On Friday, in an interview with ESPN radio host Bill Simmons, statistician and polling guru Nate Silver expressed his low regard for the Washington, DC political gossip sheet, Politico. The publication, headed by former Washington Post scribe Jim VanDehei and Time magazine’s Mike Allen, tries to cover politics “like sports,” said Silver, “but not intelligently at all.”
Silver was a guest on “The B.S. Report,” Simmons’ weekly show on ESPN radio. He was responding to an article by Dylan Byers that appeared in Politico in the weeks before the 2012 election, the headline of which blared, “Nate Silver: One-term celebrity?”
Another Politico employee, Jonathan Martin tweeted, “Avert your gaze, liberals: Nate Silver admits he’s simply averaging public polls and there is no secret sauce.”
Politico was wrong, Silver was right, improving upon his 2008 record of calling 49 of the 50 state races correctly by calling all 50 in 2012. He told Simmons, “What was remarkable to me is that you had some, like, journalist for Politico, or something who, like, tweeted ‘All Nate’s doing is averaging polls and counting electoral votes? That’s the secret sauce?’ It’s like, well, yeah, and the fact that you can’t comprehend that very basic thing? That says more about you than, than about me, right?”
Simmons remarked that Politico’s attack on Silver seemed “passive aggressive,” that they “couldn’t really figure out a good way” to hit the statistician turned blogger turned election forecaster.
“Politico is — it’s like ‘Who won the day?’ kind of thing, right?” Silver said. “They’re trying to cover it like it’s sports, but not in an intelligent way at all, right? And they want to create noise, basically, right? Their whole thing is, you have to have a lead story about some gaffe that some candidate made on the campaign trail.”
The FiveThirtyEight blogger is a one-time baseball statistics analyst who turned his formula for incorporating historial and present data about NBA players into a formula for predicting political outcomes. His book, The Signal and the Noise: Why most predictions fail but some don’t roared up the bestseller charts in the wake of the election.
Listen to part of Silver’s interview with Simmons, embedded below via Talking Points Memo:
[New York Times‘ Nate Silver, image via Wikimedia, Creative Commons licensed]