Nate Silver wins the US election

by Toby Manhire / 08 November, 2012
Or, to put it another way, the New York Times stat-blogger is probably a witch.

Derided by Republican diehards, beloved by pshephological nerds, number-crunching superstar Nate Silver was the real winner in the US last night.

The man behind the New York Times's FiveThirtyEight blog is "the absolute, undoubted winner of this election", cheered Mashable - with "his running mate, big data".

Silver's approach - which he explains in the clip at the foot of this page - worked. Daniel Terdiman of CNet explains:

Big data - and its patron saint, Nate Silver - won the battle to predict the outcome of the contest between Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Where breathless pundits brandishing equivocating polls shouted from the rooftops over the last few weeks that the race for the White House was a "tossup," or "too close to call," Silver and other poll aggregators sat back and calmly told anyone who would listen that the math told another story:Obama's re-election was never in danger.

To be sure, after the president's dismal performance in last month's first debate against Romney, his prospects dimmed somewhat. But those who regularly visited Silver's New York Times-hosted FiveThirtyEight blog - and there's no getting around it: many Democrats lived on the site throughout the fall - knew that Silver never pegged Obama's chances of victory at less than 61.1 percent.

To those unfamiliar with the notion of poll aggregation and more accustomed to gleaning their perceptions of the trajectory of presidential elections by following venerable polling organizations like Gallup, Silver's numbers never made any sense. With a wide variety of polls showing Obama struggling, and often trailing Romney nationally, how could someone who'd never even run a poll credibly tell the world that the president was actually comfortably ahead?

Patron saint, yes. But also a witch.

From the rather brilliant website "Is Nate Silver a witch?":

As of press time, Nate Silver is probably a witch.

His unusually accurate predictions are, thus far, explained by his use of validated statistical methods. His disregard of momentum, gut feelings, and the interpretations of people paid to promote certain viewpoints is not the result of supernatural assistance.

While we on the Is Nate Silver a Witch editorial board are strict rationalists, Mr Silver’s performance has been uncanny enough to raise small but significant doubts as to whether his methodology is entirely of this world. We are following the situation closely.

And as Silver get memeified, he has achieved Chuck Norris status.

Nick Stango at Gizmodo has done his own data analysis and shares, among others, the following disvoveries:

When Alexander Bell invented the telephone he had 3 missed calls from Nate Silver.

Nate Silver can unscramble an egg.

Nate Silver can set ants on fire with a magnifying glass. At night.

Nate Silver can hear sign language.

Silver beat the sun in a staring contest.

Nate Silver can slam a revolving door.

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