US election: nerds 1, pundits 0

Nate Silver

As I said earlier, the bigger picture of the US election is about the battle between stats and guts, fighting for the future of political punditry. Lots of old-school experts said that, yes, the numbers looked bad for Mitt Romney, but what they’d seen on the ground – the enthusiasm, the apathy, the lawn signs – suggested that there was something the polls weren’t telling us.

Well, it looks like the polls were telling us exactly what was happening, and it was the lawn signs that lied. Ohio seems to have gone exactly with the polls. Virginia and Florida are tight, as they were expected to be. Everywhere seems to be within a percentage point or so of what the FiveThirtyEight model and its like said it would be, and for Romney to win, the polls needed to be systematically, and heavily, skewed towards Barack Obama.

If (and it’s still if: I’m not quite as gung-ho as the mighty Hodge) things pan out as they look like they’re going to, this is, surely, an emphatic vindication for the Nerdstrodamus, Nate Silver, and the other poll aggregators. What’s going to happen in 2016? Will chastened gut-pundits admit that they can’t compete with cold data, or will we have the same fight again?


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