NYT's Nate Silver Takes on Gallup, Boosts Democratic Hopes

October 19th, 2012 6:44 PM

The New York Times' s acclaimed poll-meister Nate Silver has a reputation for statistical expertise, but he's getting some guff for dismissing Mitt Romney's recent large leads in the Gallup tracking poll.

Silver's Thursday evening post on his FiveThirtyEight blog at nytimes.com, "Gallup vs. the World" claimed that Gallup's "results are deeply inconsistent with the results that other polling firms are showing in the presidential race, and the Gallup poll has a history of performing very poorly when that is the case."

The Times hasn't referenced Romney's recent six-seven point Gallup leads in the print edition, but reporter Susan Saulny trumpeted an old online poll of young people in Thursday's paper: "Experts See a Lost Chance for Romney as Young Voters Favor Obama."

Data from the poll and interviews of likely voters suggest that Mr. Obama’s message that his administration has made steady progress is resonating with people under 30, whose unemployment rate for months has been higher than the national average.

Not until paragraph 11 did we learn that not only is this an online poll, but that it's two weeks old, having stopped the day before Romney began to make his move after the first debate:

The online poll of 2,123 18- to 29-year-olds was conducted for the Harvard Institute of Politics by Knowledge Networks and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus two percentage points. The poll concluded on the day of the first presidential debate, in which Mr. Romney was viewed as having outperformed the president. The lift Mr. Romney received is not reflected in the findings.

The Times also found a couple of Obama-favorable state polls print-worthy. A brief by Michael Shear on Friday informed readers: "Obama Ahead in Polls of Wisconsin and Iowa."

However objective Silver attempts to be, the psychological boost he's given Democrats of late is clear. On Twitter, Ben Smith of Buzzfeed mentioned his theory that Silver's "forecasts are the bulwark against all-out Dem panic."