Nate Silver Might Give Up Blogging If He’s Impacting Elections
Fresh off his second correct Presidential election forecast in a row, New York Times star political blogger Nate Silver had some interesting remarks during a recent talk at Washington University of St. Louis:
Silver spent an hour minimizing his achievements as an auspicious combination of decent blogging and statistical analysis in his Monday night lecture sponsored by the Washington University Political Review. Silver, who began his career doing statistics for Major League Baseball, gained wider fame when his FiveThirtyEight political blog hosted by the Times correctly predicted the 2012 presidential election results in every state.
He said that his statistics are not intended to affect results, which shouldn’t be an issue in most general elections. But he conceded that in races such as last year’s Republican presidential primary, analysis can make a difference.
“The polls can certainly affect elections at times,” Silver said. “I hope people don’t take the forecasts too seriously. You’d rather have an experiment where you record it off from the actual voters, in a sense, but we’ll see. If it gets really weird in 2014, in 2016, then maybe I’ll stop doing it. I don’t want to influence the democratic process in a negative way.”
“I’m [hoping to make] people more informed, I don’t want to affect their motive because they trust the forecasters,” he added.
Political observers have often wondered about the extent to which the media’s constant attention on static polling might have an impact on voters’ political preferences, and it’s a legitimate question to ask. After all, with the media spending most of its time focusing on the “horse race” aspect of the race it’s logical to assume that at least some segment of voters might be influenced in to backing Candidate A not so much because they agree with him, but because it looks like he’s the one whose going to win. When that happens, the polls, and the media that cover them, become part of the story rather than just a mean of covering the race itself. So, it’s good to see Silver at least thinking about the possibility that his forecasting model, assuming it continues its current level of accuracy, could have a similar impact.
H/T: Taegan Goddard