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.