The Schadenfreude Pie I Make This Week Will Be Dedicated to Right-Wing Pundits

Particularly the ones who shat all sorts of bricks in the direction of FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver. Nate Silver, who applied statistical modeling to the polls to see how likely it was that either Obama or Romney would win the White House, consistently had Obama as the most likely to win — in fact, he never not had Obama as the favorite for re-election. Silver’s not the only stat nerd to say this (for example, my personal favorite electoral stat nerd, Princeton’s Sam Wang, did the same thing and was even more confident of the probability of Obama’s re-election), but he’s the stat nerd whose blog is hosted by the New York Times. So as election day approached and Silver’s site continued to show confidence in the probability of an Obama victory, the right-wing pundits decided to use him as their generic piñata for everything they hated about the polls not conforming to their own hopes. Some folks even decided to “unskew” the polls to make them more palatable.

Then along came election day and the actual electoral map conformed to Nate Silver’s probability map (almost) exactly. We have to wait for Florida to officially drop into the Obama tally, but once it does, Silver’s probability map is gold. He called it true, as did Wang. This will, of course, be the cue for the right-wing pundits whose own predictions — “based on their experience” rather than rigorous statistical analysis — were wildly off base, to complain that it’s the media who skewed the results to meet its own predictions, nevermind that the pundits themselves are part of the media they are griping about, because it’s different for them, you see.

It’s not just reality that has a well-known liberal bias, guys. Now it’s math, too.

If there’s one thing that I would fervently hope for the right wing of this country in the aftermath of this election, it’s that it finally stops viewing the world from the warm, safe confines of its own ass. Or if that can’t be managed — and why should it be? There’s money to be made inside the warm, safe confines of the right wing’s own ass — that everyone else truly and definitively recognizes that much of the right-wing punditry of the country simply does not have the ability to accurately model the world as it actually is, as opposed to how they want it to be.

I understand no one likes having to face reality, when reality doesn’t give you what you want. But in the case of Silver, Wang, et al, modeling reality didn’t mean “Making guesses based on what I want to happen,” or (in the case of the now hilariously named unskewedpolls.com) “starting from a political point of view and then fiddling with things to get the desired result.” It meant “using a transparent system of statistical analysis and accurately reporting what it tells us on the probability front while simultaneously pointing out where errors can and do occur.” Strangely enough, it makes a difference.

In point of fact, neither math nor reality have a liberal bias. However, it might be accurate to say that liberals may be more comfortable with both math and reality. Or at least, they were in this election cycle.

84 thoughts on “The Schadenfreude Pie I Make This Week Will Be Dedicated to Right-Wing Pundits

  1. This paragraph, sir:

    If there’s one thing that I would fervently hope for the right wing of this country in the aftermath of this election, it’s that it finally stops viewing the world from the warm, safe confines of its own ass. Or if that can’t be managed — and why should it be? There’s money to be made inside the warm, safe confines of the right wing’s own ass — that everyone else truly and definitively recognizes that much of the right-wing punditry of the country simply does not have the ability to accurately model the world as it actually is, as opposed to how they want it to be.

    Is art. The Foxification of the right wing is, hopefully on the way out.

  2. Great piece. But my concern is, since the right wing pundits are demonstrably incapable of removing themselves from the place you mentioned, what are they going to try next to continue to fool themselves (and try to fool the rest of us) that the world really does conform to their beliefs?

  3. We have to wait for Florida to officially drop into the Obama tally, but once it does, Silver’s probability map is gold.

    Silver held Florida as a 50/50 tie in his final prediction; he called it perfectly.

  4. Attributed to D.P. Moynihan (although Wikiquote has a cite attributing it to James Schlesinger about 22 years earlier): Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.

  5. Places like bettors.com and Intrade had Obama winning. They let none of the “touchy-feely” input that even the national polls tend to have.

    If you’re willing to bet money on something, you’d better be right.

  6. John-
    I think it would be more descriptive to say that, in general, those left of the increasingly right-skewing center in America have more respect for reality, rather than a higher comfort level therewith.

  7. It’s not that facts and math have a liberal bias; it’s that conservatives don’t believe in facts and math. (At least, conservative pundits and politicians don’t appear to. It’s not true of all conservative voters, though it seems to be for the great majority of them.)

  8. I believe Nate Silver assigned a high probability of Obama losing one state that he won in 2008. That turned out to be Indiana, last time I saw the map. So as far as I can see, he nailed it. Not almost, but exactly. Good thing for us that Nate Silver uses his powers for good only, and not for evil.

  9. Political fantasy has a conservative bias. This is because the conservatives are writing most of the political fantasies.

  10. You can believe what ever you want, that is called faith. Math and Science are called facts because they are not based on feelings, opinions, or hopes. Go math nerds!!!

  11. It’s not just reality that has a well-known liberal bias, guys. Now it’s math, too.

    Reality’s just a subset of math, so that’s no surprise. Or it shouldn’t be, unless you’ve failed at science and rational thinking, a failing too many of the Republicans have demonstrated repeatedly, loudly, and proudly.

  12. “Math” graphic credit/source: http://xkcd.com/1131/
    Mouse-over comment: As of this writing, the only thing that’s ‘razor-thin’ or ‘too close to call’ is the gap between the consensus poll forecast and the result.”

  13. I am far from the first to note this, but it is alarming how much the fragmentation of information sources fragments people’s understanding of the facts. Most reporting is not balanced, because reporting is done by humans and humans have opinions. Increasingly people live in their own little ideological world and only listen to information from sources that reinforce their prejudices. This isn’t a conservative problem, it happens in every niche where people think they are enlightened and the rest of the people in the world have something wrong with them. It has probably always been this way, but the huge sea of “information” we have at our disposal and our ability to filter what we take in because of the array of options is exacerbating this human tendency to tribalism.

  14. one minor quibble with the Atlantic headline. The MSM represents the rightwing pundits. They feed them and give them all the air they want. Nowhere, and that includes the dreaded MSNBC and the Nice Polite Republican radio, do pundits that adhere to reality have a place at the table. The so-called liberal media is over run with the same clowns making the same ‘gut feeling’ sorts of sludge public.

    If there really was an FSM in the heavens these morons would all die from methane poisoning unless a proctologist could reach them with a breathing tube

  15. Which ties in nicely to my personal favorite XKCD t-shirt: “SCIENCE: it works, bitches.”
    Of course swap out “science” for “math” in this case.

  16. Unskewedpolls.com’s main hypothesis throughout the campaign seemed to be that the polls were over-sampling democrats (and under-sampling republicans). It would appear that the election itself over-sampled democrats in exactly the way the polls predicted. Who would have thought it?

  17. You know, pundits are pundits no matter which side they root for. Propaganda is still propaganda no matter who it supports. And statistics can always be filtered, skewed, and interpreted. The important thing is to know who or what you support and why–without dismissing the counter argument because you don’t like it.
    That said, kudos to Nate Silver on his accurate analysis.

  18. The problem with assuming the polls are skewed is that the smart pollsters realize that if their polls deliver inaccurate predictions, people will stop trusting them. Therefore, the ones that want to be taken seriously (e.g. all polling companies not called Rasmussen) have great incentives to make sure their polls are accurate and representative of the electorate.

    Nate Silver is a very smart man, but Jim Caplan is right that Silver’s success was based on the quality of the data. (Ironically, had that data been skewed, Silver would have taken the fall for something he had no control over.)

  19. I wish i could remember where I read this – ‘If pundits were held responsible for the inaccuracy of their predictions, they’d all be out of a job.’

  20. Couldn’t agree more about Sam Wang, I call him the thinking geek’s Nate Silver….Silver is good, obviously, but his models show he’s not a scientist, like Wang, as they include variables that have no predictive power.

  21. People who are looking at whether Silver’s projection of an Obama win in FL as the final test of its accuracy are still sort of missing the point. As others have observed, the result of flipping a coin doesn’t tell you if you were correct in guessing there was a 50-50 shot of heads.

    Here are the more relevant facts, looking only at the presidential campaign: As of right now (12:30 pm), results for the 50 states were within the 538 forecast margin of error in all but 2 states, Hawaii and West Virginia, where in both cases the winner did better than expected by a hair more than the MOE. That’s a success rate of 96%. Given that 538′s margin of error confidence level is 95% (i.e., the margin of error is only supposed to accurately capture 95% of potential outcomes), this is slightly better than should be expected. 538 was actually more accurate than it predicted it would be.

    As to any kind of systematic bias: In 21 cases, Mr. Obama outperformed the prediction, in 26 states he underperformed, and in 3 he hit it exactly (to 3 significant figures). In 21 cases, Mr. Romney outperformed the prediction, in 28 he underperformed, and he was even in 1.

    Yep, you read that right: in four states, both candidates received less than the projected percentage of total votes. So if there’s any systematic bias in the polling, it’s not against either major party–it’s against 3rd party candidates and write-ins.

  22. @David
    I agree. Note how Scalzi lumps the “right wing of this country” into its own collective ass. That’s painting the enemy with a broad brush right there. His personal bias is truly showing its color in this post.
    However, I’m sure Mr. Scalzi is quite self aware of his own bias. I have been reading this blog for about a year, and he does seem to have carefully considered his political position, and he makes no apologies for it. Good. It’s his blog; he can write what he likes.
    I read it because it is always good to examine the opposing argument to see if you might be wrong.

  23. @SkyFisher The Right is all put into the same collective ass because they all repeat endlessly the same party line over and over again even when its pointed out to them that they are factually and objectively wrong. That is the whole point, when your party says 2 + 2 = 3, and your first response is to defend why they are saying that, instead of just agreeing its wrong, well then you get stuffed into the same “collective ass”.

  24. Thanks for the reminder: I just finished archiving the important pages from unskewedpolls.com in case they decide to make the site disappear down the memory hole.

  25. @notsont
    I believe you are guilty of the very sin you rant about. You are repeating much of what the liberal propaganda says about us conservatives. THINK MAN!
    In keeping with Mr. Scalzi’s original point: statistically and factually speaking, not ALL conservatives are non-thinking, blind robots. Not EVERYTHING conservatives support is evil.
    Likewise, not EVERYTHING liberals support is evil.
    One thing this election should make clear: Americans are within a few percentage points (single digits) of being evenly split in opinion. Therefore, to get ANY meaningful work done, WE WILL HAVE TO WORK TOGETHER!
    This most likely will require *gasp* COMPROMISE. Also, BOTH sides will have to admit that what the other side says has some merit.
    The greatest evil of the media is not its bias, it is its attempt to polarize the country into warring sides to make for more sensationalist reporting.

  26. @Matt W:
    Silver held Florida as a 50/50 tie in his final prediction; he called it perfectly.

    Actually, on the final morning, he showed Florida tilted towards Obama by a fraction of a percent. Which is EXACTLY where it stands this morning, so — “perfectly”!

    On my way to work yesterday morning, I drove past one of the Miami-Dade polling places and mentally saluted everyone in the multi-hour line wrapped around the building, not to mention everyone who was working there for any part of that insanely long day.

  27. You may not realize it but your implying democrats have not been compromising in the past 4 years, if you really believe that and i’m not misreading it, then you are deluded. I know not everything conservatives support is evil. I AM conservative I voted for Reagan and bush and Bush jr. first term, this was before I had the ability to fact check through the internet. As far as I can see there are no conservative republicans left, they have all shipped off to whackyland if not there themselves they do not condemn what others in the party are saying and doing, which to me is just as bad.

  28. not ALL conservatives are non-thinking, blind robots. Not EVERYTHING conservatives support is evil.

    Good to know, but I’d like to hear some examples.

  29. I think a bit of Heinlein is appropriate:

    ““What are the facts? Again and again and again – what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what “the stars foretell,” avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable “verdict of history” – what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!”

    If nothing else comes out of this election, then perhaps this insight will start to sink in and disrupt the horrible Culture War we have waged against each other for decades: Facts Matter

    So follow RAHs advice, turn off those pundits and start listening to fact checkers and analysts that show verifiable results. Oh, and try to agree what the facts are. If we can’t agree on the facts, we can’t come to an understanding.

  30. @SkyFisher

    Of course, given that Dems won the presidency and a bit more of the Senate, I would expect more to fall on the Dem side than on the Repub side.

  31. I disagreed with Scalzi with him picking NH for Romney for one reasons: We in New England know what kind of politician Romney is. He was not the kind to excite conservatives or liberals which why I knew he wouldn’t win NH. No one likes him up here.

  32. Unfortunately, in many places today, including some of the morning shows, the deniers are out in force. I have even heard some say that the election was stolen. Although the only video I’ve seen was this:
    http://www.mediaite.com/online/video-of-irregular-voting-machine-goes-viral-after-being-posted-on-reddit/
    (it showed votes “flipping” from Obama to Romney).

    One gem I caught was this however:
    http://www.mediaite.com/tv/kilmeade-reacts-to-poll-showing-57-swayed-by-sandy-we-have-shallowest-country-in-the-history-of-man/

    Like I said, full mode denial.

  33. I just looked at unskewedpolls.com for the first time. My eyes are still burning. And that’s without reading anything (although the few bits I could get myself to read have been a fine bellylaugh).

    When we arrange to send their foreign policy back to the 80s, can we also send their crap website designs back to the 90s?

  34. This most likely will require *gasp* COMPROMISE. Also, BOTH sides will have to admit that what the other side says has some merit.

    One side implemented their opponent’s health care plan from the 1990s. One side said they were willing to make cuts to causes dear to them if the other side did the same. One side said they’d be willing to mix tax cuts in some places with tax hikes in others four years running. One side agreed with the other’s proposal to a surge in Afghanistan. One side has agreed to large parts of national defense spending bills. That side held or gained their ground last night.

    The other side has, since January 21 of 2009, refused to compromise or admit their opponents’ ideas had merit on almost everything. The other side refuses to authorize previously unanimously-supported bills on hate crimes and domestic violence purely because of gay people. The other side holds up executive appointments for months at a time for no given reason. The other side protects members of its caucus (including the candidate for Vice President) that claim that there are types of rape that are OK, or that children born of rape are a gift from God. That side failed to make gains at all last night.

    Sensing a pattern yet?

  35. I admit I was a severe skeptic of Nate Silver’s modeling. But results matter. He clearly called it (more or less) correctly. I agree that there are a lot of political speculators on the Right who have a long, dark night of the soul ahead for them. I think everyone who was pushing hard for Romney is in a daze right now. I know I am. And if this makes the John Scalzis of the world squee with delight, so be it. I like to think I can realize when I have been PWN3D, and last night, I was PWN3D. Hat’s off to Nate Silver for running the numbers and predicting to precision. I scoffed. I scoff no more.

  36. Nate Silver is a very smart man, but Jim Caplan is right that Silver’s success was based on the quality of the data. (Ironically, had that data been skewed, Silver would have taken the fall for something he had no control over.)

    Strangely enough, Nate Silver used science to determine which data was more or less skewed and adjusted the results. Which is what polling is all about. There was little to no “risk” that the data was skewed. The data WAS skewed and it was properly used, rather than blindly obeyed.

    This is why Nate Silver (and Wang) nailed the predictions and fox news failed completely.
    Fox was either intentionally ignoring reality or lying about what it new was true, in an attempt to persuade that fox “reality” was more true than actual reality. It is classic propaganda and I am fine with that. The trap at fox, is that they were preaching to the converted. No one else listens to their sermons.

  37. It is very dangerous to discount polling data that comes from minority voters because you “think” they won’t vote. There is a big reality gap in the Republican Party when it comes to demographics. If they don’t stop discounting Blacks and Hispanics, they will continue to fail. All they need to do is look at census data (whoops! Math, again) to see that the electorate is decreasingly white men and increasingly minority or multi-racial. You can’t pin your electoral hopes on a dying demographic. And yet, what I am hearing from Republican pundits today is that Romney wasn’t conservative enough. If they continue on this path, they will be marginalized by failing to understand who is voting and why.

  38. SkyFisher: The greatest evil of the media is not its bias, it is its attempt to polarize the country into warring sides to make for more sensationalist reporting.

    Bwuh???

    So when Republicans rejected their own health care reform proposal once Obama proposed it, when they pledged to do everything in their power (including setting the country on fire) to turn Obama into a one-term president, when they said pregnancy from rape was God’s will, that wasn’t the Republican’s fault? It was the media’s fault for reporting it?

  39. The Heinlein quote is nice, but the system inputs were poll results, which are estimates of facts.

    One can accuse pollsters of skewing, but if they want customers the following year they would be well advised to try to get it right. Generating unskewed polls isn’t easy, and when nearly all of the people who are called hang up on the pollsters, I suppose one has to somehow estimate whether those who hang up are likely to vote differently.

    I do find myself wondering if Silver’s 90/10 probability is really more accurate than Intrade’s 70/30 since the fact of Obama’s victory doesn’t really prove either one wrong. If silver had actually offered wagers at his odds, would he have had takers among his competitors.

    For that matter if Romney had won, I suppose we would have a big batch of articles about how Silver was wrong, but if Silver’s model is correct it could have happened one time in 10.

  40. I’ve been listening to public radio pretty much non-stop for the past few hours, and the overwhelming response is delight–not necessarily that Obama won, but that we now have “a fact-biased electorate.” These folks are over the moon. There have been at least six professors of science on as guests, discussing statistics and math. I foresee a distinct shift in how politics is discussed and reported in the media, over the next few years. Or is that merely my hope?

  41. Mike – Odds-makers do not set the odds so that they will be correct the corresponding percentage of the time. I’m simplifying, but mostly they set the odds so that they get even action on both sides. Because the public has a bias, generally, this means odds-makers win money, on average.

  42. In point of fact, neither math nor reality have a liberal bias. However, it might be accurate to say that liberals may be more comfortable with both math and reality. Or at least, they were in this election cycle. [emphasis added]

    Precisely. In 2004 the roles were reversed exactly. The Democrats were all screaming that the polls over-sampled Republicans and were therefore incorrect, and that the low-ball poll numbers were threatening to depress voter turnout and define rather than reflect reality.

    There’s absolutely nothing in the 2012 pundit-vs-pollster “debate” that has a damn thing to do with politics or party. The losers always shoot the messenger, regardless of party affiliation.

  43. @David Whether you are conservative or liberal or something else, if you cannot come up with any examples on your own of someone on the other side who is not evil or “non-thinking,” or anything someone on the other side says that has any merit at all, you are part of the problem. That is the reason we can’t reach comprimise, because both sides insist the other side is talking nonsense and has no merit. And so we don’t listen to each other, and over the cliff we all go because we are too blind to see that our neighbor is not the moron we insist he must be for not seeing things our way.

  44. Mike, I think we largely agree but I see poll results as usable facts when you account for error bars, potential bias, and sampling methods. That they were used to create successful models by analysts such as Wang, Silver, and Obama’s campaign means that for all intents and purpose those estimates were facts. Measuring and cutting an eight foot board into eight one foot sections results in the “fact” that you now have eight one foot sections of board. However, it is an almost certainty that there are slight variations in those lengths so that most of the sections aren’t exactly one foot long. In the same way, even severely biased polling data can be factored into an analysis and accurate models can be built if enough diverse data is available. I believe a large part of why Obama won was because they had a more analytical view of the facts and crafted their campaign strategy around those facts. Everything from message to boots on the ground was planned based on the best facts and models they could build.

    I wouldn’t pay that much attention to Silver’s 90-10 prediction probability. As you alluded, you can’t really test it. Instead I would pay attention to how accurately his model predicted each state’s voting percentage and outcome. By that measure, it was scarily accurate.

    Beyond polls, look at the emphasis the Obama team put on fact checks in many of their TV ads and in the debates. Even something as simple as the “it doesn’t add up” lines from Clinton’s convention speech and later picked up by Obama on the stump had an effect. Over all the Obama team tried to use facts to persuade in addition to their use of facts for planning. As David Brin pointed out several times, Obama was the one who kept bringing up the importance of Science (the mother of all fact oriented fields) in the debates. Obama won because he had a better grasp and use of the facts.

    It is my sincere hope that politicians and pundits from all sides understand that facts matter. Ditto for the electorate.

  45. As a STEM educator (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics for you liberal arts types) I hope this highlights the importance of using and trusting data. I think many of the issues can be addressed if we take this mindset.

    I have yet to hear anybody ask the question “What are the optimal tax rates for the current economy?” Instead, we hear people arguing about fairness vs. job creation and politicians throwing out meaningless numbers.

    I have never heard anybody ask the question “Which healthcare option would have the best effect on the economy as a whole?” I realize that is not a very humanizing question, but it should still be asked. That would go a long way toward getting the system on track, or at least elevating the debate above “death panels”.

    I’m hoping that people will start to notice that the next step in the development of the information age is upon us. The information is available, and now it must be summarized into a useful form. People like Nate Silver and Hans Rosling are doing good work in that area. I am optimistic that we will eventually filter out the noise.

  46. if you cannot come up with any examples on your own of someone on the other side who is not evil or “non-thinking,” or anything someone on the other side says that has any merit at all, you are part of the problem.

    Uh, wait, you’re asserting that there are some Republicans who are non-evil, but you can’t actually come up with examples? That’s not a good argument.

  47. @David, I am only talking about the people in congress, I don’t care whether my neighbor is a republican or not. The republicans have voted as a single entity for a long time now, and as long as they continue to do so they will be painted with the same brush.

    While I will say I do not believe all republicans are crazy, I still can not fathom how they can believe things that go against objective reality. I know there are plenty of people who believe crazy things on all sides. But saying things like “Obama is crashing/has crashed the economy” is demonstrably false, its not even slightly false its so far from actual reality that you actually have to put blinders on to believe it.

  48. A couple of things. First, is it fair to say that conservative pundits have their collective heads up their collective asses? Yes, they were all wrong about their predictions, but they are not paid to make accurate predictions. They are paid to lift the spirits of the conservative base. It’s quite possible that Noonan, Will, Brooks, et al. actually thought Romney’s chances were long, but predicted he would win anyway because that was their job.

    I’ve also been thinking a lot about the differences between predictions and probabilities. We can say that predictions based on the probabilities of Silver and others were spot on, but we can’t say (as other commenters have noted) that the probabilities were accurate. And by that, I don’t mean the actual probability that Obama was going to win, which was almost certainly higher than what Silver predicted, but the probability given the available polling data that Obama would win. While we can’t say for sure that Silver was right, given how well his predictions fared, we can say that he was _probably_ right. In fact, I’m waiting for him to crunch the numbers and tells us how likely it was that his probabilities were correct given the outcomes.

  49. @SkyFisher: If you’re a “conservative” that supports other political conservatives, well you may not believe untrue things and the liars who promote them, but you enable and support them. Real fiscal conservatives are Democrats.

    Compromise is neither necessary nor advisable. When dealing with adversaries who are completely wrong, the appropriate response is education, and confrontation, not compromise. The so-called “fiscal cliff” can happen, can make sure that the rich pay part of their share of the cost of civilization and can pretty much balance the budget in a stroke. If Republicans don’t want that to happen, it’s up to them to persuade Democrats that they have alternatives worthy of consideration. Another Ryan budget that tries to destroy government will be vetoed. In the past four years, the Democrats tried again and again to make compromises with the Republicans, only to find Republicans take any offer of conciliation as a sign of weakness and an opening for more and more extreme demands, so it’s disingenuous for the Republicans to be asking for “compromise”. It’s up to Republicans to show they have something other that gridlock and denialism.

  50. Quoth kthuga, “Mike – Odds-makers do not set the odds so that they will be correct the corresponding percentage of the time. I’m simplifying, but mostly they set the odds so that they get even action on both sides. Because the public has a bias, generally, this means odds-makers win money, on average.”

    Part right. They do set the odds so that they get even action on both sides, but they make money on the vig.

  51. Nobody, including Silver, thought Indiana was going to stay in Obama’s column. It was a fluke last time, and even with Mourdock losing Lugar’s safe seat it stayed with Romney. It was North Carolina that was a swing state that Obama won last time, and lost this time (as predicted by Silver).

  52. Silver was wrong. Unless he can predict the weather (in which cade he is a witch), he failed to account for the Sandy Bump that put Obama over the top in seversl states.

  53. Silver was wrong. Unless he can predict the weather (in which cade he is a witch), he failed to account for the Sandy Bump that put Obama over the top in seversl states.

    Translation “I don;t like facts and you can’t make me listen!!!!11!! lalalalalalala!”

  54. This schandenfruede pie you speak of with such charm. Was this served weekly at the school you and Josh attended? Your blog and his TPM blog are the only places I have stumbled across this very unusual and unique word. ( I have read your earlier posts explaining the origin and meaning.) I just find it interesting that both or your blogs have used the word on the same day. http://2012.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/11/democratic-schadenfreude-gay-rights-allen-west-karl-rove-donald-trump.php?ref=fpb

  55. To the various posts above, Mr. Silver was not “predicting” anything. He was aggregating data from the various polls. By using that sneaky “math” and “statistics” stuff and not “unskewing” anything or “interpreting the polls” he was attempting to uncover what the data indicated about the voting public at large. These were not predictions, they were closer to calculating “if the vote was held right now, here is how it would come out”. The percentages were more along the line of him indicating his “marging of error”.

  56. @Chris Sears: There’s a single very good reason that no politician has asked what healthcare system would most benefit the economy. It’s that anyone paying even halfway attention would recoil in horror and disgust, and then that politician would suffer the consequences. There are things we do for profit, and then there are things that fall under the umbrella of public weal, and how we care for the sick and the poor *should* be in the latter category. We already have doctors in it for money, insurance companies in it for money, and pharmaceutical companies in it for money — that’s how we got here in the first place. A step back to “some things we do because it makes us decent people in a decent country” is welcome.

  57. WIth respect to general innumeracy, I can’t remember where I read it now but somebody a few weeks ago thought that this was a slam-dunk argument:
    “All the gambling websites are giving better odds on Romney, so obviously they all think he’s going to win.”
    I could only boggle at that, and when I saw an astonishing amount of high-fiving of it in the comments, I didn’t bother trying to explain the fractal levels of wrongness that were happening there.

  58. Silver was wrong. Unless he can predict the weather (in which cade he is a witch)

    You do realize that “predicting” weather (aka making a forecast) is a science that bases most of the predictive power on available data points that form a trend, right? That is more or less what Silver was doing with polls.

    he failed to account for the Sandy Bump that put Obama over the top in seversl states.

    Here’s the thing: People were predicting the effects of Sandy several days out. Using that science stuff, there were several expected predictions of the track of the storm. Thus the ability to warn people to prepare for the worst. And here’s another thing: Obama’s percentages in Nate’s model started moving upward before Sandy. The same thing happened with Romney and the first debate. Nate even wrote posts pointing both of those out after their respective trends showed up. SCIENCE!

    But I guess that’s the modern conservative movement in a nutshell–science and math are indistinguishable from witchcraft, because they don’t know how it works and don’t bother to find out.

  59. We shouldn’t try to compromise on every point of every issue. There are beliefs each of us holds to which we should hold tightly. On the other hand, if we paint the other person as evil, we remove the likelihood of compromise on anything. There are evil people. They are not a part of the mainstream American political scene. What we have instead are people on all sides who have stopped listening to each other, and stopped respecting the people on the other side as people who might have reasons for what they believe that go beyond being bad people or being stupid. We insist that we must win on every point of every issue. As a result, we all lose.

  60. This most likely will require *gasp* COMPROMISE. Also, BOTH sides will have to admit that what the other side says has some merit.

    Gee, Skyfisher, I really wish you’d tell the GOP’s congressional leadership that, because you’re drawing a self-serving false-equivalence there. Senate Minority leader Mitch Mc’Connell stands up in front of a conservative audience at the Heritage Foundation and says “our number one political priority is making Barack Obama a one-term President” and it’s Obama and congressional Democrats who are “failing to compromise”? Really? What would make the right happy – Obama flipping parties and promising to rubber stamp everything Eric Canter and McConnell send his way? Really, how DARE Obama and congressional Democrats even try to progress the agenda they campaigned on. It’s like the President of the United States won a general election or something…

  61. Calling people liars because the things they say are lies, is not calling them evil. If you know your keeping the truth from yourself simply by ignoring it, repeating what you “honestly” believe is still a lie. If its your job to know the facts and you deliberately hide from them, your a liar. When people present the evidence to you in terms of basic math, and you plug your ears and simply repeat the party line, then your a liar.

  62. It’s not just reality and math that have liberal biases, but also computer science. A large part of compiler and parsing theory comes from theories of grammar originally developed for linguistics by Noam Chomsky. And for many applications, it’s the left-handed grammars that work well, and the right-wing ones that don’t…

  63. What I’m hoping, desperately, is that all of the people who went into yesterday’s election having been led to believe that Romney would win, will now take a close look at their news sources and ask themselves what other untruths and wishful thoughts they’ve been fed.

  64. Unless he can predict the weather (in which cade he is a witch),…

    Did you just call all meteorologists “witches”?

    …he failed to account for the Sandy Bump that put Obama over the top in seversl states.

    Silver predicted every single state correctly, so I’m at a loss to figure out what you’re talking about here. Please explain.

  65. @zizban: I thought for a while that Romney would carry NH, just because I spent some time in the area around Salem, Pelham and Hampstead, which is Romney territory. Two weeks before the election, Hampstead looked like a forest of Romney-Ryan yard signs in front of what seemed like nearly every house; every so often you’d see a forlorn Obama-Biden sign here and there.

    Some of that latter discrepancy turned out to be because Romney was spending a lot of money pushing free yard signs on his supporters, whereas Obama’s campaign, drawing on actual data about effective campaign strategies, considered them a waste of money and only sold them. But Hampstead really did go for Romney by 61-38%.

    It just goes to show that anecdotal conclusions can be completely conditioned by whatever haphazard sampling your personal experiences happen to yield. I happened to have been visiting one of the most Republican corners of New Hampshire. The rest of the state varies quite a bit.

  66. @tigtog: Not quite the same error, but a related one: I did see at least one Obama supporter get upset by a Vegas odds site because they didn’t understand the peculiar “money line” notation in which events considered very likely get a minus sign in front, indicating a lower payout than the value of the bet, and unlikely events get a plus sign, indicating a higher payout.

  67. @David,

    Even from here across the pond it is obvious that the US had a President in the last four years who bent over backward so much to accomodate the other side that he seriously risked alienating his own base; while at the same time being vilified by the opposition in terms of not being a real American, among others.

    So to now say that both sides must compromise is engaging in a false equivalency fallacy in the most egregious manner possible.

  68. C Nelson:

    There are things we do for profit, and then there are things that fall under the umbrella of public weal, and how we care for the sick and the poor *should* be in the latter category.

    I didn’t say “most profitable” but “best for the economy”. I also didn’t say “least expensive”.

    There are many hidden costs in any health care system. Before Obamacare, many low-income people relied on emergency rooms for health care, which is expensive to society as a whole. Covering those people directly would be cheaper in the long run. Programs to promote health as opposed to treating illness are expensive in the short term, but are cheaper in the long run. Paying into a single-payer system MAY be more expensive than an individual mandate to own insurance, but if the economy grows as a whole due to a growth of small business that can come from employers not worrying about employee health care, then a single-payer system is better. I believe that covering the poor is both the economically smartest and morally best thing to do, but I still want to see the numbers.

    Quantifying the costs and benefits of a large system like national healthcare can be difficult. If Nate Silver and others are able to show that you can model complex systems with a reasonable amount of precision, then the population can make informed decisions about what is best for the nation, instead of listening to conflicting, cherry-picked numbers.

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