Quote of the Day: New York Times’ Nate Silver Insists Race is Not “Too Close to Call” (UPDATED)
Our political Quote of the Day comes from the New York Times’ Nate Silver, who has come under attack recently from conservatives and Republicans for his forecast formula which puts President Barack Obama ahead. Silver — whose latest forecast gives Obama a 83% chance of winning and predicts Obama will get 305 electoral votes to Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s 232 — is adamant that while there is a chance many state polls could be wrong, all evidence points to the race NOT being too close to call:
This introduces the possibility that most of the pollsters could err on one or another side — whether in Mr. Obama’s direction, or Mr. Romney’s. In a statistical sense, we would call this bias: that the polls are not taking an accurate sample of the voter population. If there is such a bias, furthermore, it is likely to be correlated across different states, especially if they are demographically similar. If either of the candidates beats his polls in Wisconsin, he is also likely to do so in Minnesota.
The FiveThirtyEight forecast accounts for this possibility. Its estimates of the uncertainty in the race are based on how accurate the polls have been under real-world conditions since 1968, and not the idealized assumption that random sampling error alone accounts for entire reason for doubt.
To be exceptionally clear: I do not mean to imply that the polls are biased in Mr. Obama’s favor. But there is the chance that they could be biased in either direction. If they are biased in Mr. Obama’s favor, then Mr. Romney could still win; the race is close enough. If they are biased in Mr. Romney’s favor, then Mr. Obama will win by a wider-than-expected margin, but since Mr. Obama is the favorite anyway, this will not change who sleeps in the White House on Jan. 20.
His bottom line:
My argument, rather, is this: we’ve about reached the point where if Mr. Romney wins, it can only be because the polls have been biased against him. Almost all of the chance that Mr. Romney has in the FiveThirtyEight forecast, about 16 percent to win the Electoral College, reflects this possibility.
Yes, of course: most of the arguments that the polls are necessarily biased against Mr. Romney reflect little more than wishful thinking.
Nevertheless, these arguments are potentially more intellectually coherent than the ones that propose that the race is “too close to call.” It isn’t. If the state polls are right, then Mr. Obama will win the Electoral College. If you can’t acknowledge that after a day when Mr. Obama leads 19 out of 20 swing-state polls, then you should abandon the pretense that your goal is to inform rather than entertain the public.
But the state polls may not be right. They could be biased. Based on the historical reliability of polls, we put the chance that they will be biased enough to elect Mr. Romney at 16 percent.
The one certainty: come Tuesday night someone will have a carton of egg on their face: either Silver or his critics who insist his methodology is flawed (as I’ve pointed our here partisans on both sides attack the methodology of polls and pollsters when it shows their side behind but NEVER go after them when the polls show their candidate way up in those polls) and that he’s merely in the tank for Obama.
—Swing state polls
—NBC/Marist polls find Obama ahead in Ohio and tied with Romney in Florida.
—Miami Herald FL Poll: Romney 51%-Obama 45%
—CNN Poll: Obama 50% – Romney 47% in Ohio
–-Talking Points Memo Polltracker with many polls
—Real Clear Politics poll page
—Pollster poll page
—GOPer Michael Barone looks at the numbers and sees a big and win for Romney.
—The Huffington Post says the national numbers may say one thing but in the swing states every sign suggests Obama’s battleground “firewall” is holding.
UPDATE 2: VERY INTERESTING MUST READ election predictions from some of the writers at Outside the Beltway.