Unlikely Voter

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The Times’s Nate Silver Punishing Pollsters?

So 538 moved to the New York Times this morning and in the process made Marco Rubio the favorite finally.

But seriously, my issue with Nate Silver today comes from the old site and specifically, his primary night commentary.

Nate Silver said this:

Rasmussen — which polled the McCain-Hayworth primary eight times in a race where there was some disagreement among pollsters — was not willing to do so during the final four weeks of the campaign. Our pollster ratings are always becoming more sophisticated and we’re going to be looking at appropriate ways to punish pollsters who dodge putting their necks on the line.

If I relied on Nate Silver for objective commentary on polling, this comment would make me uncomfortable. Why is this guy looking to punish public pollsters for what races they cover or not, especially when it was obvious that Hayworth’s deficit had grown insurmountable? Why should Rasmussen have spent money to keep polling Arizona to keep tabs on whether Hayworth lost by 30, 40, or 50, when the firm clearly is not a charity, primaries aren’t the firm’s usual thing, and there were much more interesting races to follow?

Seriously: Rasmussen doesn’t even poll primaries in general. I’ve lamented that many times myself. That Silver wants to penalize Rasmussen for having gone beyond the norm by publishing a few Arizona results to me suggests an ulterior motive. And given his track record as a member of the old Journolist steering committee of political media coverage, I have to think this comment marks him as part of the partisan jihad against Rasmussen Reports.

But I’m shocked to find out that Silver would weight pollsters less, and thus alter the accuracy of all his work on a site, for reasons that have nothing to do with accuracy or reliability of the results. If Rasmussen is right, but is penalized for other reasons, then the integrity of Silver’s whole operation is called into question.

Once again, Nate Silver puts partisanship over math. And as always, he knows better, but he just doesn’t care. I’m sure his buddies in Journolist II are happy with him, though.


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