FiveThirtyEight.com: My New Favourite Political Site

Mathematicians love Baseball.  Maybe not the game itself (though many do), but mathematicians tend to love the metagame behind Baseball, the statistics of Baseball.  As a result, there are a good number of mathematicians whose career is to analyse the statistics of Baseball.  One such mathematician is Nate Silver; well, technically, his degree is in economics, but that’s close enough.  Nate Silver is the co-author of the annual Baseball Prospectus, as well as many other books published by Baseball Prospectus.  Baseball Prospectus and its eponymous annual volume is a group devoted to analysing the statistics of Baseball and forecasting the game of Baseball.

However, I’m not here to talk about Baseball; I’m here to talk about politics.  In early 2008, Nate Silver started a site called FiveThirtyEight, a reference to the number of total electoral votes in a modern Presidential campaign.  This site proclaims to do, in their own words, “Electoral Projections Done Right.”

After looking at the site quite a bit, I’m going to agree with their tagline.  At worst, they are doing electoral projections infinitely better than has been done before, to my knowledge.  What makes FiveThirtyEight so much better than other places that do electoral projections?  Maths.

The entire site has a strong mathematical bent to it.  It isn’t simply an aggregate of polls, but rather a detailed analysis of said polls.  Each poll is weighted according to its reliability, which they base on a polls accuracy, sampling size, and recentness of the poll.  The polls are then aggregated according to their reliability and then a regression estimate is added to produce an average.  In layman’s terms, they’re using some seriously sound maths to analyse the polls.  You can read more about their methodology in their FAQ.

In addition to weighted averages of polls, they do election forecasting based on their data.  They have trackers that calculate trends in the polling.  And they blog about the election too.  In short, FiveThirtyEight is one of the most comprehensive and well thought out election blog on the net today and it is mathematically delicious (mathelicious?).

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