By ANDRES CORREA
The biggest story in the news media right now is the 2012 U.S. presidential election. The focus lately has been on convention speeches, gaffes, and the upcoming debates. Very few journalists are giving the public a clear image of the current state of the race. The best person in the business at providing this service is Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight.com.
FiveThirtyEight is a website that aggregates polls and has a daily blog by Nate Silver. Nate Silver first made a name for himself in baseball, where he created a system that used data to project the careers of Major League Baseball players. What makes his political polling site so special is that it correctly projected 49 out of 50 states in the 2008 race. In 2010, it correctly projected 34 of the 36 Senate races as well.
The way that FiveThirtyEight works is by aggregating as many polls as it can and then using statistics that Silver learned from his baseball days to balance each polls bias through demographics, track record of the pollster, sample size, and countless other factors.
The site is complete with a “Nov. 6 Forecast” that shows the probability and projected popular vote for each candidate on election day, as well as a “Now-cast” that gives the same information for each candidate if the election was held today. The “Nov. 6 Forecast” and the “Now-cast” are both updated daily and accompanied by a blog post by Silver explaining the results. The site also contains an electoral map with state-by-state forecasts.
For journalists to report the news during this election season, it is important to talk about more than just the gaffes. Media coverage of the election must shift more towards bigger issues, such as policy, and it must be supported by concrete statistics. The best place for journalists to go online and get concrete statistics on the state of the race today is the fivethirtyeight.com blog run by Nate Silver.