Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight defends election predictions amid backlash

Nelson Oliveira, New York Daily News
·2 min read

Polling guru Nate Silver, founder and editor-in-chief of the FiveThirtyEight website, didn’t mince words responding to critics who are accusing him of misleading voters with election predictions that seemed much more favorable to Joe Biden.

“If they’re coming after FiveThirtyEight, then the answer is f--- you, we did a good job,” he told Galen Druke, host of the website’s Politics Podcast.

As did many polls leading up to the election, the outlet’s most recent predictions showed the Democratic nominee with a sizable lead over President Donald Trump. But the race turned out to be much tighter than many people expected, with the president outperforming Biden in several states.

FiveThirtyEight predicted, for instance, that the former vice president had a nearly 70% chance of winning Florida, which did not happen.

Silver explained that the site considered Biden “a fairly heavy favorite” nationwide because “he could withstand a 2016-style polling error or a bit larger” and still win.

“People have false impressions about how accurate polls are,” he told Druke on Wednesday.

“On the one hand, you have the 2016 criticism, where maybe the polls were close but they were wrong directionally, and then in 2020 say, ‘Oh, well the polls, I mean they may have been the right call, except in one state, but the margins were off.’ That’s the better criticism, but you have to pick one of those two. You can’t do both.”

Disappointed voters on social media still blamed Silver for not offering a precise forecast of how tight the race turned out to be.

“But for real, how the hell does Nate Silver have a job?” author Dan Arel tweeted.

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