How did Nate Silver blow it so badly? That’s what many people are asking now both about him and his famed FiveThirtyEight.com.
People and politicians love hearing about the polls. But how accurate are they? Why should we listen to them?
Some people say that the polls may actually affect the outcome in that they may either encourage or discourage supporters of the underdog from voting. Or they may make some people who support the favorite think that they need not vote at all.
But this year the polls were seriously flawed.
And it was not anything like the last time when FiveThrityEight.com also got it wrong. In 2016 Hilary Clinton did win the popular vote. She lost the election because Trump flipped the states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. In all three cases the President won by a narrow margin and the results of each state were still within the margin of error.
But the results this year are absurd in contrast to what the pollsters said. Florida, for example, was leaning for Joe Biden and yet on election night it was an early call for Trump.
Other states which should have been called on election night are still up in the air. Senators like Susan Collins in Maine beat predictions winning reelection easily.
My absurdly precise forecast of the final popular vote margin is Biden +4.3%, with 81.8m votes for Biden and 74.9m for Trump on turnout of 159.6m.
That’s using Edison’s estimate of the outstanding vote in each state and my best guesses for how it will be distributed.
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) November 5, 2020
People are expressing their frustration on Twitter with comments like the following:
“I do genuinely think Nate Silver should have to go to jail.”
“Polls can’t be trusted. There’s something wrong with the polling industry.” – Van Jones, CNN Elections”
“I spilled wine on my comforter and it’s Nate Silver’s fault how did you not predict that you clown”
How many Poles does it take for Nate Silver to get a forecast right?
Nate Silver in 2024 pic.twitter.com/5rWYOSQ1dK
— Spartan 117 (@spartymoshow) November 4, 2020
So what does Nate Silver himself have to say about all of this?
When asked about how the pitchforks are now coming out as the mob is after him for getting it wrong again Silver answered, “If they’re coming after FiveThirtyEight, then the answer is fuck you, we did a good job!”
Silver added, “People have false impressions of how accurate polls are, and the fact that Biden had this big lead was why he was a pretty big favorite, not because polls are perfect.”
So then why should there be polls anyway?