Nate Silver: it’s the numbers, stupid

First published online by Carole Cadwalladr.

Nate Silver is a new kind of political superstar. One who actually knows what he’s talking about. In America, punditry has traditionally been about having the right kind of hair or teeth or foaming rightwing views. Silver has none of these. He just has numbers. Lots of them. And, on the night of the US presidential election, they were proved to be right in quite spectacular fashion.

For weeks and months, the election had been “too close to call”. Pundit after pundit declared that the election could “go either way”. That it was “neck and neck”. Only it wasn’t. In the end, it turned out not to be neck and neck at all. Or precisely what Nate Silver had been saying for months. On election day, he predicted Obama had a 90.9% chance of winning a majority in the electoral votes and by crunching polling data he successfully predicted the correct result in 50 out of 50 states.

“You know who won the election tonight?” asked the MSNBC TV news anchor, Rachel Maddow. “Nate Silver.”

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