Politics

Link of the Week: FiveThirtyEight.com

In the home stretch to Election Day, here’s my new favorite-favorite-favorite poll analysis web site: FiveThirtyEight.com. There are many such sites now, like Electoral-Vote.com, Pollster.com and CNN’s Electoral Map page.

But FiveThirtyEight.com (a reference to the total membership of the Electoral College) is amazing. It’s the work of a professional baseball statistician (quite famous in that world) named Nate Silver. Silver doesn’t just compile all the state-by-state presidential polls, counting each state as red, blue or tied — as most of the other sites do in one form or another. Instead, he runs all the polls through an incredibly sophisticated spreadsheet that weighs the reliability and recency of the poll, demographic cross-tabs, regional voting patterns, and many other factors, to create a big probability matrix that spits out both the likely electoral vote if the election were held today, and the likely outcome on November 4th. Details are on the site’s FAQ.

The intricacy of his system is mind-blowing, and more than a little intimidating. But Silver’s work has a stellar reputation for reliability and perspicacity in the baseball statistics industry, which he has revolutionized more-or-less single-handedly. And although he is an Obama supporter, Silver’s observations about polling, statistical massage and campaign strategy are extremely interesting, useful (for journalists) and trenchant. A highly, highly recommended site.

Link of the Week: USA Today Election Guide

Here’s one appropriate to the season:

USA Today maintains an excellent, up-to-date, state-by-state guide to national and state level races, including candidates for Congress and state legislatures. It includes all official candidates (even minor parties) with their contact information and background briefings, and it lists major dates on the states’ electoral calendars. It would be the perfect one-stop-shop, if only it denoted who’s an incumbent.

‘Peer’ = Member of House of Lords

In British journalistic usage, ‘peer’ usually means a member of the House of Lords, the upper house of Parliament.

Technically, of course, ‘peer’ means any one of several ranks of titled nobility, which may or may not include membership in the House of Lords. But for the most part, the UK press uses the term as shorthand for the political office.

‘Tory’ = Conservative

A ‘Tory’ is a member of the Conservative Party in Britain or Canada.

This is not to be confused with a politician who is simply philosophically conservative (small ‘c’). It only applies to a member of the Conservative (big ‘C’) Party.