Tag Archives: Nate Silver

Got It, Nate: Polling Is A Fraud. NOW You Tell Us.

 

Before we find out what happens in Alabama, I want to get this issue out there.

Yesterday I posted on Facebook in part,

“When did the polling profession go to Hell? Today a Fox poll shows Roy Moore 10 pts behind, and a local Alabama poll shows him 9 pts AHEAD. I’ve never seen anything like it. Moore has been edging ahead since last week, and now he’s losing again? Why bother with polling at all, if they can’t do better than this?”

This prompted two friends to send me to 538, the realm of alleged genius stat-head Nate Silver, who was pronounced the guru of election prognostication in 2012, and who became just another false prophet after failing as miserably in 2016 as everybody else. Silver posted an thorough, honest and disturbing explanation for the discrepancy, and one that didn’t include “Fox News is lying.”

It is worth reading; must reading, really. [Here it is.] The tipping point for me was this graph…

…to which Nate responded,

“Although releasing 10 different versions of the same poll may be overkill, it illustrates the extent to which polling can be an assumption-driven exercise…”

CAN be?

What I derive from Silver’s explanation is that polling doesn’t work any more, but the news media, politicians and pollsters want us to think it does.  There is no longer a reliable way to access a fair sampling of subjects, and the biases of pollsters create either unconscious or deliberate distortions in the poll results. This was always true to some extent [ DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN!] but now we are looking at a “science” that is about as reliable and trustworthy as astrology. Continue reading

8 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Research and Scholarship, The Internet, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President

Nate Silver Explains How Not Only Does “Bias Make You Stupid,” It Makes Others Stupid Too.

natesilverEthics Alarms covered some of this topic years ago in a post about how the news media’s unceasing and uncritical fawning over Barack Obama made him a less effective, indeed a bad, President. (If someone can find the link, I’ll post it. I don’t have the energy this morning.) Now polling and stat guru Nate Silver has written an intriguing analysis of the 2016 election that argues that liberal news media bias—you know, that thing that doesn’t exist—perversely helped elect President Trump. In an earlier January essay, Silver wrote,

National journalists usually interpreted conflicting and contradictory information as confirming their prior belief that Clinton would win. The most obvious error, given that Clinton won the popular vote by more than 2.8 million votes, is that they frequently mistook Clinton’s weakness in the Electoral College for being a strength. They also focused extensively on Clinton’s potential gains with Hispanic voters, but less on indications of a decline in African-American turnout. At moments when the polls showed the race tightening, meanwhile, reporters frequently focused on other factors, such as early voting and Democrats’ supposedly superior turnout operation, as reasons that Clinton was all but assured of victory.

In his most recent article, Silver explains… Continue reading

9 Comments

Filed under Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship

“Fake News” Of The Day: Nate Silver Says Clinton “Almost Certainly” Would Be President If Not For Comey

A bit bored, are we, Nate?

A bit bored, are we, Nate? Not a football fan?

The Left’s fury over the fact that their certifiably awful candidate somehow managed to lose to even more certifiably awful Donald Trump is unabated. Indeed, it seems to be getting worse, as Democrats, progressives and social justice warriors continue to reveal themselves as poor losers and lousy citizens—but spectacular hypocrites—by both trying to undo the election and attempting to undermine the legitimacy of the President Elect before he even moves in to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. At the same time, the Democratic Party is teaching our children, if they read Politico, that denying accountability and blaming others for your own botches is acceptable adult behavior. It wasn’t their fault that they managed to blow an election against an adversary they publicly wished for. It was the Russians! The FBI! The Electoral College! The news media! The voters hate women–even women hate women!

It was Hillary Clinton, of course, but never mind. Yesterday’s headline in The Washington Examiner and a few other news sources are sure to give the Democrats solace: Nate Silver (the acclaimed statistics guru who nonetheless joined other poll-readers to pronounce Hillary an odds on favorite to win on November 12 but with a bit less certainly than the rest, so he remains a genius by being less wrong), it said, had pronounced that “Clinton ‘almost certainly’ would be president if not for Comey.”

This is fake news. Why? I could go into detail about why it’s an irresponsible opinion and based on logical fallacies as well as confirmation bias, which Nate is supposed to understand, but that wouldn’t make the story fake news. It is fake news because Silver never said what the headline claims.

Silver, who actual writes up positions he believes are accurate on his blog, apparently was bored on Sunday so he began musing in a series of tweets.

“Comey had a large, measurable impact on the race. Harder to say with Russia/Wikileaks because it was drip-drip-drip,” he said in the first. This became, in the Examiner story, “Comey had a large, measurable impact on the race,” leaving out the second part of the tweet, the part that meant “I think, but it’s impossible to be sure because other things were happening too.”

I have to say, Nate is really sloppy here. One way Comey had a larger impact than he should have was because of the way the Clinton campaign reacted to his first letter, which he was ethically obligated to write. They sicced other lawyers on him (lawyers who were looking for jobs in the upcoming Clinton Administration); they even accused him of breaking the law, which was ridiculous. They made themselves, that is, Hillary, look guilty by attacking the same guy they had called a great American just a couple of months earlier for not recommending that the candidate be indicted. Continue reading

51 Comments

Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship, Social Media

More Post-Election Ethics: “Bias Makes You Stupid” Edition

Dewey Wins!

Dewey Wins!

1. Ugliest moment of election night: Trump’s assembled chanting “Lock her up!” as the electoral victory approached.

2. Anti-Trump bias made the entire journalism profession and punditry class incompetent, forming an almost impenetrable echo chamber that assured its smug occupants and Democrats that Hillary Clinton literally couldn’t lose. “Bias makes you stupid” is a frequent refrain here, and I cannot think of a more powerful example.

In a terrific if rueful article in Slate, Jim Newell writes of how the whole Democratic establishment convinced itself that Hillary couldn’t lose:

I think of the lawmakers, the consultants, the operatives, and—yes—the center-left media, and how everything said over the past few years leading up to this night was bullshit…Think of how wrong the entire national media conversation was—and yes, I contributed my fair share—about how the Republicans were being torn apart as a party. I prewrote a piece Tuesday afternoon, to be published in the event of the expected Clinton win, pushing back against both myself and other members of the media, arguing that Democrats and Republicans were both in existential trouble and that, in the short-term context of a decaying political system, Republicans might even have the edge…This was wrong. Republicans don’t have a slight edge over Democrats in a decaying political system. Republicans are ascendant.

The whole point of experts and analysts is that they use facts and objectivity to cut through rationalizations and bias. If they can’t or won’t do that, they are useless. They are frauds. Here’s the Washington Post’s media columnist, Margaret Sullivan, who proves elsewhere in the essay, even as she writes about bias, that she is still a partisan to her core:

To put it bluntly, the media missed the story. In the end, a huge number of American voters wanted something different. And although these voters shouted and screamed it, most journalists just weren’t listening. They didn’t get it.They didn’t get that the huge, enthusiastic crowds at Donald Trump’s rallies would really translate into that many votes. …It would be too horrible. So, therefore, according to some kind of magical thinking, it couldn’t happen.

Journalists — college-educated, urban and, for the most part, liberal — are more likely than ever before to live and work in New York City and Washington, D.C., or on the West Coast. And although we touched down in the big red states for a few days, or interviewed some coal miners or unemployed autoworkers in the Rust Belt, we didn’t take them seriously. Or not seriously enough….We just kept checking our favorite prognosticating sites and feeling reassured, even though everyone knows that poll results are not votes.

The news media anti-Trump bias might have even lost Hillary the election, not just by outraging the public–it was so, so blatant–but by deceiving the Democrats. Clinton didn’t bother to campaign in Wisconsin, so convinced was she that voters there would blindly follow the party, as usual. The state was one of the big victories for Trump.

Yes, bias has made U.S. journalism incompetent, stupid, self-satisfied and useless. It will take more than one fiasco to reform it—if it can be reformed. I hope it can because democracy doesn’t function well with an untrustworthy newsmedia, Continue reading

33 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship

The Sterling Backlash: Signature Significance, Racism, Hypocrisy, and Double Standards

Bennie Thompson

“No big deal, he’s  just a Congressman…”

I often use the term “signature significance” in posts, and since it is a term that is not often applied to ethics, I thought today would be a perfect time to illustrate it in its original context, while clarifying the ethical murk around the Donald Sterling Ethics Train Wreck.

The original context of the phenomenon of signature significance is baseball, and I just watched an example of it. Today Red Sox left-hander John Lester beat the Oakland A’s, a very good team, by hurling eight innings in which he gave up no runs, only one hit, two bases on balls, while striking out 15 batters. If you don’t know anything about the game, let me tell you: this is extraordinarily good. Pitching performances can be measured and compared by using the “game score” method, developed by sabermetrics (that is, baseball statistics) pioneer Bill James. The best game score ever achieved was 105; the highest score in major league history for a pitcher who did not pitch all nine innings (as with Lester today) is 95, and has only been done once. (Theoretically, a game score could be as high as 145)

James also devised the term “signature significance” in the context of such games. His research showed that pitchers who were not outstanding talents never pitched a game with such a high game score even once—it simply didn’t happen. Thus, he reasoned, pitching a single game like Lester’s (the actual game he used was a similar performance by a young Roger Clemens before anyone knew what Clemens would become) was sufficient proof, all by itself, to conclude fairly and scientifically that the game was meaningful, without any other data. In cases of signature significance, he explained, the usual statistical rule that small sample sizes are not reliable indicators do not apply. Sometimes one incident, performance or episode is sufficient to make a confident verdict.

Signature significance is very useful, I have found, to rebut unethical rationalizations for unethical conduct that are used to excuse the agent of the ethical breach. “It’s only one mistake” and “Anyone can make a mistake” are the main ones. In the case of some serious kinds of bad conduct, this reasoning is misleading and false. Donald Sterling’s comments recorded and publicized by his whatever-you-call-her V. Stiviano have signature significance: they prove he’s a racist. Can you imagine any non-racist individual saying, in public or private, that he didn’t want his girlfriend being seen at his team’s games in the company of blacks?  How could this possibly occur? It wouldn’t, of course. Only those who hold racist attitudes and beliefs think and say such things. Sterling is a racist.

Stiviano, for her part, despite being the one who brought the media, the sports world and the public down on Sterling’s 80-year-old head, now says she doesn’t believe he’s a racist. Of course, she also says she’s his “silly rabbit” and that she is going to be President some day. She is an idiot. But I digress.

Other figures have made statements in the media that also have signature significance of the same sort as Sterling’s, yet the very same groups and journalists who have been whipped into a self-righteous froth over Sterling are strangely silent: Continue reading

15 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Citizenship, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Leadership, Race, Research and Scholarship, The Internet, U.S. Society

Five Sarcastic Observations About The Least Surprising Ethics Story Of The Year…

.Hands down.

And in addition, we can all agree, can we not, that:

  1. …this does not indicate media bias?
  2. …the timing was completely coincidental, and had nothing to do with journalists fearing that their candidate might lose?
  3. …there was no ethical obligation on the part of responsible news media to make certain that its coverage was balanced in the final week, given its likely disparate impact in a close race?
  4. …this had no impact on the election?
  5. …Nate Silver knew it was going to be like this all along?

______________________________________

Graphic: Davintosh

23 Comments

Filed under Journalism & Media

Why Nate Silver Is Wrong

Funny, Nate, I don’t see “leadership” anywhere in here…

I have wrestled with whether to write this post for about a month now. I am not in the election predicting business, which is a fool’s game, and this is tangential to ethics at best. On the other hand, leadership and American culture are among the subjects frequently explored here. Nate Silver’s analysis of the Presidential election on his New York Times blog has been at once fascinating and aggravating for me, though it has been a godsend to my nervous friends on the ideological left. Silver has insisted that his statistical analysis of the polls fortells an Obama victory with increasing certainty. Last I looked, his model was showing the election to be all but in the bag for the President, with, Silver calculates, an 86% chance that Romney goes down to defeat.

I don’t question Silver’s figures or formula. He’s a statistics whiz. His mistake is trying to use the tools he has used to great success on the poker table and in the world of sabermetrics to analyze the election of a President of the United States, without acknowledging or understanding the core of the process, or the culture and context in which it occurs. In many elections, most perhaps, his model would work perfectly. This time, it is going to fail. Silver won’t see his failure coming because as brilliant as he is in his chosen field, his demonstrated expertise is in economics and statistics. He really believes, apparently, that American history doesn’t matter, that what Americans think about when they choose a President is irrelevant, and that numbers purify the discussion and remove all the bias and static. He couldn’t be more wrong. Continue reading

156 Comments

Filed under Character, Government & Politics, History, Leadership, Science & Technology, U.S. Society