November 02, 2012

I, too, trust the veracity of Nate Silver's wager . . .

Conor Friedersdorf, a staff writer at The Atlantic, says that Nate Silver's wager makes him trust Nate all the more . . .
America is filled with people who think its okay to lie, bullshit, or otherwise misrepresent the truth in order to advance the electoral prospects of a politician or the cause of a governing coalition. Let's call them shills. Other people aren't necessarily aware that they're misrepresenting the truth, but their work is so shaped by what would advance the causes of a candidate or governing coalition that it's often indistinguishable from the shills. We'll call them hacks. In a better world, journalists would be sworn enemies of shills and hacks, and the best are. Unfortunately, the press, especially the political press, has more than its share of shills and hacks.

There are shills and hacks in the polling business too. You'd think that all pollsters would have an incentive to be as accurate as possible. But telling partisans what they want to hear, or telling undecided voters what partisans want them to hear, can be lucrative - it is widely believed in politics that if enough people say something will happen, there is a better chance of it happening.

And that may be correct.

. . .

I thought [the wager] was pitch perfect. It communicated, in one provocative Tweet, I am not a shill, I am not a hack, I know my business, and just to prove I am not bullshitting about any of that, I am willing to risk $1,000 of my own money on the accuracy of my model. It's the reaction of an honest professional confident in his craft - and it's very difficult to imagine, for example, Dick Morris reacting to Dave Weigel's criticism in the same way. For all I know, Silver would lose the bet, but the fact that he made it seemed to exude earnestness, and probably caused Scarborough to reassess how sure he was about his own claim. (Of course, since his claim was that the election is a tossup, Silver should've given him odds.)

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