Exposing 538's Bias

Ever since the 2008 election, 538 has cemented itself as a beacon of trustworthy statistics. Their analysts have a knack for cutting through the media hype and presenting cold, hard, statistical facts.

But this election season, one of 538's senior analysts, Harry Enten, has shown an exceptional bias towards Hillary Clinton. He is only presenting one side of the numbers, and as a result, he has failed to convince even the most elementary of statisticians.

Case in point: “Senator Sanders, You’re No Barack Obama”

After comparing Hillary’s 2008 campaign to her 2016 campaign with three different metrics, Mr. Enten concludes that, “by pretty much every metric, Clinton is in a stronger position than she was at this point eight years ago.”

But how hard do you have to look to find a metric where Hillary is performing worse? As it turns out, it’s not very hard at all.

From January 2007 to August 2007, Hillary’s national polls moved from ~35% to ~40%, which represents a clear upward trend:

Hillary’s upward trend in 2008. Source

This election season, from January 2015 to August 2015, Hillary’s polls moved from ~61% to ~51%, which represents a clear downward trend:

Hillary’s downward trend in 2016. Source

Call me crazy, but I think it’s notable that Hillary is losing points instead of gaining points at this stage of the election. At the very least, it strongly contradicts Mr. Enten’s statement that, “by pretty much every metric, Clinton is in a stronger position than she was at this point eight years ago.”

Bottom line: 2008 and 2016 are very different elections. Mr. Enten is correct that Hillary had a stronger starting position in 2016, but confidently insisting that Bernie Sanders cannot overtake her while she’s rapidly losing points in the national polls is wrongfully misleading. I hope to see Mr. Enten present more sides of the numbers in his future articles.