Election Thoughts: Twitter and Nate Silver

The election is over and we can get on with our lives.  For me, living in Colorado meant that our television stations were nothing but ads either telling us that Romney was a bastard or that Obama was incompetent.  I know people who believe those messages and I don’t want to really talk about whether they’re right or wrong. It’s just exhausting.

I loved watching my Twitter feed on election night. I have to say that for live, unpredictable events like disasters, elections, and sports, – twitter really shines.  That said, i was also really impressed with the coverage on television.  The big board on CNN was way more informative with actual stats than any other medium. They knew where things were going down, when they were happening, and why. Twitter was snarky and fun but TV was actually helpful.

The big winner to me for this election was Nate Silver.  If you don’t know Nate, and I didn’t until a little it ago, he’s a guy who first gained recognition for developing a system for forecasting the performance of professional baseball players.  One day he woke up and wanted to the same for politicians.  Last election in 2008, he built FiveThirtyEight.com (538 is the total number of electoral votes out there) and used his crazy smart algorithms to predict, with really cool charts, who would win.  When the final votes came in, he correctly predicted the winner of 49 of the 50 state and all 35 Senate races that year.  Way closer than almost every one else.  

Remember the scene in Moneyball when all the old scouts were telling Jonah Hill and Brad Pitt that they were crazy, and the scouts needed to be able to see a player to evaluate him?  That’s pretty much exactly what happened with Nate after that. Most of the political pundits started to rant about how nobody could predict elections using analytics alone.  They were and are totally wrong – it was funny to see.

This election, the NYTImes hired Nate to run his 538 analysis in its own little section of the NYTimes.  I started following it during the week before the election and found it fascinating.  I continued to watch this posts and analysis all election night and, surprise surprise, he was pretty much exactly right again.  Among my friends, Nate Silver is the big winner of this election.  Moneyball all over again.

You Might Also Like

2 thoughts on “Election Thoughts: Twitter and Nate Silver
  1. It was funny because on the day of the election I called my dad and told him I was heading out canvassing. He was like, that’s cool and all, but Obama is definitely going to win. He had been following Silver and was totally confident in his forecast. (I loved how Jon Steward told him he was writing him off for missing North Dakota). I will be following his predictions from now on!

  2. I freakin’ love this thing Nate Silver made, from soup to nuts: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/11/02/us/politics/paths-to-the-white-house.html
    After the election, people on my twitter feed were all like, “So. Nate Silver won, right?” He really was the clear winner.

Comments are closed.