Archive for November, 2012

Speak softly but carry a big statistic

I heard on CBS Radio radio today this play on Teddy Roosevelt’s famous words. It was quoted by U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar as her secret weapon (statistics, that is) for women politicians. Searching internet I think it originated from Anne E. Kornblut in her book Notes from the Cracked Ceiling in a section dedicated to Klobuchar. She (the Senator) figures on making an impact on the impasse over the coming “fiscal cliff”. I have no doubt that Senator Klobuchar and scores of other politicians, male and female, will be slinging a lot of statistics during this debate on how to avert financial disaster for us taxpayers. It will take some work to ferret out what’s really true out all the partisan hyperbole.

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Statistician mines poll results to come up with odds-on fav for President

CBS News this morning reported the prediction by New York Times statistician Nate Silver on who will be our next President.  OK, now that you know (presuming you could not resist following the link), how sure are you that it’s accurate?  After all Silver is the author of The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail – But Some Don’t—published only a month or so ago.  My hunch is that Silver does as well as anyone—given so many unknowns that cannot be known, not the least of which is the fickle nature of undecided voters who might en masse switch allegiance the day of the election.  Anyways, I am viewing his prediction the same as a weather forecast two days out, that is, with a good deal of skepticism but, nevertheless, appreciation for the science behind the modeling.*

PS.  A friend asked me this week whether averaging polls is really valid.  I suppose so based on Silver doing it.  See how he does it at this detailing by him in his “538” blog (538 is the number of electors in the United States Electoral College).

*For example, within 72 hours of a hurricane’s landfall, meteorologists now predict the bulls-eye within a 100-mile radius—compared to 350 miles 25 years ago.  They did really well forecasting Sandy as reported here by The Washington Post.

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