There’s probably more US stories out there than any of us can process, so I’m planning to ‘dump’ judicially. Wired on the big non political winner of this US election, Nate Silver’s rigorous modelling techniques (which perhaps resulted in a great deal less bellicosity in US news rooms):
Data was also the story of how this election was analyzed. Obama won the election. But Nate Silver ofThe New York Times completely reshaped its coverage. Silver steadied the nerves of liberals and rattled the teeth of conservatives, all through a proprietary model of poll aggregation and weighting.
Silver, who called the 2008 election with stunning accuracy, sought to do for politics what sabermetrics did for baseball: Factor out as many subjective judgments as possible, to determine who would win the race. Conservatives noted that Silver’s model consistently favored Obama and smelled a rat, giving rise to the alternative Unskewed Polls (and, inevitably, the sardonic hashtag #unskewedpolls).
Silver’s model is disruptive. It implicitly calls into question the utility of political pundits, and the pundits struck back. MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and Politico’s Dylan Byers were among the mainstream journalists rolling their eyes at Silver, and others went way further, calling Silver effeminate, as if that refuted his model. (Naturally, the internet provided Is Nate Silver A Witch).
Whatever the outrage against Silver, political quantification is likely here to stay, because, as Zeynep Tufecki wrote for WIRED, it strips much of the superficiality away from political reporting (and helps confront innumeracy, too).
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty