Well-known political analyst Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight has drawn the wrath of the internet after his election predictions, yet again, ended up being quite a bit off. He predicted an easy victory for Joe Biden, but that hasn’t turned out to be the case as the election is still too close to call two days after election day.
What Nate Silver predicted about the election
In one of his posts on FiveThirtyEight before the election, he declared that President Donald Trump could still win but that "the polls would have to be off by way more than in 2016." Nate Silver gave Trump an only 10% chance of winning a second term, based on the results of the many polls he had analyzed. He said things wouldn't change that much between his prediction and just after midnight on election day, which was when they froze their model.
"There just hasn't been any real sign that the race is tightening," he wrote. "If anything, Joe Biden's margins are expanding slightly in the Upper Midwest, and there isn't any particular reason to expect the race to tighten when more than 90 million people have already voted and the most important news story — that the United States just set a record for the number of COVID-19 cases in a day — is a negative one for Trump."
Nate Silver also declared that "Biden is unambiguously ahead in the polls." Looking at what he said about the battleground states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, he said Biden was favored to win. However, we still don't know who won Pennsylvania, and Trump is in the lead as of the time of this writing. Silver said Biden was slightly favored to win Florida and gave Trump only a 31 in 100 chance to win the state, but Trump ended up taking it anyway.
Facing the internet's wrath
Looking back on Nate Silver's prediction now, it's understandable why so many people are upset. He pretty much guaranteed that there wouldn't be any question about who won the election, but he was obviously wrong. Clearly, there are some problems with his model, and this year, everyone noticed.
Twitter was a hotbed of comments — both angry and funny — about how Silver's forecast was wrong. Newsweek gathered a large number of these comments, but we'll take a look at a handful of them here. For example, author and blogger Dan Arel questioned how Silver still has a job with all the incorrect predictions he made:
But for real, how the hell does Nate Silver have a job?
— Dan Arel (@danarel) November 4, 2020
Podcast host China Noelle called attention to something Van Jones of CNN said, adding that it was a major understatement, especially given Silver's call:
"Polls can't be trusted. There's something wrong with the polling industry." - Van Jones, CNN Elections
Er, UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR! According to polls, we all should've fallen asleep knowing who won. 🙄 Okay, Nate Silver.
— China Noëlle (@ChinaOkasi) November 4, 2020
Erik Engquist, senior managing editor of The Real Deal, questioned how many elections it would take before people stop taking Silver's predictions seriously.
How many elections can Nate Silver's model do this before people stop taking it seriously? It gave Biden a 95% chance to win MI, 94% chance to win WI, 69% chance to win FL, etc. https://t.co/3frtqOn6qT
— Erik Engquist (@erik_engquist) November 4, 2020
Businessweek writer Ashlee Vance made a joke using a play on words:
How many Poles does it take for Nate Silver to get a forecast right?
— Ashlee Vance (@valleyhack) November 4, 2020
It may still be several days or possibly even a few weeks before we know who actually won the election. And to be fair, Silver wasn't the only one predicting an easy Biden win. He's just the one catching the most flak for it. This cycle makes it very clear that polls leave much to be desired when it comes to predicting election outcomes.