Nate Silver Predicts 2016 Presidential Race At Salesforce World Tour - InformationWeek

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Nate Silver Predicts 2016 Presidential Race At Salesforce World Tour

Nate Silver, the world's most famous statistician, offered his perspectives on the news media, political polling, and what will happen in the 2016 US presidential election during a presentation at the Salesforce World Tour in New York today. Here's what he said.

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NEW YORK – Nate Silver, famous for having correctly predicted the outcome of the 2008 US presidential election, said it's too early to tell with certainty who will win the 2016 presidential race, since it's still a year away, but early signals point to a close general election.

Silver, the famous statistician who runs the FiveThirtyEight blog, which covers politics and sports and is author of The Signal and The Noise, presented his predictions for the 2016 US presidential race at the Salesforce World Tour in New York Nov. 18.

Republicans are in disarray. Polling has become less accurate. There's no one place where everyone goes to get their news or facts. All this adds up to a different climate. Silver provided these perspectives and also offered predictions about the primary elections.

Who are his favorites for the Democratic and Republican primaries next year? Silver qualified his statements, saying that it was still really early to predict outcomes.

He noted that relying on media coverage and polls is not the best way to get an accurate view of who might win next year's election. That's because much of the media is swayed by particular political slants, and people don't get their news from the same sources anymore.

(Image: Jessica Davis/InformationWeek)

(Image: Jessica Davis/InformationWeek)

"There's so much information," Silver said. "We have no ability to consume all the news in one place, and Republicans and Democrats are getting completely different sets of facts."

The accuracy of poll numbers has also deteriorated. That's because it's more difficult to reach people via phone at home. Pew Research had response rates of 35% to their political telephone polls in the 1990s. Today that number is 9%.

"They have not yet run their 2015 survey, but you would expect it's even lower still," Silver said.

While you can use demographic weighting to make the poll more accurate, it's still more challenging than ever to be accurate. It's easier to get older people and women on the phone, Silver said. The 37 year-old said that people his age are unaccustomed to taking phone calls and they are worried about privacy when they are asked to take phone polls.

The Internet and online polls offer some promise, but it's difficult to reach people randomly there. Instead, you get people volunteering to take the poll, and they are typically more enthusiastic. You may miss people this way. This kind of polling isn't accurate enough yet, although it may improve in the next five to fifteen years, Silver said.

2016 Primary Predictions

Any predictions become more accurate as an event draws closer, he said. That said, while many vocal supporters are pushing Bernie Sanders, Silver said Hillary Clinton remains the favorite to win the Democratic primary.

"Yeah, Hillary is inevitable, with an asterisk," he said. "You've never had a candidate this far ahead in the polls." In addition, influential members of the Democratic Party have endorsed her almost universally, Silver said. She is winning what Silver calls The Endorsement Primary with 441 vs. Bernie Sanders's 2 and Martin O'Malley's 1.

Could anything derail the Hillary Clinton train in favor of Bernie Sanders? "Bernie does not have the institutional support," Silver said. However, he added, "There could always be a scandal. There could always be a health issue," that could derail Clinton's momentum. But without that, Clinton is a favorite to win the Democratic primary.

The Republican primary is far less certain. Polls have Donald Trump or Ben Carson leading, depending on which one you follow, and neither choice is a traditional candidate for US president.

"You've never had a Trump or a Carson be a major candidate before," Silver said. "Is it possible that this time is different? That you could really have a candidate like Trump? He's not even a Republican really."

Silver noted that Republicans have not lined up behind candidates as Democrats have lined up behind Clinton already. There are very few endorsements.

[Read about how the chief data scientist at Intel tackles big data projects.]

As for the general election, the fundamentals point towards a toss-up, Silver said. There is no incumbent in the race. There are mixed signals in one of the key factors that drives voters and their decisions, the economy -- it's not overwhelmingly good or bad.

Plus, things could change significantly around the economy in the year between now and the election.

Silver pointed to the Dow Jones Industrial Average in the year leading up to Nov. 5, 2007. The stock market was not looking worried then, but a year later it was the worst year for the market since 1937.

"People can forget about that lesson," Silver said.

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Jessica Davis has spent a career covering the intersection of business and technology at titles including IDG's Infoworld, Ziff Davis Enterprise's eWeek and Channel Insider, and Penton Technology's MSPmentor. She's passionate about the practical use of business intelligence, ... View Full Bio

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GarthP584
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GarthP584,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/22/2016 | 6:40:09 AM
Re: Remember the Joe Scarborough bet?
Yeah, or you could question the potential of a near perfect and then perfect score in pre-polling and just accept that like many other fraudulent voting practices in the States, if you know the outcome *before* the election (as was accidently plastered across a CNN screen for a few minutes and was 100% correct - I still have the image) then it's pretty easy to make accurate polling decisions. In his position I'd be pretty confident too, when you have hte Ace up your sleeve. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it's pretty certain to be a duck. But everyone will continue calling it a swan because of the "magic" trick at work. Everything about US politics is a joke.
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
12/6/2015 | 12:21:44 AM
Re: Remember the Joe Scarborough bet?
@Whoopty, I think it only matter of time, maybe few years from now...
batye
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50%
batye,
User Rank: Ninja
12/6/2015 | 12:16:37 AM
Re: Remember the Joe Scarborough bet?
@danielcawrey, yes, same here interesting to know :)
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Ninja
11/24/2015 | 8:08:48 PM
Re: Remember the Joe Scarborough bet?
Very interesting, and very true about presidentail polling. 

People don't take phone surveys anymore, so everyone should be suspicious when a poll using telephones comes out. All the data for surveys have moved to the web, and it's making things harder to predict, especially when it comes to elections. 
BertrandW414
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BertrandW414,
User Rank: Strategist
11/19/2015 | 10:59:10 AM
Re: Remember the Joe Scarborough bet?
I like your idea, Thomas... to borrow a "phraseology" from a certain candidate, if we could do this, it would be Huuuuuuge! ;-)
Whoopty
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Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
11/19/2015 | 7:37:17 AM
Re: Remember the Joe Scarborough bet?
While I get aggravated having to listen to all the rhetoric in the lead up to the elections in the UK, it probably only lasts a month or at most two. In comparison you guys have to deal with this almost a year before voting begins. It's exciting to watch from the sidelines, but I bet it's insufferable to have day-in day-out. 

Interesting to see mass data analytics beginning to give us true future predictions though. I wonder how many years it will be before we can use big-data to predict all sorts of day to day events. 
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
11/18/2015 | 4:33:39 PM
Re: Remember the Joe Scarborough bet?
If putting money where their mouth is would silence some of this year's political candidates, I'd gladly ante up. 
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
11/18/2015 | 3:12:59 PM
Remember the Joe Scarborough bet?
I like Nate Silver. He had enough confidence in his information on the 2012 election to resent it when his projected Obama win attracted denunciations from Fox News. In response, he offered a public $2,000 bet with commentator Joe Scarborough on the outcome. That was followed by a long silence from Joe, who conceded after the election that Nate had been right. I like people who put some money where their mouth is.
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