Rock star statistician Nate Silver, who made numbers cool by giving near-perfect predictions of US votes in 2008 and 2012, will soon relaunch his website in a new home, just in time for the next election cycle.
Speaking to a packed house at the Online News Association conference in Atlanta, Silver urged journalists to be clear-eyed about their biases and put aside “insider thinking” in favor of science and rigor , especially in matters as important as elections.
Just a few years out of college, Silver rose to become America’s most followed political prognosticator just as Barack Obama’s star was also rising.
By weighing available polling data and demographics, he correctly predicted the outcome of the 2008 presidential election in 49 of 50 states, better than veteran analysts.
And he ruffled feather by dismissing their “gut-feeling” predictions as no more accurate than random chance.
By 2012, his website, fivethirtyeight.com, which is named for the number of electoral college votes in the White House race, had been incorporated into the venerable New York Times and his profile had risen enough to irk professional pundits and politicians alike.
Silver’s models accurately predicted Obama’s easy cruise to re-election last year, despite being dismissed by supporters of his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, as biased and partisan.
Silver also forecast Senate and House races with uncanny accuracy, largely by focussing on voter demographics.
All this from a young man who had previously used his skills to predict baseball player performance and earn a living playing poker.