Math Wins!

Here is Nate Silver’s map from his FiveThirtyEight blog on the eve of yesterday’s election:

Nate Silver's State-by-State probability map

Screenshot from FiveThirtyEight (New York Times)

Compare it to CNN‘s results map as of noon PST:

CNN Electoral Map 11/7 at 12 p.m. PST

Screenshot from at 12 p.m. PST

He nailed it. Every state he predicted would go to Obama went to Obama, and every one he predicted would go to Romney went to Romney. Florida is the only one undecided, and it’s leaning ever so slightly to the President. (It’s also the lightest shade of blue in Silver’s map and was his only real “tossup” left).

At worst, Silver will match his accuracy from 2008 (49 of 50). If Obama holds his lead in Florida, he’ll be perfect.

He got a pretty good read on the electoral vote count too:

Nate Silver's electoral vote distribution map

Screenshot from FiveThirtyEight (New York Times)

Note the two highest spikes: 332 and 303. If Obama wins Florida, he’ll get 332, if not he’ll stay at 303. (The third spike at 347 includes North Carolina, which was Romney’s weakest “lean.”)

And he knew which state would decide the race:

Nate Silver's tipping point map

Screenshot from FiveThirtyEight (New York Times)

It was around 8:10 p.m. PST when the networks called Ohio and the election, though in this case, I think we all saw Ohio coming:

Electoral College Cartoon

David Horsey (Los Angeles Times)

So what was Silver’s secret. Why did he get it right when so many pundits either said it was too close to call or that Romney would win? One word: Math.

So score the election a win for Obama and a loss for Romney, but also score it a loss for punditry, spin, and propaganda, and a win for math.

2 thoughts on “Math Wins!

  1. alisewrite says:

    Saw a friend talking about how “leftist” Silver was. I was just baffled. He may, as an individual, be to the left (I don’t read his blog, so I honestly didn’t know), but his site is just a math site. I just don’t get the weird rejection of something that is really just not that subjective.


    • If anything, his blog is less “biased” than his numbers. He was always careful to contextualize his predictions knowing that there was a slight chance—given unpredictable shifts in turnout—that an increasingly improbable Romney win might still happen. The model was what it was and it proved itself again.

      The funniest part to me is that no one on the right complained when Obama’s probability of winning dropped from 87% to 61% in the week after the first debate. They only complained once it started tracking up again, countering their “momentum” narrative.


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