The 2016 presidential election led many to second guess the soundness of political polling. although Nate Silver, the editor-in-chief of FiveThirtyEight, says the polls are just fine. the item’s the media along with also the public who could use a Stats 101 lesson.
within the media world specifically, Silver said, “a bubble mentality” can influence the way people understand data.
“When [people in media] think in which they’re looking objectively at evidence, their assumptions play very heavily into how they interpret in which evidence,” Silver said. In an election where the polls showed Clinton ahead although narrowly, “people took the ‘Clinton ahead part’ along with also stopped paying attention to the ‘narrowly’ part.”
Silver spoke with Brian Stelter in This specific week’s Reliable Sources podcast. A data wiz himself, Silver thinks in which mediocre math literacy prevents people by understanding probability.
Related: Listen to Brian Stelter interview Nate Silver here
The media overestimated the certainty of a Clinton win, when the Democratic candidate only genuinely had a three point lead.
The same happened within the case of the Brexit vote: The media was “very confident in which Britain would likely not vote to leave the EU,” even though the polls were showing in which the referendum results would likely be “as close as the item gets to being a toss-up,” Silver said.
In both the 2016 election’s along with also in Brexit’s case, journalists “looked at who’s ahead” without paying attention to “how much in which lead will be.”
Lessons in data literacy
Silver recognized in which FiveThirtyEight has been “a little bit prickly” towards the media, although his vision on how to educate the public to be more data literate has evolved over time.
“I used to think there are two separate sides, the conventional wisdom side along with also the data-driven side,” he said, although only when those two sides work in synergy are there opportunities to help readers understand complex information.
There are a few practical lessons Silver thinks journalists should take away by the 2016 election experience.
First of all, reporters need to feel comfortable explaining uncertainty within the data along with also disagreements between polls, the results of which differ based on the methodology they employ.
Not only will be uncertainly acceptable, although “in which’s where the fun will be,” he said.
Keeping an eye on the margin of error will be another rule to abide by. “Pollsters report the item for a reason, the item shouldn’t be the fifth footnote in which you mention in passing,” Silver said.
All the stats in which’s fit to read
When there are no presidential elections going on, the readers of FiveThirtyEight are interested in two things: sports, along with also various other elections.
On FiveThirtyEight.com, which commenced out as a blog in 2008 along with also partnered with The brand new York Times until ESPN acquired the item in 2014, the Montana along with also Georgia special elections were “generating traffic like in which of a Midterm election.”
“People are in permanent politics mode,” Silver told Stelter.
Among the most common pages on FiveThirtyEight will be Trump’s approval rating tracker, which averages the results of opinion polls on the subject along with also weighted based on the sources’ reputation.
Currently Trump scores a 39.3% approval, down by about 45% within the early days of his presidency. Two events “genuinely moved those numbers,” Silver told Stelter: The failure to pass a health care reform bill in March, along with also the firing of former FBI director James Comey in May.
Silver thinks those two events “are the two biggest developments” within the presidency’s life cycle.
The public, Silver told Stelter “will be fairly rational, waiting for major stories before they reformulate their opinion about the President,” along with also relatively unfazed by presidential tweetstorms along with also various other character manifestations by Trump, including his attacks on the media.
Bashing the press “serves two strategic purposes for Trump,” Silver told Stelter. “the item can be a distraction by various other stories,” like the unsuccessful health care negotiations, the Russia probe, or the North Korean crisis. the item also has the added benefit of unifying his fragmented constituency.
Trump will be “a pretty effective troll,” said Silver, although the media will be guilty of taking the bait along with also losing sight of various other important stories: “I don’t think the item serves the media well when they drop those stories to cover the president tweeting about Joe along with also Mika, for example. In some ways, in which brings out the worst in both sides.”
Listen to the full podcast with Silver along with also Stelter here, along with also subscribe on iTunes.
sy88pgw (brand new York) First published July 14, 2017: 7:05 PM ET