Mathematics and Politics

My father has filled me in on an excellent source of information regarding the US Presidential election – Five ThirtyEight.com.  Here is some information from the FAQ section of the site:

What is the mission of this website? Most broadly, to accumulate and analyze polling and political data in way that is informed, accurate and attractive. Most narrowly, to give you the best possible objective assessment of the likely outcome of upcoming elections.

How is this site different from other compilations of polls like Real Clear Politics? There are several principal ways that the FiveThityEight methodology differs from other poll compilations:

Firstly, we assign each poll a weighting based on that pollster’s historical track record, the poll’s sample size, and the recentness of the poll. More reliable polls are weighted more heavily in our averages.

Secondly, we include a regression estimate based on the demographics in each state among our ‘polls’, which helps to account for outlier polls and to keep the polling in its proper context.

Thirdly, we use an inferential process to compute a rolling trendline that allows us to adjust results in states that have not been polled recently and make them ‘current’.

Fourthly, we simulate the election 10,000 times for each site update in order to provide a probabilistic assessment of electoral outcomes based on a historical analysis of polling data since 1952. The simulation further accounts for the fact that similar states are likely to move together, e.g. future polling movement in states like Michigan and Ohio, or North and South Carolina, is likely to be in the same direction.

I regret the degree to which divisive political talk has replaced substantive discussion of important issues.  I can say that I appreciate the calm thoroughness of this website.  Perhaps there is a place for the calm reserve of mathematics in a field of endeavor that is so full of emotional turmoil.  With its track record of success Five ThirtyEight.com is worth watching.

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