According to the Atlantic’s Rebecca Greenfield, there were only three pundits, out of 74 she tracked, who called the 2012 Electoral College correctly—Nate Silver, Drew Linzer, and me.
I was happy enough to be in that rarified air, but then I read this:
In the meantime, even Silver may need to tip his cap to someone who seems to have done an even better job at prognosticating the final presidential election results. In a blog post today, dailyKos founder Markos Moulitsas noted that he had predicted exactly the final Electoral College vote totals and reported an average margin in the swing states that was less than Silver’s or that of any aggregator. Moulitsas’ methodology? A savvy but seemingly manual reading of last-minute pre-election polls.
Hmmm. Could that really be true? I decided to check the math. Here’s a chart with my predictions, as well as those of Nate and Lizner (a professor at Emory). I then calculated the average margin of error:
All three of us came in crazy accurate, with a margin of error under two points. But it’s true, I did edge out Nate by a hair, with Lizner just a touch behind Nate (though the professor didn’t venture a number on the national popular vote). In six of these predictions I came under a single point. Both Nate and Lizner managed that in three.
A couple of things can be gleaned from these results:
1) Math-based prognostication is superior to the old-school way of talking about gut feelings, or vibrations, or outright dishonest hackery.
All three of us used data to arrive at our conclusions. The difference between them and me? They were wedded to their algorithmic and automatic models, but my model is manual, allowing me the freedom to evaluate each piece of data on its merits and separate the wheat from the chaff, while mixing in early vote performance to further refine my calls.
So for example, I leaned heavily on registered voter models. When African Americans, Latinos, and young voters turned out in early voting, I knew the polls saying they wouldn’t show were wrong.
2. Two of the three top prognosticators have ties to Daily Kos. Don’t think that it’s a coincidence that some of the best political prognosticators are products of this site (and of the community that embraces them). It’s not just me and Nate (aka Poblano) —Princeton’s Sam Wang was tantalizingly close with his model, and he’s a Daily Kos oldtimer (UID 10459). Can you tell that we love our data, and that this is a central hub for the data-driven reality based community?
I can’t think of a bigger difference between our side and theirs: While they constructed an elaborate alternate reality to get them through the election, we stuck to the facts. That was easy this year, not so easy in 2010. We’ll see in 2014, but I’m hoping to further bolster our data analysis offerings. I might even be able to convince Sam Wang/Mindgeek to be a big part of those plans.
3. Daily Kos served you well in 2012. Heck, we always serve you well. But 2012 was a particularly good year for us. All my happy, confident talk over the summer and even after the first debate? It wasn’t bullshit. It wasn’t spin. It was the facts based on the available data. That’s why we didn’t run around like panicked chickens like MSNBC or Andrew Sullivan after the first debate. That’s why I celebrated diarists like MattTX, who dug into early vote totals and other available data and furthered a Daily Kos analytical tradition.
No one delivered as comprehensive a polling wrap-up as Steve Singiser. I still haven’t figured out how he ferreted out many of those polls. And the Daily Kos Elections team delivered (and still does) the best roundup of downballot races, as well as broader electoral analysis (like fundraising reports or district presidential performance). For those of you who caught my election night liveblogging, you might’ve seen me leaning heavily on David Jarman’s benchmark county projections. They were the reason I was able to call Florida and North Carolina for their respective victors long before the networks did. They were spot on.
Of course, we raised an amazing $3.4 million for Democratic campaigns this cycle. And Jed Lewison’s “Mitt Debates Himself” video wasn’t just one of the most viral this campaign cycle—its 2.2 million views on YouTube outpaced anything produced by the Romney campaign itself—but it came at a critical time as Romney was trying to Etch A Sketch himself into a moderate.
Brooklynbadboy wonders why Daily Kos doesn’t get respect from the political class. The answer is two-fold: Establishment media assume that all partisan media are full of hacks like Dick Morris, and they still can’t stomach us usurpers horning in on their territory. Quite similar to how old world baseball scouts resented the sabermetricians like Bill James (what the book and movie Moneyball were all about).
I don’t know if that will ever change, but I can live with it as long as you guys get that this site provided the best, most accurate, and most predictive data of any political media outlet in the country, bar none.
9:46 AM PT: You guys can keep supporting the great work Daily Kos does, and the great work it will do, by donating to the site. Thanks for everything!