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Thursday, March 10, 2016

Dear Nate Silver, about those polls

Dear Nate Silver, self-appointed expert on elections:

You said there was a 99% chance of Hillary Clinton would win Michigan.

She lost.

If you took bets on your forecasts, you would be broke.

The polls this year have been outrageously in error.

The polls missed it by an average of 23 points in the Michigan Democratic primary -- well beyond the wild claims of accuracy to within 5 points.

The Idaho Republican primary on the same day? According to the Real Clear Average, Trump was supposed to romp by 11 -- lost by 17. But that was based on one poll and you did not make a forecast. Good move.

I get that you are a creature of the polls. You feed off them. Maybe you should eat elsewhere. Yours is a 2008 approach to a 2016 race. The polls are as trustworthy as Kim Jong-Un. Consider:

Louisiana? RCP average said Trump would win by 15. He won by 3.

Oklahoma? RCP average said Trump would win by 11. Lost by 6.

Virginia? RCP average said Trump would win by 14. He won by 3.

I won't even go into Iowa. It was a mess. And I am leaving out the romps where Trump's margin (or Clinton's) were understated.

Reporters keep explaining the errors in the polls as someone either falling or shooting up in the final few hours before the actual vote.

But why assume the polls are right? History shows that the vaunted Iowa Poll -- the gold standard according to reporters -- averages a miss of 7.5 points in contested races going back to 1988. Pretty useless.

Given the wide variance in the polls, you might as well be reading goat entrails.

With due respect,

Don Surber, self-appointed critic of polls.


  1. About that headline "Dewey Wins". Now it is "Trump Loses".

  2. All of which makes you wonder, how reliable are the polls that claim both Cruz and Rubio beat Hillary, but Trump doesn't? That seems wrong, but who knows? Not us. ;-)

    1. Astute observation.

  3. You

    Seriously. It's that good. Still some minor details and a few chapters left to go, but it will be yuuge

    1. I love what I have read so far in the transcript you sent me.

    2. I'll definitely buy your book on this race, and I'll read any early draft you might want to send ...

  4. In other news, Nate Silver has just predicted that Duke will win another national championship this year. And that there won't be another terrorist attack in the US in the next fifty years. And that it won't rain in April. You can manipulate data anyway you want if you're biased. He is. Good post Big D.

  5. It's the candidate field that's doing it. Lotta folks don't want to admit to pollsters, human or automated, who they actually intend to vote for.

  6. Have you set your sights on being the new Theodore H. White for the 2016 election? If The Donald wins the Republican nomination, my Nate Silver certified crystal ball predicts with 95% probability that your initial publication will be followed by further chapters on The Donald's general election campaign.

  7. Don, Don, Don! WHAT do you have against goats?