As an avid sports fan, I’ve often referred to FiveThirtyEight for its advanced statistics and predictions. Advanced analytics, to a degree, work in sports given the large sample size of, for example, the NBA regular season and its 82 games.
But when it comes to politics? Analytics and statistics are significantly less reliable given the unpredictable human element when it comes to voting.
That may be why FiveThirtyEight founder Nate Silver may be couching his site’s decidedly pro-Democrat predictions for the hotly contested midterm elections.
According to FiveThirtyEight’s actual on-site midterm coverage, it claims that Democrats have a 7 in 8 chance (87.8 percent chance) of seizing the House, with Republicans obviously only having a 1 in 8 (12.1 percent) chance of retaining the House.
If you’re planning on a “blue wave,” that’s moderately good news. I say “moderately” because, as we saw with the 2016 election, even the most lopsided polls can be turned upside down at a moment’s notice.
Remember when most, though not all, of the “expert” polls predicted a Hillary Clinton landslide in 2016? We obviously know that’s not what happened.
Another factor to consider is that Democrats had similarly favorable polls heading into the November 2016 House battle, and that didn’t turn out very well for them either.
Perhaps it’s keeping these recent Democratic failures in mind that Silver is already tempering expectations for his “blue wave” predictions.
Preparing on ABC’s “This Sunday,” Silver couched his predictions with news that Democrats will absolutely hate.
“The range of outcomes in the House is really wide,” Silver said. “Our range, which covers 80 percent of outcomes, goes from, on the low end, about 15 Democratic pick-ups all the way up to low to mid 50’s, 52 or 53.”
A range of outcomes is always a given when it comes to quantitative analysis, but Silver’s next few comments certainly raised some eyebrows.
“Most of those (predictions) are above 23, which is how many seats (Democrats) would need to take the House,” Silver added.
Here comes the kicker.
“But no one should be surprised if (Democrats) only win 19 seats, and no one should be surprised if they win 51 seats,” Silver said. “Those are both extremely possible based on how accurate polls are in the real world.”
To give credit where it’s due, Silver is at least cognizant on the wide range of possibilities within political polls.
But at the end of the day, you just don’t know until the final votes are tallied.
Democrats shouldn’t rest easy knowing polls favor them, just as Republicans shouldn’t rest easy knowing of recent Democratic electoral failures.
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