FiveThirtyEight vs. the Data Detractors
Last Tuesday Donald Trump won the Indiana primary and became the presumptive nominee of the Republican party. In the days that followed, hands were wrung over the question “how did we get this so wrong?” New York Times columnist Jim Rutenberg was particularly critical of data journalism, which one election cycle ago seemed so heroic but in Trumpworld turned out to have feet of clay. Singling out Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight (our partner this election cycle), Rutenberg wrote that in relying on polling data that gave Trump a 2% chance of winning the nomination 6 months ago, FiveThirtyEight “sapped the journalistic will to scour his record as aggressively as those of his supposedly more serious rivals. In other words, predictions can have consequences.”
Nate Silver on his podcast this week had a response to Rutenberg (and all the other data detractors). Here is an excerpt from that episode in which you’ll also hear Silver’s FiveThirtyEight colleagues Harry Enten, Clare Malone, and Jody Avirgan.