Nate Silver May Stop Doing Forecasts Out Fear of Influencing Elections

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Nate Silver told an audience at Washington University in St. Louis that he may give up his election forecasts after 2014 or 2016 if they are having an undue influence on elections.

Silver said, “The polls can certainly affect elections at times,” Silver said. “I hope people don’t take the forecasts too seriously. You’d rather have an experiment where you record it off from the actual voters, in a sense, but we’ll see. If it gets really weird in 2014, in 2016, then maybe I’ll stop doing it. I don’t want to influence the democratic process in a negative way. I’m [hoping to make] people more informed, I don’t want to affect their motive because they trust the forecasters.”

Nate Silver’s concern is nothing new. For as long as there has been public polling, there have always been concerns about the influence of polls on elections. However, I don’t think his forecast influences elections. The valuable service that Nate Silver provides is that he holds pollsters accountable, and he raises the bar for quality polling.

Silver’s forecast has also have the added benefit of getting millions of people interested in polling and statistics. He is helping people learn that not all polls are alike. Some polls really are better than others. The message is that reliable polls deserve to be taken more seriously.

Beyond Nate Silver’s forecast, polling is already a part huge of the political and media election narrative.

For some less scrupulous individuals and organizations, polling has become a partisan activity. Conservatives conducted their own flawed polls in an attempt to create the illusion of Romney momentum in 2012. We live in an era where one side of American political discourse is inventing their own facts. Nate Silver’s forecast takes the partisanship out of polling, and places the emphasis back on the math.

Nate Silver is cutting through the partisan noise. His concerns about influencing elections seem misplaced. What Silver is really doing via his forecast is presenting a clearer picture of the direction that an election is going in. This is why his work is valuable, and needed now more than ever.

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