Obama to dominate as presidential comforter-in-chief, assisted by his new bipartisan best friend, Gov. Chris Christie (R)?”
Josh Putnam, Davidson College: Obama 332, Romney 206. ”Everything above is based on a graduated weighted average of polls in each state conducted in 2012,” Putnam wrote in explaining his methodology. “The weighting is based on how old a poll is. The older the poll is the more it is discounted. The most recent poll is given full weight.”
Jay Cost, Weekly Standard: Romney victory. “For two reasons,” Cost writes. “(1) Romney leads among voters on trust to get the economy going again. (2) Romney leads among independents.”
Philip Klein, The Examiner: Obama 277, Romney 261. “I’ve given Romney the states that are essentially tied, in which he’s led in at least some recent polls. But in states where Romney has trailed in nearly all polls, and in some cases by a comfortable margin, I’m giving them to Obama.”
Ross Douthat, New York Times: Obama 271, Romney 267. ” In general, I think that the political class tends to overestimate the power of the Hispanic bloc, whose influence is growing more slowly than many pundits and strategists acknowledge. In general, I think that the political class tends to overestimate swing voters’ sympathy for strident social liberalism, and to imagine a lockstep support for legal abortion among female voters that doesn’t actually exist.”
Simon Jackman, Stanford University: Obama 332, Romney 206. “The model uses poll data (and house effect corrections) to generate estimates of Obama and Romney levels of support in the states (and at the national level). The modeling is done simultaneously: if you will, there are up to 52 latent quantities (e.g., Obama support in 50 states, the District of Columbia, plus the national level) moving over time, with polls giving us (noisy) snapshots as to where the latent targets might be on any given day.”
Dave Weigel, Slate: Romney 276, Obama 262. He originally had Romney winning Ohio. But, as he explained yesterday, he’s not so confident about that anymore: “That was 48 hours ago. Since then, I’ve grown more bearish on the Republicans in Ohio, as the final reliable newspaper and college polls arrive. And since then I’ve spent lots of time with different Ohio voter groups, and been surprised by the power of the Ds. So, if you like, you can unskew the prediction.”
Kenneth Bickers, University of Colorado and Kevin Berry, CU-Denver: Romney 330, Obama 208. “While many election forecast models are based on the popular vote, the model developed by Bickers and Berry is based on the Electoral College and is the only one of its type to include more than one state-level measure of economic conditions.” (This model was last updated in October.)
Jamelle Bouie, The American Prospect: Obama 303, Romney 235. “[I]f Obama wins on Tuesday, the political science on debates will have won out; they can shift the short-term situation, but they don’t fundamentally change the direction of an election.”
George Will, The Washington Post: Romney 321, Obama 217. “ I guess the wild card in what I’ve projected is I’m projecting Minnesota to go for Romney. Now, that’s the only state in the union, because Mondale held it — native son Mondale held it when Romney was — when Reagan was getting 49 states — the only state that’s voted Democratic in nine consecutive elections. But this year, there’s a marriage amendment on the ballot that will bring out the evangelicals and I think could make the difference.”
Ben Domenech, The Transom: Romney 278, Obama 260. “In sum, I see the bottom slipping out from under Obama’s feet, and a campaign hoping to hold on just long enough to salvage a slim victory, one where he is almost certain to lose the popular vote. He is underperforming among whites and independents, and particularly among those likeliest to vote. I have never believed in running the prevent defense, and Obama has been running it for months.”
Markos Moulitsas: Obama 332, Romney 206. “Currently, national polling assumes a big dropoff from registered voters to likely voters. I don’t believe that’ll be the case, and we’re certainly not seeing it in the early vote—Democratic turnout is up. And the RV models have been more accurate historically.”
Karl Rove: Romney 285, Obama 253. He’s got Romney winning Ohio, Iowa, Virginia, Colorado, and Florida.
Xu Cheng, Moodys’ Analytics: Obama 303, Romney 235. Note that this prediction was made back in February: “This prediction is tied to the Moody’s Analytics current baseline forecast for U.S. growth, which assumes that most states will continue to recover at slow to moderate speeds.”
James Pethokoukis: Romney 301, Obama 227. “Many pollsters are not catching the stratospheric GOP enthusiasm, particularly among voters of faith, in voting for Romney and Paul Ryan — not just against Obama and Joe Biden. In this way, the Bush-Kerry parallel from 2004 does not hold up”
Joe Trippi, Democratic consultant, Obama 303, Romney 235. Trippi sent in his by e-mail–he’s going with these states.
Dick Morris, FoxNews: Romney 325, Obama 213. ”It will be the biggest surprise in recent American political history,” Morris said. “It will rekindle the whole question on why the media played this race as a nailbiter where in fact Romney’s going to win by quite a bit.”
Dean Chambers, UnskewedPolls.com: Romney 275, Obama 263. “Many others in the media project very favorable maps and projections for Obama but those doing so fail to realize or accept how heavily-skewed polls distort any average or analysis that relies on them.”
A ton of predictions from CNN’s pundits. You can see them all here. Paul Begala thinks Obama will win 297-241. Ari Fleischer thinks Romney will win with “minimum 271 EVs.” And so on.
Did we miss any notable predictions? Let us know. And be sure to add yours in comments.
Update: We’ve been adding new predictions as they come in.
325 is a landslide if Romney gets it. 332 is a squeaker if Obama gets it.
And the winner (seems to be) Drew Linzer, Emory University: Obama 326, Romney 212.
On the most important day in politics this reporter proved to us, once again, that “The Spin Misters” of 24 hour news reporting have lost their marbles.
Fox News – Come on, we all know how skewed and misleading this 24 hour news channel reports, who it’s owned by and it’s agenda; put as many extremely conservative people in Washington as possible.
MSNBC- This 24 hour news channel is just as skewed as Fox News Channel, however, they have a soul.
My prediction – I have no idea what the electoral college will be at the end of the election. However, I have to believe, in the end, that American’s are going to vote for the guy who tells the truth and is trustworthy. Hum, I wonder who that guy could be???
To the UN, six times Obama stated the attack was sparked by outrage over an anti-Muslim video! For weeks, he and his staff rejected an and all suggestions the attack was launched by terrorists. The suddenly, a strategic change of sentiment in Debate 2, when he deftly pointed out to Romney – with the assistance of moderator Crowley – that he laid the Benghazi incident at the feet of terrorists in the Rose garden.
I feel for those disillusioned with the capitalistic democracy upon which our great nation was founded, and shall hold you all in disregard should we return an incapable leader to office office and stand aside and watch as our deficit again doubles, our credit rating is again downgraded, our NECESSARY entitlements finally go asunder and our nation slides over the coming fiscal cliff.
- © 1996-2012 The Washington Post
Number crunchers were right about Obama despite what pundits said
Statisticians like Nate Silver looked at all polls and concluded President Obama would win. They may change how races are predicted — and conducted.
|Nate Silver correctly called all 50 states in the electoral college. (Penguin Press / November 8, 2012)|
President Obama triumphed on Tuesday. But the biggest winner may have been math.
After decades of relying on predictions from political pundits and wildly gyrating polls, Americans saw a small band of number crunchers redefine the business of election forecasting. Armed with computer simulations and confidence in cold hard data, these self-described geeks called the presidential race and a slew of smaller contests with stunning accuracy.
Their foresight proved astonishing and provided the political class endless talking points to debate in the weeks leadng up to election day. In the process, these statisticians may have fundamentally changed the way that political campaigns are watched and conducted in America. Think of it as Moneyball, which revolutionized baseball, applied to the most important pennant race of all.
The captain of the math brigade, Nate Silver, a former baseball statistician turned New York Times blogger, correctly called 50 of 50 states in the electoral college, assuming Florida remains blue. Sam Wang, a Princeton University neuroscientist who moonlights as an election forecaster, accurately predicted that Obama would capture 51.1% of all votes cast nationwide. Drew Linzer, a political science professor at Emory University, five months ago predicted that Obama would win 332 electoral votes, which will hold up if Florida goes to Obama.
All told, about a dozen math wizards entered the political fray this campaign cycle, championing statistical methods and advanced computing power over partisan bias and conventional wisdom.
“The principle behind this movement is that numbers aren’t ideology,” said Scott Elliott, a computer engineer in North Carolina who operates the site electionprojection.com.
A deeply religious Christian conservative, Elliott voted for Mitt Romney. But his computer model predicted months ago that Obama would easily win the electoral college. Elliott correctly called every state except Florida.
“The poll data don’t come in wearing a blue shirt or a red shirt,” he said. “They are what they are.”
Like other quants in the blossoming field of election probability, Elliott depends heavily on data from the many hundreds of state and national polls taken throughout the course of the election. In simple terms, these forecasters aggregate data, average them and then use high-powered processors to run tens of thousands of simulated elections. Then they base their predictions on the most frequent outcomes of those simulations.
Each poll, conducted by groups including Gallup, Public Policy Polling and Rasmussen, might have a margin of error of 5 or more percentage points. By combining all of them, that error margin diminishes to near-invisibility, said Wang, the neuroscience professor. His simulations not only predicted Obama winning the electoral college handily, but they also nailed upsets like Heidi Heitkamp’s winning a Senate seat in North Dakota.
It is a method predicated on the belief that the more data on hand, the more accurately outcomes can be predicted. Yet Wang and others of his ilk were roundly attacked before the election for allegedly slanting the results to match their political preferences.
“At the national level, pundits were taking brickbats at us because they felt we were in the tank for Obama, but in reality, we were in the tank for getting it right,” Wang said.
Nobody caught more flak than Silver, whose FiveThirtyEight blog (named for the total number of electoral votes) became the online phenomenon of the year. Churning out new predictions and deep-dive analyses of polling methodologies on nearly a daily basis, his blog was followed religiously by political junkies.
Silver picked Obama to win from the start. Over the campaign’s final weekend, he put the president’s chances above 90%. That evoked yips of joy from Democrats, but furious cries from conservative commentators including Dick Morris who called Silver’s work skewed and predicted a “reckoning” after the election. Silver was even taken to task by his own newspaper. The New York Times public editor criticized him last month for sparring with MSNBC host Joe Scarborough. Silver challenged Scarborough to a $1,000 bet that Obama would win, after the TV personality called him an ideologue and a joke.
Scarborough didn’t take that bet. Perhaps he knew better than to challenge Silver, who stunned the baseball world in 2008 by accurately predicting that the last-place Tampa Bay Rays would turn it around and become one of the best teams in the American League. In fact, they went on to make the World Series.
“This probably does rebuke the pundits,” said Dean Chambers, a conservative who also tried his hand at computer-aided poll analysis this year. “Nate Silver was right on the mark.”
Chambers’ own calculations showed Romney winning big. But the longtime commentator and consultant erred, he said, because he didn’t take polls at face value, refusing to include some polls out of concern that they over-sampled Democrats. In other words, Chambers said, he threw out data that seemed to favor Obama too much.
“I think a lot of us should have a bit more faith in the accuracy of these polls after this,” said Chambers, who lives in Duffield, Va.
Linzer, the Emory professor, acknowledges he’s an Obama supporter. But he said that played no role in the numerous simulations he conducted this year that showed Obama winning handily. As a social scientist, he said, these kinds of models are useful for predicting a great range of outcomes based on available data.
By focusing on numbers, he said, it’s possible to overlook momentary events that seem to have great import but in the end don’t shape the election. For example, he said, Romney’s notorious “47%” comment may have momentarily moved some polls, but had a negligible effect on the final result.
And none of that, he said, came as a surprise to the candidates.
“The most sophisticated quantitative work is not happening with people like me, but by those inside the campaigns themselves,” Linzer said. He and other election quants said candidates employ high-powered math whizzes of their own to help predict outcomes and have far larger budgets than any college professor.
“Their work doesn’t show up in a blog or newspaper, but it’s their secret sauce,” he said.
Linzer predicts that many more websites like his votamatic.org will emerge in coming election cycles, and wonders whether other news outlets will adopt such a sophisticated approach. He does worry, however, that the flood of useful data could ebb because of the expense involved in producing it. In 2008, for example, about 1,700 state polls were conducted. This year, there were only 1,200.
Others decry the injection of mathematics in something as personal and heated as presidential politics. Their fear is that computers, rather than well-spoken pundits, might not only take the fun out of the races, but also change the way they’re conducted.
Wang, the Princeton professor, believes pundits and computer-aided analysts can coexist.
“It’s possible to be Homer and write about the wine-dark sea,” he said. “But sometimes you want the guy with the thermometer.”
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