By David Roher
In case you haven’t been hanging around the benighted corners of the political internet lately, there’s an idiotic backlash afoot against Nate Silver, the proprietor of the FiveThirtyEight blog who made his name as one of the sharpest baseball analysts around.
Key quotes helpful for me:
If accuracy is how close the average dart is to the bullseye, precision is how close each dart was to the others. We don’t yet know whether they’ve been accurate, but we can already safely say that they’ve been precise, as their predictions heading into November are essentially the same as they were months ago.
The political media hate precision: No one tunes in to a boring horse race…Forecasts should be judged on their processes, not their results.
In fact, we’ve reached the point in our screwed-up political media culture where the polling companies and forecasters—not the pundits, not the spokespeople, and certainly not the candidates—are the only people being evaluated rigorously on the substance of their arguments.
They associate statistics with mathematical proof, as if a confidence interval were the same thing as the Pythagorean Theorem. Silver isn’t more sure of himself than his detractors, but he’s more rigorous about demonstrating his uncertainty.