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Posts Tagged ‘polls’

Andrew Sullivan is effusive in his praise of Five Thirty Eight, the polling aggregation and analysis website created by Nate Silver:

The only state their model got wrong was Indiana, where they expected a narrow Obama loss. He won the state by a hair. Nate Silver owned this election on the polling front: one young guy with a background in baseball stats beat out the mainstream media in a couple of months. And he beat out the old web: I mean if you consider the total joke of Drudge’s recent coverage and compare it with Silver’s, you realize that the web is a brutal competitive medium where only the best survive – and they are only as good as their last few posts.

If you want to know why newspapers are dying: that’s why. They’re just not as good as the web at its best. This election proved that beyond any doubt. For the record, I think the WSJ and the WaPo and the NYT and the Anchorage Daily News rocked in this election. Most of the rest of the old media: not so much.

I completely agree. Five Thirty Eight revolutionized the polling analysis business and was far and away my favourite haunt during the elections.

There’s something else that I am happy about. Nate’s detailed posts were full of conditional probabilities, Bayesian analysis and related tools; yet, they were presented in a layman’s language. Modern probability is one of the core ingredients of rational thought. In its concise and practical demonstration of the power of numbers, Five Thirty Eight, I suspect, has taught a lot of people the basics of probability and the importance of cool, rational thought.

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According to the latest Five-Thirty-Eight projections, the Democrats’ odds of getting a filibuster-proof 60 seats in the senate are getting longer (currently Nate gives a less than 25% chance of this happening).

A filibuster proof Senate majority by a party that also has control of the Presidency and the House is always a disaster. I am glad this looks unlikelier by the day.

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The polling seems to be getting stronger for Obama with every passing day. Five Thirty Eight currently gives Obama a 95.8% chance of winning the election, and that is after accounting for some tightening of the polls in the coming weeks.

More astoundingly, no fewer than seven current polls show Obama with a double-digit lead nationally.

Nate Silver writes:

It’s fairly unusual for a candidate to have such a sustained run of momentum so deep into the campaign cycle. And it does appear to be real momentum, with some real feedback loops: the worse McCain’s poll numbers become, the more desperate his campaign looks, and the more desperate his campaign looks, the worse his poll numbers become.

McCain now has to go on a run of his own, a large enough run to wipe at least 8 points off of Obama’s lead, and perhaps more like 9 or 10 to cover his inferior position in the Electoral College and the votes that Obama is banking in early and absentee balloting. It is imperative that McCain does not just draw tomorrow night’s debate, does not just win a victory on points, but emerges with a resounding victory, the sort that leaves the spin room gasping for air. Failing that, we are getting into dead girl, live boy territory.

The question is no longer whether Obama will win, but by how much. The electoral college has a size of 540 EVs. If things continue the way they are, Obama will end up winning close to 400 EVs which would be a stunning landslide.

McCain has to completely destroy Obama in tomorrow’s debate to get his campaign back on track. Unfortunately for him, that is about as likely as Sarah Palin writing a dissertation on the theory of evolution.

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If you go to Las Vegas and gamble, you will probably lose money. If you keep betting, you will certainly lose money and a lot of it. That’s because everything from blackjack to roulette to slot machines have negative expectation, meaning you are guaranteed to lose in the long term.

Not so with real life events, like the outcome of a election. The thing is, unlike in casinos, we do have a lot of relevant information here — opinion polls, previous trends, demographics, events. You would think that most betters (and consequently the betting company setting the odds) will take these into account. The reason that does not happen is that most people are simultaneously passionate about their preferred candidate and politically ill-informed. Even those who take a look at the opinion polls rarely do it at sites like Five Thirty Eight, but instead rely on a few polls highlighted by the main-stream media. For instance, everyone knows today that Obama is almost surely winning the election and very likely also winning red states like Virginia and Florida. The thing is, these facts were obvious even three weeks ago, if you did the appropriate trend-line analyses. But when I bet some money (actually quite a bit) then, I got astoundingly good odds on Florida and pretty good ones even on the overall result!

So the purport of my message is this: If you are a political junkie like me, bet. You will make a lot of money at the expense of less-informed mortals.

And since I am bragging, let me remind the reader of two predictions I made a fair while ago, at a time when it must have appeared rather bold. Now though, I think even Rush Limbaugh would agree with it.

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Two predictions

McCain will never again hold the lead in either the Gallup or the Rasmussen daily tracking polls.

The election won’t even be that close — Obama will win by at least 30 EVs.

[Update, October 11]: My first prediction has held good so far. As for my second, I now think Obama will win by at least 100 EVs.

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Check out the graphic above. Obama received a big bounce from the Dem convention, but then, McCain went..whoosh! Sarah Palin is the GOP dream — a potatoes-and-meat, ultra-glib, sexy, super-charismatic, Republican version of Obama.

As Althouse said:

It’s as if some mad right-wing scientists designed and built an android to counter all the things that Obama is. Can she be real? Can it be that there was this actual human entity, on ice in Alaska, waiting for this moment to be thawed out and set loose in the lower 48?

But things are not as bad for Obama as the graphic might make it look. What has happened is that Palin has energized the Republican base, so that the red states that Obama was going to lose by 10 points, he will now lose by 30. However Obama does not need to win those states, what he needs for a majority is the Kerry states + Iowa + Colorado + New Mexico. At the time of writing, the polls show Obama ahead in all the above states.

So, all Obama needs to do is concentrate on the above states (especially PA, MI and CO) as well as make a serious effort for Florida (which has a huge 27 electoral college votes, and right now is barely leaning Republican). Also, he would be be better off if his campaign stops attacking Palin and instead releases some crisp, succint ads, highlighting key issues that voters care about (e.g. the fact that 95% of Americans get a bigger tax break from Obama’s plan than McCain’s). If he can drive home these messages successfully, and stand strong in the three debates, he will still be the favourite on November 4.

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I love Nate Silver!

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