Election Update: How Our Model Works

Andrew Peterson
Nov 5, 2016 · 4 min read

By Nate Silver

Filed under 2016 Election

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I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about why our forecast model is so bullish on Trump.

For reference, our polls-only model currently puts Trump’s chances at 33 percent, while our polls-plus model puts it slightly higher at 34 percent. This gives Trump significantly more favorable odds than a lot of other poll aggregators that do not have someone’s name in their title. Just look at the Princeton Election Consortium, which gives Hillary Clinton a 99 percent chance of winning, or The New York Times, which has her at 86 percent.

Even our own Harry Enten, who is not famous at all, claimed just last month that Trump has to win almost every swing state to have a chance at victory. But there is one key factor Harry and the other sites don’t take into account:

As you can see in the graphic above, our model predicts that me fucking this election up would be “very embarrassing” at best, although a career or life-ruining public backlash also falls within the margin of error.

We have data to support this — comparing adjectives that come up when searching for my name on Twitter now and comparing them to the same search on November 9th of 2012 we see some unsettling trends:

Almost no one says I’m a genius anymore, and there has been a ten-fold increase in how often I get called a dumbass.

Internal polling done at FiveThirtyEight revealed that just thinking about this data gives me diarrhea 100 percent of the time.

My editorial staff isn’t helping either: A Gallup poll released last month showed a 28-point increase in FiveThirtyEight employees savagely owning me in private Slack channels. Another recent poll from YouGov showed a 12-point bump (from the same time last year) in those who would love to watch my lifeless body slide down the side of a mountain. And although there are no polls that have been fully conducted since 2 minutes ago when an intern from ESPN took a full piss on my upper back and shoulders, there’s empirical evidence to suggest that the majority of likely voters in Nebraska’s second congressional district would agree that the situation was deeply fucked.

For more evidence of this kind of shit, just look at when our senior political writer Clare Malone published a piece called “The End of the Republican Party” almost four months before election day. Does she not know what kind of position that puts me in? I’d invite her to analyze some data from an ABC News/Washington Post poll that was taken earlier today:

I was on Stephen Colbert’s live post-debate show a couple of weeks back, and another fucked up thing happened.

You may remember this as the interview where 32 percent of vowels in the words I used were “e”, which is a 2-point advantage over Colbert whose vowel distribution was larger. Anyway, between commercial breaks he leaned in at a 22-degree angle and whispered these 51 words into my ear:

“Don’t fuck this up, famous writer, analyst, and statistician Nate Silver. If you fuck this up they’ll put you in jail. You nailed all 50 states plus DC in 2012, and the number of those you get wrong this time around correlates directly with how many times I’ll kill your family.”

I feel like I can summarize all this with an interesting trend that’s been appearing in our model recently.

In our simulations, which forecast each state and tally all the electoral votes each candidate could win, we’ve found that in 83 percent of possible outcomes I wind up dead in a ditch underneath a pile of burning tires. We’ll be keeping this in mind as Election Day draws closer and the final polling data comes in.

Nate Silver is the founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.

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