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Author: sykesix Big gold star, 5000 posts Top Recommended Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 62007  
Subject: Re: Nate Silver to Joe Scarborough: Wanna Bet? Date: 11/1/2012 12:53 PM
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slver has spent the week firing back, criticizing political pundits for not understanding how odds and probability work..

The bolded portion is the key question in my mind. Is Silver's prediction based on probability math or is it an effort keep conservative voters home?

I guess we find out Tuesday.


How will we find out? We already know what the right wing is going to say. If Obama wins then obviously Silver's voter suppression efforts worked. If Romney wins then it is obvious Silver was sandbagging. They've set up a condition where they can claim victory no matter what. However there is a way to find out, but no right-winger will ever use it. More on that below.

However the bold part is correct, if a bit generous. I've made a series of posts related to this topic over the last month or so. I've given many examples of top right-wing pundits who simply don't understand (or pretend not to understand) math at all. Basically, the right wing is in full-on conspiracy/melt down mode whenever someone mentions polling data. Who are you going to believe? Your lying eyes or Rush?

Thing is, you don't need Nate Silver to come up with a conclusion that is similar his. As a first approximation, you can simply add up the electoral votes for states where Obama is likely to win, and if you do that it comes up to be more than 270. That has been true all summer and fall. The pros use Monte Carlo simulations and such and calculate all possible outcomes, which is certainly a refinement. I can think of about five or six sites who do the same thing, with slightly different methodologies, and they all come up with close to the same result. The right wing response is as predictable as the sun rising in the east.

Back to the question you raised, how do you find out? If this really was a conspiracy as the right-wing pundits are claiming, then it would be dead simple to unmask it. Simply get the topline polling data (easily obtainable) and run the Monte Carlo simulation yourself. You can do this in Excel. If it turns out the probabilities are in favor of Romney that would be pretty damning.

Surely there has got to be a right winger somewhere who has actually done the obvious thing and used this method, right? Guess what? Not one of the people making the attacks on the data have tried this, and they don't know anyone who has tried it, and they don't know anybody who knows how to try it. Funny that.

Instead conservatives react as they always do when confronted by facts and numbers. Instead of examining the evidence for themselves they:

1. Attack the messenger
2. Sow seeds of doubt
3. Impune the character of knowledgable people
4. Invoke conspiracies
5. Advance implausible alternate theories

This creates the scenario in my first paragraph. By ignoring the obvious question if the data are true or not, any result that happens can be used as evidence the right wingers were correct.
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