Silver: It’s Not Me Vs. Sam Wang, It’s Wang Vs. The World


Nate Silver wrote on Thursday that he doesn’t see his ongoing dispute with Princeton University’s Sam Wang as a mano-a-mano showdown. Rather, it is the entire world that is at odds with Wang’s election forecast, he argued.

Silver gave an extended critique of Wang’s forecasting model to Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire. He started by noting that almost every other predictor, from Five Thirty Eight to Daily Kos to the betting markets, gives Republicans the edge in taking the Senate in November.

Except Wang.

“The most striking feature about the Senate forecasts right now is how much of a consensus there is between them,” Silver wrote.

“The exception is Sam Wang’s model, which is alone in having Democrats favored (on Thursday AM it had Republicans with a 38 percent chance of winning the majority),” he continued. “So this is really about ‘Sam Wang vs. the World’ and not ‘Sam Wang vs. FiveThirtyEight’.”

Silver then provided another rebuttal of Wang’s methodology, continuing on the comments he made to TPM this week and previous blog posts he has written.

“In football terms,” he said, “it’s like asserting the Philadelphia Eagles are still favored even after the Dallas Cowboys score a touchdown to go ahead 21-17 because the Eagles had been ahead on average earlier in the game.”

In his own blog post this week, Wang offered an extended response to Silver (whom Wang never actually refers to by name, instead calling him “the reviewer,” as in peer reviewer).

“I am concerned that you don’t really understand our current methods. The flavor of the statistical approach comes from physical sciences, and may seem unfamiliar,” Wang wrote. “To step outside the usual peer review process for a moment: it seems like something that could be solved over a beer or two.”

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