Friday, September 20, 2013

You Too Could Have Been Lauded In The Media As An Election Pundit Like Nate Silver If You Called Two States Correctly!

The map above shows the final state by state result in the Electoral College for the 2012 election.Anyone who was not a totally blinkered artisan, or who was Dick Morris could have predicted the result, before the campaign started for nearly all the states.

Obviously President Obama was not going to win the Southern states (in red) or the conservative Midwestern states. On the other hand Mitt Romney was never going to win the blue states especially California and New York.

So what value, prestige, readership and frankly, big money, should accrue to professionals who pundit about elections for a living. Not any from now on as their job can be done by anyone with the slightest understanding of the polling process. Basically the pundits who discovered the formula have made themselves redundant. 
Much fuss and lauding of Nate Silver of fame ensued after he got the 2008 and 2012 elections right with his Electoral College prediction-especially for his 100% success in calling all 50 states correctly. Was there some magical formula or incredible insights at work-hardly.

Silver's formula (and Dr.Wang's at Princeton) is to simply look at the aggregate polling for each state and give the state to whomever has the lead based on that simple analysis. It works! It worked in 2008 and worked in 2012. The Romney campaign fooled themselves by using their own internal polling, and looked at favorable individual polls which method is now firmly in the dustbin of history.

Thus the reality is that based on a simple reading of aggregate polling in the "marginal" states 
there was only the calls about Virginia and Florida that had any chance of making or breaking a reputation as a psephologist. Nate Silver at got it right when Florida went for Obama by less than 1% whilst other prognosticators got 49 states right and came in second in the pundit stakes. But any John Doe who can see the state by state polls as they aggregated, and if he got the Florida coin toss right, could have been a media superstar pundit.  
Virginia was admittedly a challenge, but only if the gyrations from September onwards are considered. Before that President Obama had leads running from close to substantial whilst Romney, in his September flourish, only had the smallest of leads in the aggregate polling. The final aggregates had Obama a fraction ahead (+0.3), and the final, actual, result gave the president a comfortable lead (3.0%) which reflected the reality of all the polling over the year.

The reality is that Romney never had a lead in Ohio as per this Real Clear Politics average poll chart which reflects the aggregate of polls at any one time. It is the same case for Iowa. With Colorado there was a very brief period where Romney had a small lead but for the bulk of the campaign, especially towards the end it was safe for President Obama. 

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