With less than two weeks to go in the election, that Jay-Z song has been running through my head, because indeed, “Who is gonna run this town tonight?”
But the answer I keep coming back to isn’t Mitt or Barack, but rather Nate Silver and his Five Thirty Eight site. Everyone I know is absolutely addicted to his analysis and will be until November 6th.
Silver is the true thug, the mack-daddy, the baddest brother up from the housing projects of the statistics profession. He runs this town tonight, and for the future.
Silver interprets polls and statistics unlike any other writer out there.
Traditional journalists on television, radio, and print have a need to hype as much as to inform. Columnist Peggy Noonan absolutely predicted the future when she wrote – before the first Presidential debate – that Romney would be declared the winner, if only because the media needs a horse race. Traditional media has advertising space to sell, which means emphasizing outlier polls showing a tight race. Or it means national polls – which are largely meaningless in an electoral college world – get hyped beyond their true meaning.
But Silver consistently brings a probabilistic, nuanced, and data-oriented approach to predicting the Presidential outcome, and why it may hinge on Ohio. He incorporates the information from political betting markets in a sophisticated way.
His writing reminds me of working with the brightest traders in the bond markets, sifting through data and models to come up with probabilistic scenarios.
What’s so amazing about Silver is how rare he is in journalism. He relies not on anecdote but on data. He’s willing to debunk myths and de-hype a situation, if the data warrants it. Why can’t we get more of this?
It’s a Nate Silver world now, and we just live in it.
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