Exclusive - Nate Silver Extended Interview Pt. 1

  • Aired:  10/17/12
  •  | Views: 128,231

In this exclusive, unedited interview, statistician Nate Silver explains the science behind effective political forecasting and separating the signal from the noise. (5:32)

>> Jon: WELCOME BACK.

MY GUEST TONIGHT IS A STATISTICIAN AND FOUNDER OF THE ANY TIMED POLITICAL BLOG 538.COM.

HIS NEW BOOK IS CALLED "THE SIGNAL AND THE NOISE: WHY SO MANY PREDICTIONS FAIL BUT SOME DON'T."

PLEASE WELCOME BACK TO THE PROGRAM NATE SILVER.

[APPLAUSE]

THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE.

>> THANK YOU.

>> Jon: ABSOLUTELY FASCINATING BOOK.

I VERY MUCH ENJOYED THE PARTS OF IT THAT I WAS ABLE TO UNDERSTAND.

WHICH IS VERY MINUTE.

BUT OBVIOUSLY MORE IMPORTANTLY, RIGHT NOW...

>> RIGHT.

>> Jon: WHO IS STATISTICALLY WINNING THE RACE FOR PRESIDENT BETWEEN BARACK OBAMA AND MITT ROMNEY?

>> SO WE HAVE OBAMA AS A MODEST FAVORITE RIGHT NOW BASED ON WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE.

WE'RE STILL IN STATES LIKE OHIO, IOWA, WISCONSIN THAT WOULD GIVE OBAMA 207 ELECTORAL VOTES.

HE SEEMS TO BE JUST A FINEY BIT AHEAD.

>> Jon: AND HOW ABOUT NOW?

[LAUGHTER]

>> WE JUST GOT 20 NEW POLLS IN.

THAT MAY HAVE CHANGED.

I'VE MISSED MY ABILITY TO UPDATE THE SITE BECAUSE I'M ON THE SHOW WITH YOU.

>> Jon: IS THAT TRUE?

WOULD YOU LIKE TO UPDATE IT HERE?

>> NEW YORK I'D RATHER BE ON THE SHOW FRANKLY.

PEOPLE CAN WAIT.

>> Jon: PEOPLE CAN WAIT.

>> PEOPLE ARE TOO HYPER ABOUT THE POLLS ANYWAY.

>> Jon: THAT'S AN INTERESTING POINT.

IT'S BECAUSE THIS REAL-TIME OBSESSION IN THE WAY... IT STRIKES ME AS WHEN THEY STARTED TO PUT THE NEWS TICKER UP AND

THE STOP FIGURES.

>> RIGHT.

>> >> Jon: SUDDENLY, BECAUSE THEY EXISTED IN REAL TIME, THE URGENCY OF THE CHANGING OF IT

WAS AMPLIFIED.

>> I THINK PART OF THE WHOLE DOT COM BOOM BECAUSE WHEN YOU STARTED TO SEE CNBC PLAYING INSTEAD OF BASEBALL GAMES IN BARS.

THERE'S SO MUCH INFORMATION BOMBARDING ME, HOW CAN I GO WRONG.

IT'S LIKE, EVEN THOUGH WE HAVE MORE INFORMATION, AND WE DON'T KNOW HOW THE USE IT WELL, IT CAN GET US INTO MORE TROUBLE.

>> Jon: I THOUGHT THAT WAS FASCINATING THAT WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT PUNDITS, FOR INSTANCE.

YOU SAY THAT THE PUNDITS AND THEIR PREDICTIONS ARE NO BETTER THAN A COIN TOSS.

>> YEAH.

IF YOU LOOK LONG-TERM HOW DO PEOPLE IN THE McLAUGHLIN GROUP DO, THEY GET HALF THEIR PREDICTIONS RIGHT AND HALF WRONG

BECAUSE THEY'RE BASICALLY ENTERTAINERS.

RIGHT, PEOPLE CRITICIZE THIS SHOW MAYBE AND SAY, IT'S ENTERTAINMENT MASQUERADING AS NEWS, BUT A LOT OF NEWS IS

ENTERTAINMENT MASQUERADING AS NEWS.

>> Jon: I THINK THAT'S ABSOLUTELY CORRECT.

[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]

DO YOU FORESEE A COIN GETTING ITS OWN SHOW?

>> A COIN TOSS?

>> Jon: THE COIN TOSS SHOW.

JUST FLIP IT UP...

>> MAYBE INSTEAD OF A RECOUNT.

THAT'S HOW THEY DO IT IN THE NFL, JUST HAVE A COIN FLIP.

IT'S WITHIN ONE-TENTH OF 1%, JUST FLIP A COIN.

>> Jon: ISN'T THERE A POINT WITH OUR ELECTIONS THAT WE ARE BEYOND THE ABILITY TO KNOW OF IT

STATISTICALLY, THAT WE ARE BEYOND THE STATISTICAL PREDICTABILITY.

>> SURE, IF YOU LOOK AT THE MINNESOTA RECOUNT, FOR EXAMPLE, IN 2008, WHERE SHOULD WE COULD A

BALLOT CAST FOR LIZARD PEOPLE AND THE FLORIDA RECOUNT IN 2000, THAT'S A CASE WHERE THE ELECTION WAS FOR ALL INTENTS AND PURPOSES

A TIE.

WE COULD HAVE RECOUNTED THOSE BALLOTS 20 TIMES OVER AND MAYBE SHOULD HAVE A DO-OVER INSTEAD OF A RECOUNT.

>> Jon: RIGHT.

AS SOMEBODY WHO IS VERY KNOWLEDGEABLE ABOUT HOW TO COMPILE THESE TYPES OF FIGURES, IS THERE SOMEBODY LIKE YOU

WITHIN THESE CAMPAIGNS >> THIS IS KIND OF THE REVERSE OF ""MONEYBALL"" IS THE STORY OF HOW OUTSIDERS CHANGED THE

BASEBALL INDUSTRY, AND IT'S KIND OF THE REVERSE WHERE THE CAMPAIGNS KIND OF DO GET IT AND ESPECIALLY THE OBAMA CAMPAIGN

BUT ALSO LOOK KARL ROVE WHATEVER YOU THINK OF HIM WAS A VERY DRIVEN GUY.

JON YAWN WANT KNOW WHAT I THINK OF HIM?

THERE'S THAT FREE TRADE, WHATEVER YOU THINK OF HIM, AND I'M LIKE, LET ME TELL YOU.

>> BUT THE MEDIA IS THE ONE WHO COVERS THE CAMPAIGNS IN A SILLY WAY A LOT OF THE TIME WHERE A

LOT OF THE TIME, LOOK, NOTHING HAPPENS OVER THE COURSE OF A DAY.

NOW WE'RE IN THE PENNANT RACE, SO IT MATTERS, BUT THE AVERAGE DAY IN APRIL, NOTHING OF IMPORTANCE HAPPENS, SO YOU HAVE

TO HAVE A LEAD STORY.

>> Jon: YOU HAVE TO GENERATE THAT URGENCY.

>> YOU HAVE TO GENERATE FAKE NEWS.

>> Jon: WHY DON'T THEY COVER... WOW.

WHY WAS THAT A BUMPERSTICKER I SHOULD HAVE ON MY CAR?

WHY DON'T THEY COVER THE FACT, THOUGH, ARE THEY BEING DISINGENUOUS NOT COVERING THE FACT THAT THESE CAMPAIGNS ARE

CONSCIOUSLY PLAYING TO THE STATISTICS AND THE NUMBERS WHEN REALLY THEY ARE FOCUSING ON THE SABERMETRICS OF THIS ELECTION.

>> I THINK THERE'S NOT A LOT OF COVERAGE OF WHAT GOES ON BEHIND THE SCENES.

SO WHEN I WENT UP TO NEW HAMPSHIRE FOR THE PRIMARY, I WOULD VISIT THE DIFFERENT CAMPAIGN OFFICES, AND YOU COULD

TELL ON THAT BASIS THAT ROMNEY WAS GOING TO WIN BECAUSE HIS OFFICE WAS A LIVE OF ACTIVITY.

YOU HAD HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE BUZZING AROUND.

YOU GO TO RICK PERRY'S OFFICE AND THERE'S ONE DUDE THERE.

HELLO, HELLO.

>> Jon: CAN I TELL YOU, MY GUESS IS THAT DUDE WAS AWESOME.

>> HE WAS HAPPY TO HAVE A VISITOR.

>> Jon: HE WAS EXCITED.

>> AND NEWT GINGRICH HAD FRANK LUNTZ WANDERING AROUND HIS OFFICE AND A BUNCH OF FAT PEOPLE.

[LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE]

>> Jon: CAN YOU STICK AROUND FOR A COUPLE MINUTES?

>> YEAH.

>> Jon: "THE SIGNAL AND THE NOISE," IT'S ON THE BOOKSHELVES NOW.

BUY IT AND ALSO AT THE SAME TIME A CALCULATOR.

NATE SILVER.

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