Senator Sharon Angle Agrees With Nate Silver: Barack Obama has an 84% Chance of Winning

Nate Silver has his usual spin on outrageously absurd election outcome odds:

President Obama is now better than a 4-in-5 favorite to win the Electoral College, according to the FiveThirtyEight forecast. His chances of winning it increased to 83.7 percent on Friday, his highest figure since the Denver debate and improved from 80.8 percent on Thursday.

He shows a bunch of polls from a murder’s row of bad polling where Obama is leading and maps out three arguments where they could be wrong.  After arguing and dismissing the first two he concludes:

That leaves only the final source of polling error, which is the potential that the polls might simply have been wrong all along because of statistical bias.

You don’t say!

The FiveThirtyEight forecast accounts for this possibility…I do not mean to imply that the polls are biased in Mr. Obama’s favor. But there is the chance that they could be biased in either direction…My argument, rather, is this: we’ve about reached the point where if Mr. Romney wins, it can only be because the polls have been biased against him. Almost all of the chance that Mr. Romney has in the FiveThirtyEight forecast, about 16 percent to win the Electoral College, reflects this possibility.

Silver makes such pronouncements with outlandish statistical weights as if it is nearly unbelievable that the poll results could be wrong.  One of the main purposes of this blog was to look at the exact same polls, analyze the internal data and test whether the poll data match up with the poll results.  We found that time after time after time the results unequivocally do not match up with the internal data.  Thanks to Sean Davis, we are reminded this was the identical situation only 2 years ago is probably the highest profile race where a deeply unpopular Senate Majority leader was behind in nearly every poll yet still won.

Out of 14 polls between October 1 and election day, Sharon Angle led in 12 of those polls.  Her average lead on election day according to Real Clear Politics was +2.6.  She lost by -5.6 points — an 8.2 point swing.  The polls were not just wrong, but WAY wrong.  Could anyone analyzing the internals of these polls see this?  Why yes they could. But even in the highest profile contest of the cycle, almost no one did such an analysis. The few who did, Democrat pollster Mark Mellman, Republican pollster Glen Bolger and liberal reporter/columnist Jon Ralston, all consistently said the polls were wrong — and each was largely ignored until proven correct on election day.  Why did they know this?  Because they looked at the data in the polls and said the internal information does not reflect the top-line results and the Nevada electorate on election day will not reflect what these polls are indicating. They were right and the polls were wrong … by A LOT.

Today we have an identical dichotomy where the stat gurus like Nate Silver say Obama has an 84% chance of winning because that is what the top-line poll numbers tell him.  Nate Silver called the Nevada Senate race incorrectly because the poll data was wrong.  His accuracy is predicated on accurate polls.  Mountains of evidence says today’s Presidential polls are equally as wrong as the Nevada Senate polls.

Critics of the polls on the Right, like myself, of whom even Silver concedes offer “intellectually coherent” critiques say the results on November 6 will be very different. Maybe Nate Silver is correct and Barack Obama will be re-elected President on November 6.  But any analysis of the data in those same state polls he relies on says the voting preference of Independents, the increased turnout of Republicans, the decreased turnout of Democrats, the change in favor of Republicans in early voting, Romney’s favorability on the election’s top issue (economy) and numerous other factors will result in President Romney on November 6.  United States Senator Sharon Angle from Nevada may disagree.


  1. Barf
    Posted November 3, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Awesome Keith. 3 more days and Obama is finished.

  2. Kiki
    Posted November 3, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Trending on Twitter: #SaySomethingNiceAboutObama (What Real Americans Really Think About Obama)

    Below are some samples of what people have to say:
    Alicia Turner ‏@libertyjibbet
    #SaySomethingNiceAboutObama – I’ve never seen a more loving relationship between a president & his teleprompter. It’s inspiring, really.
    Denny ‏@packersredwings
    #SaySomethingNiceAboutObama He is the best liar I have heard in my lifetime.
    #SaySomethingNiceAboutObama He aced his exam on the female anatomy

  3. damien
    Posted November 3, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Permalink | Reply

    and i doubt angle had any plus 10 republican samples

  4. anon-p
    Posted November 3, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Permalink | Reply

    The potential fallout from consistently bad polls for so long is that the opposition won’t believe the actual results on Tuesday.

    I’m already starting to see talk such as, “The president is doing so well in the polls, the only way Romney can win is if he steals it.”

    • Patrick
      Posted November 3, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Permalink | Reply

      That’s how I have felt for 2 years over Reid’s win.

    • Dogfish
      Posted November 3, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Permalink | Reply

      anon- I agree with what you are saying…. but everyone knows that if there is any voter fraud, the Democrats will be the ones committing it.

      • Svigor
        Posted November 3, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

        I have been a bit taken aback by how strong the “Republicans are the vote-fraud champs” from the Dems. I don’t usually pay any attention to libs (I realized years back the ban button is how libtards handle opposition online; I’d love to argue with them but they simply can’t handle it), so when I do they always manage to prove me wrong and show new ways in which they defy reality. Their powers of self-deception are legendary.

  5. Saleh Tanveer
    Posted November 3, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Looks like you had to cherry pick the only race where Nate Silver’s prediction did not pan out. His success rate both in 2008 and 2010 is simply stunning relative to any other person in the poll prediction business. His prediction of even margins of victory were incredibly accurate, except for the lone Sharon Angle- Harry Reid contest. This is perhaps not what you want to hear if you are a Romney supporter, but you cannot argue with any evidence that his sophisticated statistical modeling has not been right on the money.

    • Posted November 3, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Permalink | Reply

      you do realize Silver had the answers to the test in 2008, right? ANY polling analyst would have gotten 2008 correct if they were given access to the entire campaign internal polling of candidate Obama as was Silver. A convenient fact he failed to disclose which violates every code of ethics.

      Please read this and consider leaving the Cult of Silver:

    • Svigor
      Posted November 3, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Permalink | Reply

      His success rate is 2 for 2, if you count 2008, which many don’t. That’s not “stunning,” it’s…2 for 2.

      Now, his accuracy maybe, but his rate at calling elections can’t be “stunning” until 2050 or so, and I think 2012 is going to take him in the wrong direction in that regard.

      • Saleh Tanveer
        Posted November 4, 2012 at 12:33 am | Permalink

        It’s not just a matter of saying who will win, but predicting with great accuracy the actual percentage of votes each contestant is going to get is not a matter of joke. This is what is quite stunning. Look at his record and match it with any one else. Also, all this bull about him being biased does not make any sense. By the same theory, was he biased for Sharon Angle ! He makes a living employing sophisticated statistical tools and he would much rather have his credibility preserved rather than cook the books, as some Romney supporters are alleging.

      • Harun
        Posted November 4, 2012 at 3:02 am | Permalink

        Saleh needs to read Fooled By Randomness. Silver may be a genius. Or he may be decent and lucky.

        Also, for all the Siver bashing, he basically has to use the material he’s got: the polls. That’s his system, so if he’s wrong its not like its “his fault,” He just got bad data like the rest of us.

  6. Chris A.
    Posted November 3, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I think what that graph shows is a lot of those polls missed capturing the Latino demographic in Nevada and have probably done an even worse job at capturing Latinos in the presidential election this year. It also shows why no one should take Mason-Dixon seriously as a pollster. They seem to be consistently wrong by a wide margin.

    • edtitan77
      Posted November 3, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Permalink | Reply

      But Sufflok got it right. The same Suffolk that pulled out of FL, NC and VA in mid October because they saw no way Obama could win those states. The same Suffolk that shows Ohio a tie.

  7. petep
    Posted November 3, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Permalink | Reply

    And so the pre excuse comes. I thought he would wait until Monday to realize that his model is only as good as the bias of the polls is accounted for.

  8. Brad
    Posted November 3, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hey, Keith. This was said in the comments section on this site days ago. You should read us more often. 🙂

  9. David
    Posted November 3, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Only 84% chance of re-election? Why not 95% or 99% chance? Nate Silver must not be willing to go all in at the high stakes poker table.

  10. C-Bus GOP
    Posted November 3, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Permalink | Reply

    (Moved from the Florida M-D poll thread)

    I can’t stand guys like Nate Silver. He lives in the “bubble” of Manhattan, surrounded by a bunch of pseudo-intellectuals like him who think like him….thus in his mind, the whole world thinks like him and thus supports Obama. I bet he hasn’t even been to Ohio once. He certainly hasn’t spent any signficant time here or he would certainly know better.

    So he puts these crap polls in his “model” and voila – Obama has an 84% chance of winning Ohio.
    ….assuming of course a D+9 turnout.

    Folks, I am a physician here in the Columbus, Ohio area. I have lived in Columbus all my life. My main office is in a middle class suburb. I am bordered on one side by an upper middle to upper class suburb and on the other side a lower middle class suburb. I have another office in Columbus proper, a more urban setting – I spend about 30% of my time there.

    I see people from all walks of life. Although I don’t push politics in my office people do ask me stuff all the time, about health care, Obamacare, etc. So I can see where people are coming from.

    Bottom line: Romney will win Ohio and it won’t be close.

    I will laugh so hard at Silver come Wednesday when he will have some ‘splainin to do…..
    To know politics, you have to know the areas. You have to know the cities, the counties, the neighborhoods. Listen to Rove he clearly gets this. Adrian Gray gets this. Barone gets this.

    Nate, you obviously DONT get this. And you will soon be exposed for the fraud you are.

    • Dogfish
      Posted November 3, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Nate, I agree.

      It is good to hear your perspective since you actually live in Ohio.

      I saw Bill Cunningham (radio personality in Cincinnati) speaking and he is convinced that Romney takes Ohio.

      In fact the ONLY person from Ohio that I have heard say that Romney would not win Ohio, is the former Governor, Strickland (what else would you expect from him)

    • Harun
      Posted November 4, 2012 at 3:07 am | Permalink | Reply

      Don’t be too hard on Silver. He can only work with the polls he has. His system cranks out a result based on those polls. Sure he weighs polls but if there have been an overall problem for pollsters, it will show up, and if the polling companies can’t figure that out, its doubtful that Silver could.

      Part of the problem is the actual election is the way to confirm your polling/models and you cannot run a thousand elections to test – you get one chance every 4 years for presidential stuff.

  11. TheTorch
    Posted November 3, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Ryan Rally in Virginia NOW!

  12. Ant
    Posted November 3, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Angle was up in the polls because the didn’t poll in Spanish, and latinos hated her guts

  13. TheTorch
    Posted November 3, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Keith I would like to take the opportunity to thank you for all the work you are doing. This website is providing great analysis of one of the most important elections in my lifetime and not just for America, but for the world as well.

    I like to read up on all the polls, especially the internals, watch the campaigns, and generally get a feel for what is really happening, not just go by snappy headline figures.
    Your analysis confirms what a lot of us think we are seeing.

    Keep up the great work.

    • Posted November 3, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Permalink | Reply


    • Svigor
      Posted November 3, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Seconded. If nothing else, I got a great crash course in poll-reading and election politics over the last month. Way too much great stuff coming from level-headed people here to not learn a lot if you’re new to the subject.

  14. Freddy
    Posted November 3, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Nate Silver has a bachelor degree from University of Chicago. It is a good school but he is not a statistics or quantitative wizard. The guys at U of Colorado using economic data have a much better track record and their methodology makes sense. People vote pocketbook issues. Obama is killing the majority of Americans pocketbooks.

    The U of Colorado profs last state added was NM for Romney. This will be interesting. NM went for Bush. Old time Mexican-Americans who vote Dem in NM and their families have been their for 100 years do not like Obama. The Catholic bishops in NM do not like Obama.

    • stuckinmass
      Posted November 3, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Permalink | Reply

      well Romney seems to be ignoring NM so I’m guessing their internal polling doesn’t look good.

      they do say the Univ of Colorado Colorado model is off by 28 EVs on average, so it could be wrong on NM. the good news is it can be off twice that many and Mitt still wins!

    • Svigor
      Posted November 3, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Permalink | Reply

      From what I hear, this Colorado model has never been tested, per se. It’s used the data from past elections to “predict” them accurately, which isn’t the same thing. If they’re rigorous in how they use it (i.e., only feed the same data from the current election that they fed it from the last election), then in my mind it’s reliable, but that’s too much of a leap for most people for it to be persuasive, IMO.

      Assuming I’m talking about the same study; I could be talking about a different one (and I could be trusting the wrong people, I haven’t checked into this myself).

    • Colvinus
      Posted November 3, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I feel like the Democrats are assuming Hispanic support forever, just as they do with African Americans. I think they forgot that Hispanics, are, you know, historically kinda Catholic. Might be a problem for them.

      The only thing I can think of to explain how all these polls over-sampling Dems could actually be correct is if there was an absolutely massive misunderstanding about the Hispanic vote (still mostly pro-Democrat) that people like Gallup, Rasmussen, and Pew completely missed with their expected electorate models. I very much doubt that though, and it would have to have a huge effect across a wide range of states, many of which have much smaller Hispanic populations.

  15. Derclaw86
    Posted November 3, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Nate Silver supposedly gained his reputation by calling 49 out of 50 states correct in 2008. Big whip!! The RCP final polling averages called 48 out of 50 correct. I guess getting one more lucky guess correct makes you a genius.

    • Svigor
      Posted November 3, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Karl Rove made a pretty dang good guess for 2008. .33% difference in voting in Indiana and 1% difference in North Carolina, and he’s within 1 EV for each candidate.

      You don’t see libs carrying Rove on their shoulders…

  16. No Tribe
    Posted November 3, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Permalink | Reply

    “Yes, of course: most of the arguments that the polls are necessarily biased against Mr. Romney reflect little more than wishful thinking.”

    Such smug. He’s gonna a big humble pie soon enough to last a lifetime.

  17. Svigor
    Posted November 3, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

    But any analysis of the data in those same state polls he relies on says the voting preference of Independents, the increased turnout of Republicans, the decreased turnout of Democrats, the change in favor of Republicans in early voting, Romney’s favorability on the election’s top issue (economy) and numerous other factors will result in President Romney on November 6. United States Senator Sharon Angle from Nevada may disagree.

    Thank you. I’m sooo tired of Silver, Silver cultists, Dems, and Romney-haters in general saying “look at the polls!” Yes! Look at them! Read the damn things and stop waving the headlines in my face.

    • Colvinus
      Posted November 3, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Dan McLaughlin made an excellent point. As a baseball stats guy, Silver should realize that he might be making the exactly same mistake as people who over-emphasize RBI and pitcher wins and losses. They are like top-line results in a poll. They tell you what happened, in a way. But they can be incredibly deceptive if you start taking it for granted that they must tell you what you think they are telling you. There is more going on under the surface. This was basically the great benefit of SABR/Bill James-style baseball analysis. Silver is taking it for granted and then going even further and picking winners and losers based on which polls he likes.

      If he ends up wrong he is too smart to not realize what has happened. It will be a major facepalm moment for him.

    Posted November 3, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Nate Silver said it happens 16% of the time. You show one race where it happened. So you have not done anything to discredit Silver’s claim that it happens 16% of the time. You want to prove it happens far more frequently than 16% of the time but have not even come close. Very strange post to say the least.

  19. MattWestfall
    Posted November 3, 2012 at 4:57 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I would happily let Silver put his money where his mouth is and sell him Obama futures at 84. I would take half the money and hedge by buying O future on intrade at 64 and let the other half ride on his 538 hubris. I wonder if he would back up that 84 if he had to make bank behind it.

    • rcl_in_va
      Posted November 3, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Sounds like an excellent trade! Let me know if you find a place to put it on; I’m in.

  20. edyang
    Posted November 3, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Permalink | Reply

    If you really want a good laugh, check out the comments on Silver’s 538 NYT posts. No statistical or polling analysis whatsoever like the bright folks on BG. Virtually all just trash Reppublican. If anyone brings up the factors we do here, they ignore it, call us poll deniers or say we are basing on anecdotal and theirs is hard math. It might give me more pleasure to see Silver humbled Tuesday night than even Obama.

    • Molester
      Posted November 3, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I read 538 for entertainment and have noticed the same thing. We’re math- and science-challenged if we even question Nate Silver. The problem is garbage-in, garbage-out, not necessarily Silver’s model. I bet a good amount of money on InTrade against Obama.

      • edyang
        Posted November 3, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Permalink


        I did as well, $1,000. Bought at $3.35. I knew I should have bought in pre first debate when it was in the $2 range. No matter, just icing on the cake.

    • Posted November 3, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Permalink | Reply

      This is the thing for me.

      Dems accuse the Right of cherry picking polls and clinging to one or two “favourable” pollsters. But in the last few weeks I notice it’s actually the Dems who are doing this. They are clinging desperately to two things : Nate Silver and Intrade. The number of times you see them claim “But Silver says! But Intrade has Obama up to 500%!!”

      If they were so confident of being ahead, why the desperate need to cling to Silver so strongly??

  21. Posted November 3, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Permalink | Reply

    My issue with Silver is far more fundamental. He over theorises something that IMHO is actually really simple.

    If State X is 3 pts more GOP than State Y, which is 3 pts more GOP than State Z, and polls show State Z is close, then the GOP would be favoured in State Y and highly likely to win State X.

    Yet Silvers model treats all these states as a vacuum…if polls showed GOP up more in Z than in X, he just accepts that without thinking one set of polls might be wrong.

    Here, we have polls showing Obama up more in OH than in PA or MI, or things like PPP showing Obama up the same in VA as in Washington state….if you stopped to think about it, you would realise something was not right, but the “math” based approach doesn’t take this into account.

  22. Alex
    Posted November 3, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Governor Bill Brady also agrees with Nate Silver.

  23. Dogfish
    Posted November 3, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thomas Dewey says he is pretty sure that Silver has it right.

    • Barf
      Posted November 3, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Dan Savage agrees with Silver. So RR look good on the home stretch.

  24. Posted November 3, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Wow. I immediately blamed the Chair of the Clark County Commission, Rory Reid. Yes the son of Sen. Reid. The county chair oversees the county’s electon process. I was convinced Rory “fixed” the machines. I looked at the polling data and immediately saw several data points that were outliers( atleast 3 standard deviations from the mean). I tossed those data points, created new lines of best fit and concluded that the win % number could not be included and thus my conclusion. Umm, I guess I was wrong and I’ll take another look at the Reid/Angle situation. Great stuff and thanks for what you (author, editor) do. Cheers.

  25. rcl_in_va
    Posted November 3, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Permalink | Reply

    After yesterday’s Nevada CC early vote numbers I was ready to post the old DDM (Turn Out the Lights, the Party’s Over); or if I were a DEM I’d light up a cigar in Red Auerbach fashion. Others were not so pessimistic, so I decided to model the numbers through election day. Since Obama went to NV on Thursday, I thought it was probably for a good reason. Maybe it’s closer than it looks. There are two states of Nevada; Clark County and everywhere else. I come from the three states of Tennessee; go figure. First lets look at the early vote results. Giving the DEMs and REPs zero crossover, 60/40 other to DEMs in Clark and 40/60 elsewhere leaves DEMs with a +63k early vote advantage. The same allocation in mail/absentee changes the DEMs by -3k. On election day ’08 DEMs’ turned out 44% of their early vote total and REPs 62%. Given the same “other” vote allocations as before and the DEMs win by =+50k (538k to 488k). If the turnout is like ’04 (DEMs 79% of early vote and REPs 75%) then it’s a 55% / 45% blowout for the DEMs. If the election day turnout ratio is the same as ’08 or better for REPs the game is still on. What if the “other” (independents) ratio in Clark is DEM 55/45 vice 60/40? DEMs still win by 35k. What if the REPs increase their turnout to the ’04 level and DEMs do not? DEMs still win, but by only 6,700 votes (0.64%). It’s still about the independents and turnout. Guess I just don’t want to give up yet.

  26. Posted November 3, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Does anyone know what Glen Bulger thinks of the Nevada numbers this election?

  27. allthingsgeography1
    Posted November 3, 2012 at 8:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Like they say in the meteorology community (being a former meteorology student I have an intimate connection with) when it comes numerical weather prediction modeling…GIGO…Garbage In, Garbage Out. Don’t expect to put garbage in a model and have a turkey dinner come out the other end. If it’s bad it’s bad. Period. Nate simply sounds like he’s covering his butt, which I can’t blame him, but I could tell all along that something was fishy about his model…which is why I started looking more in depth at the data behind the top lines of polls in the first place.

  28. Posted November 3, 2012 at 10:24 pm | Permalink | Reply

    My take on Nevada as early voting ends:

    2012 is not as bad as in 2008, but probably not good enough to win. Unless the Republicans can pull an election day turn-around that dwarfs anything they’ve been able to do so far, Obama will likely win, and be the first person to win the state without winning Washoe County since Sen. Reid won re-election in 1998 with less than 1000 votes. Sen. Heller is looking like a toss-up, but is winnable if the Republicans don’t collapse on election day.


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