Just how much will the NYT end up missing Nate Silver this fall?
In 2012, Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight accounted for nearly a fifth of all the traffic generated at the end of the general election cycle, now Silver is at ESPN and doing as much sports as politics
As we inch closer to the time when most everyone can agree that the general election has really started, I think many political junkies (and media people) will start missing Nate Silver’s work with The New York Times. In 2012, Silver’s FiveThirtyEight branded stories reportedly accounted for 20 percent of the NYT’s traffic during the final weeks of the Presidential race.
Shortly after the election Silver would be gone.
“I don’t think Nate Silver ever really fit into the Times culture and I think he was aware of that,” said Margaret Sullivan, then the paper’s public editor. “He was, in a word, disruptive. Much like the Brad Pitt character in the movie “Moneyball” disrupted the old model of how to scout baseball players, Nate disrupted the traditional model of how to cover politics.”
Disrupting the culture at the NYT appears to be a real issue, because now Sullivan, who most everything thinks did an outstanding job as public editor, is now gone and soon will be writing for The Washington Post.
It was Silver’s self-defined role to set numbers to the Presidential race, putting percentages on the likelihood that one candidate would win. At the end, despite some conflicting polling numbers, Silver said President Obama had a roughly nine-in-ten chance of a victory over Mitt Romney. That means he didn’t see the race as that close, and in the end he was right.
After the election, Silver looked back at the performance of the polling firms and rated them. At the bottom was Gallup.
“In late October, Gallup consistently showed Mr. Romney ahead by about six percentage points among likely voters, far different from the average of other surveys,” Silver wrote shortly after the November 2012 election. “Gallup’s final poll of the election, which had Mr. Romney up by one point, was slightly better, but still identified the wrong winner in the election. Gallup has now had three poor elections in a row.”
And now Gallup is out of the polling business, at least as far as Presidential races is concerned.
“We believe to put our time and money and brainpower into understanding the issues and priorities is where we can most have an impact,” Gallup editor-in-chief Frank Newport said when the decision was announced.
Also, Silver found that, in general, polling firms had a Republican bias. Of the over 20 polls Silver looked at that had at least five polls out in the field, only four over estimated the vote for Obama, with the worst performing poll not even used by Silver in his own calculations.
One of the polling firms that showed poorly as Rasmussen Reports, a firm seen by many as leaning heavily towards the Republicans.
“For the second consecutive election — the same was true in 2010 — Rasmussen Reports polls had a statistical bias toward Republicans, overestimating Mr. Romney’s performance by about four percentage points, on average,” Silver said in his call it like it is manner. “Polls by American Research Group and Mason-Dixon also largely missed the mark. Mason-Dixon might be given a pass since it has a decent track record over the longer term, while American Research Group has long been unreliable.”
Now that more polls are being released that ask about a possible match-up between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump we can start to see the differences that are there between the polls. Here is what was released within the past two weeks (listed most recent to oldest):
|Rasmussen Reports:||Trump 41 – Clinton 39||(Trump +2)|
|IBD/TIPP:||Clinton 47 – Trump 40||(Clinton +7)|
|GWU/Battleground:||Clinton 46 – Trump 43||(Clinton +3)|
|USA Today/Suffolk:||Clinton 50 – Trump 39||(Clinton +11)|
|NBC News/WSJ:||Clinton 50 – Trump 39||(Clinton +11)|
|Emerson:||Clinton 55 – Trump 36||(Clinton +19)|
|Fox News:||Clinton 48 – Trump 41||(Clinton +7)|
|CBS News:||Clinton 50 – Trump 40||(Clinton +10)|
Is there a pattern? Does the latest Rasmussen Reports show bias, or a trend?
Clearly, it is way, way, way too soon to tell. But it is sad that Nate Silver won’t be at the NYT to tell us what he thinks on a daily basis. But then again, that is the NYT’s mistake – and frankly, they appear to be making quite a few of those lately.
Meanwhile, Silver has his own brand over at ESPN where he has created a strange brew: part sports, part politics. This clearly reflects Silver’s own tastes. But now he has his own team, so many of those who four years ago regularly clicked on the NYT’s website will no be clicking on ESPN’s.
Of course, let’s not give Silver too much due: in September he said that Donald Trump had a five percent chance of winning the Republican nomination. Ouch.