72 Comments

I had no desire to read a Silver-less 538. With this added political tinge, my desire now negative.

This also strikes me as very summer-2020 behavior. Like that Excel list of movie theaters that didn't support BLM. I thought the world had moved beyond this sort of stuff by now

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It's frustrating because Rassmussen's strong and consistent house effects make it more and not less useful. Pollsters with consistent house effects can show what the spread of the election is most likely to be. If you have a pollster that almost always overestimates R turnout and one that almost always overestimates D turnout then you have a better idea than if you had 2 pollsters who were individually more accurate but had errors that were random.

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People are going to really miss Nate's approach to this problem. It's going to get very ugly if this is the kind of approach ABC is going to be taking. I can only hope the model (and maybe Fivey?) can make it out and be somewhere else in 2024.

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Jul 1, 2023·edited Jul 1, 2023

What a huge loss for everyone. I understand and accept that political punditry is and always will be more popular than math, but I always found it refreshing to have a resource that would just tell me about the world as it is and not how somebody thinks I want it should be. And frankly, I'm probably inclined to agree with the new staff on a lot of political matters, but what's the point of a model if it's at all influenced by what the modeler believes politically? The point of a poll isn't to tell me what I want to hear. I hope you and your models can find a new home where you won't be pressured to manipulate based on punditry.

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I have a front-cover sticker in my copy of "The Signal and the Noise", one of my favorite books and one I push on my new hires.

This is all so funny, but all so tragic. So many brands are torched. Needlessly torched. Not calling anybody an idiot, necessarily, but lots of decisions being made by average-valued folks.

IMHO the Nate Silver brand remains untarnished. Your mileage may vary.

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Jul 1, 2023·edited Jul 1, 2023

Morris's "97% chance Biden wins" prediction in 2020 https://projects.economist.com/us-2020-forecast/president sums it up for me. That 97% confidence sounds like the kind of figure somebody who, well. My problem isn't that Morris is short on statistics credentials, but that I could guess as much based on that confidence level. The hot new meta-pollster can get away with overconfidence for a while, until their first big upset hits, and after that, you get a new hot new overconfident meta-pollster with a short track record -- lather, rinse, repeat.

In 2016, that meta-pollster was Princeton Election Consortium, beloved of progressives for telling them what they wanted to hear -- that Clinton was way ahead. PEC forecast a 99% chance for Clinton to defeat Trump, so they're not the hot new thing anymore.

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I think this is an extremely uncharitable reading of what Morris is trying to do (not surprising given his history with Nate).

It seems fairly clear - and I’m honestly not sure why Nate has been so opposed to admitting this - that Rasmussen and Trafalgar and some others (that polling company run by high schoolers!) were trying to manipulate the 2022 polling averages through the polls they released. It’s one thing to have a GOP house effect, it’s another to try and shape coverage and public perception of the race via your polls (and then hope to be right in the end).

My read is that Morris’ questions come from a place of determining “are you trying to field real polls or not”. Nate disagrees with asking this question, and feels like you should just throw everything into the soup and weight it. That’s a reasonable position. But clearly the polling averages would have been more accurate if Nate hadn’t done that - so it’s a fair approach for Morris to take as well.

IMO Nate is well within his right to point out the flaws with this, but he should at least attempt to acknowledge Morris’ logic.

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You've probably heard this plenty already, but I'm desperate for more podcasts with you and Galen. And Clare, while we're wishing! Good luck with the future.

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I would like to read this complaint in the broader context of right-wing polling outfits explicitly attempting to manipulate poll aggregators and projections models in the 2022 midterm.

Without that context, this is a bizarrely narrow critique that is either (a) entirely too credulous to the materially different behavior we saw last summer/fall and/or (b) an unconvincing personal polemic inspired by your disgust at one of "something like four people whom [you] have blocked on Twitter" being handed the keys to your kingdom. As an aside, I would recommend spending less time on Twitter.

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If someone makes a bid to take Nate's models private, we're all agreed we'll have to crowdfund to outbid them and keep them public, correct?

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Why in the hell would a forecaster want less data? And if the point is ideological, then isn’t it really better biz (from page views perspective) to have your forecast be more favorable to your side, and then be wrong? Is that the better story maybe from a selling a narrative approach?

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I am Italian, I have read 538 since 2008, and I think what happened recently is a disgrace. I have learned so much fron Nate Silver, it has helped me a lot even when analyzing Italian polls, which I do from time to time, for professional reasons. I totally agree with Silver's post. My only concern is that, given the situation in the USA in 2020, given the fact that one of the presidential candidates was preemptively questioning the fairness of the election, maybe you could imagine that a partisan pollster may have contributed knowingly to the subsequent perception that the elections were rigged. In other words, I don't think that the polls or their analysises can change the vote choices. But if one or more pollsters deliberately twist the results so as to assure that someone will win, and many people believe it, then surely the claim that the election was stolen may sound, post factum, more persuasive. I don't know enough about the situation in the USA to say if this was really the case. Moreover, I am well aware that this is a problem quite different and much more serious than methodological nitpicking, and should not be masked as such.

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The worst part of this is I used to love downloading the FiveThirtyEight polling data and working with it myself. Now it's going to be ruined by Morris putting his ideological thumb on the scale. Hope Nate gets an alternative up and running pronto.

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I would suggest that Nate get a copy editor for future blog posts.

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Maybe consider using some extension like LanguageTool or Grammarly for your Substack. This post could become an important document people link to. It's a bit weird for it to contain stuff like "Instead, it’s this: one"; "he have should stated it" and 50-word sentences.

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I agree with Nate's take on the problems with this letter. Nonetheless, it's worth pondering whether, if you agree someone is publishing push polls (as Nate says he does here), it's actually "non-partisan" to promote and platform them.

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