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.