NYT Poll Analyst Silver Sees Golden Path for Obama; Arrogant Krugman Lectures Disbelieving 'Trolls'

November 5th, 2012 10:11 AM

As Election Day draws closer, the New York Times's young star poll analyst Nate Silver (pictured) becomes more and more confident of an Obama win. As of Monday morning, his blog fixed Obama as having a 86.3% chance of winning re-election.

Monday morning Silver posted this on Twitter: "Obama unlikely to win by anything like his post-DNC margins. But Romney has no momentum, Obama's state polling is robust, and time is up."

Headlines encapsulate the flavor of Silver's detailed, into-the-weeds analysis, like this one from Saturday: "For Romney to Win, State Polls Must Be Statistically Biased."

Silver's Sunday morning post held out virtually no hope for Mitt Romney, seeing Romney's play for Pennsylvania as a desperation move.

That brings us to Pennsylvania -- where the forecast model puts Mr. Obama’s chances at better than 95 percent.


If the national polls show a tie on average, then Mr. Romney will be more of an underdog than you might think, since that is when Mr. Obama’s Electoral College advantages will tend to give him their greatest benefit. In the FiveThirtyEight simulation on Saturday, Mr. Obama won the Electoral College about 80 percent of the time when the national popular vote was tied.

Arrogantly assuming that he and other liberals are the only ones who can analyze poll numbers, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman defended Silver and others who are predicting an Obama win under the headline "Math is Hard." Krugman generously educated the "many trolls" who dared disagree with him on his blog in a post Sunday and saying the Romney campaign "clearly know that it will take a miracle -- sorry, a last-minute surge -- to prevail on Tuesday."

That’s a lot of polls, with one tie and every other poll showing Obama ahead. Since Ohio is generally considered crucial, you can see right there why all of the poll aggregators — not just Nate Silver, but also Sam Wang, electoral-vote.com, Drew Linzer, Pollster, Talking Points are showing an Obama advantage. It’s not the political leanings of the analysts; it’s the polls. Again, the polls could be wrong, but they have to be systematically wrong by at least 2 percent to reverse this.

This shouldn’t even be controversial, but of course it is. Partly that’s because it’s news some people don’t want to hear. But I think there’s also a math-is-hard problem: a political universe in which there are lots and lots of polls seems to play into some natural failings of our mathematical intuition.

An earlier post Saturday, "Reporting That Makes You Stupid," took a crack at reporters for pretending that the race was actually a toss-up.

Worse yet, some reporting tells readers things the reporters have to know aren’t true. How many stories have you seen declaring that “both sides think they’re winning”? No, they don’t: the Romney campaign is visibly flailing, trying desperately to find new fronts on which to attack Obama. They clearly know that it will take a miracle -- sorry, a last-minute surge -- to prevail on Tuesday.

The Daily Caller's Gregg Re made a good catch pointing out how Krugman could be talking about his own colleagues at the New York Times.