One of the most distinct features of the 2012 Presidential election was the polling wars that took place. The copious amounts of data seemed to tell two completely different stories. The first was that President Obama would handedly win the election by a significant amount while the other side showed former Governor Romney delivering a victory by the smallest of margins. The division on how to read the polls caused quite a stir among the Right and the Left. Well…in all reality neither sides forecast was quite that accurate with the exception of NY Time’s blogger, Nate Silver whose probability model accurately predicted the results in 50 of 50 states as well as the margin of victory.
What makes Silver so special is that he is what is known as a sabermetrician, not your standard political polling operative. According to Wikipedia, Sabermetrics is the technique of “specialized analysis of baseball through objective evidence, especially baseball statistics that measure in-game activity.” He has adopted these SABR techniques and uniquely fit them to prediction models which are far more accurate than those presently used by standard polling agencies. Below is an article from Foreign Policy which highlights the effects sabermetrics are going to have political polling and how Silver successfully pioneered this innovation in the world of politics. Very interesting read if you are curious as to what happened.
Before Billy Bean and the sabermetric revolution upended baseball and ushered in a new era of statistically driven baseball analysis, old-timers insisted that the young eggheads and their spreadsheets were no match for a time-worn scout. Experience, gut feeling, and a sense of the intangible qualities that make up a quality prospect — these were the things that the old guard argued could never be captured by an Excel spreadsheet, let alone a statistical model.
By and large, they were wrong, and Billy Bean’s scrappy Oakland Athletics squads showed that the so-called eggheads could see further into the future and with greater clarity than had previously been thought possible.
The same statistical revolution that changed baseball has now entered American politics, and no one has been more successful in popularizing a statistical approach to political analysis than New York Times blogger Nate Silver, who of course cut his teeth as a young sabermetrician. And on Nov. 6, after having faced a torrent of criticism from old-school political pundits — Washington’s rough equivalent of statistically illiterate tobacco chewing baseball scouts — the results of the presidential election vindicated Silver’s approach, which correctly predicted the electoral outcome in all 50 states. [...]
If the GOP was smart they would approach Silver and offer him triple the salary that the Times is currently paying him and get him to head up their polling operation. It would be a first and great step to catching up the with the Democrats.
- Nate Silver Went 100% on Election Day: Super Accurate Statistical Analysis or Luck? (dailyfinance.com)
- Moneyball, the 2012 Campaign, and the Limits of Political Sabermetrics (themoderatevoice.com)
- Nate Silver and the Nerd-Haters (theamericanconservative.com)