Given this disparity, has the venerable art form of political punditry been discredited beyond redemption?
We’ve got some thoughts on that, surprise, surprise. The first is that it’s easy to make pundits look like witch doctors. All you have to do is cherry-pick the worst predictions, which we’ve done above, and suddenly a whole class of cable news analysts appears foolish.
Some pundits were right, or at least more right than Mr. Morris. Ron Brownstein of the National Journal had Obama to win, but a low predicted total of 288 electoral votes, for example. Donna Brazile of the Democratic National Committee said Obama would get 313 electoral votes, which was pretty close to what happened.
Slate has a fun dart-board graphic of pundit hits and misses, which you can peruse here.
After all, Nate Silver isn’t that special. That’s our second point. Many analysts produce prediction models based on lots of polls, plus the addition of economic indicators and other data. If you know your way around a regression analysis, it isn’t that hard.
Political scientist Josh Putnam of Davidson College did a math-based forecast at his Frontloading HQ blog, and he was dead-on, just like Silver. Sam Wang and the Princeton Election Consortium thought Romney would win Florida, but got everything else right.
Heading into the next election cycle, more and more media outlets will want their own Nate Silvers. After all, in the run-up to Election Day, 20 percent of all New York Times web visits included a stop at Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog. In that sense Silver has dented the old way of doing things, which may never be quite the same. The future of political journalism includes more numbers. We, um, veteran types will have to get used to that fact.