Nate Silver - Crunching the Numbers Ahead of the Presidential Election

May 11, 2016 - Nate Silver 05/11/2016 Views: 24,597

FiveThirtyEight founder Nate Silver analyzes the impact that Donald Trump's presidential campaign has had on U.S. politics. (6:36)

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My guest tonight is the founderand editor-in-chief


Please welcome Nate Silver.

(cheers and applause)

Thank you very much. Here.

-Thank you for being here.-Of course.

-Thank you so much.-Yeah.

Everyone in the buildingis such a big fan of yours.

Well, I'm a big fanof the show, so...

Yeah, you are a math rock star.

That's what you are.Statistical rock star.

We have a long history this showand fivethirtyeight.

-High moments, low moments.Yeah. -(Noah laughs)

Well, let's talkabout some of the high moments

that, uh, you've beenexperiencing.

I mean, you...

What are your...what are your numbers right now

in terms of predicting correctly

how the raceshave been panned out?

I mean, let's talkabout pre-Trump.

So, then, overall, win-lossrecord is pretty good. -Yes.

So, we're 52 out of 57in individual states so far.

Yes. That's a...that's a high number.

But we were... we were skepticalof Trump's chances

for... for mostof the last year.

A lot of people were,but we were among the skeptics.

You're a data journalist,and so,

I guess the pressure is on youto get most of the things right.

You-you get mostof your predictions right.

There's a little bitof the thing where in baseball,

if the umpire makes a bad call,that's-that's when you notice.

-Yeah.-Um, you know, yeah, I mean,

we-we tend to get things right,

and I think we havea pretty good record for saying

when is something reallykind of crazy and unusual,

versus a toss-up,where you have a close race.

But I think we haven't seen

something likethe Trump nomination--

I'm 38--at least in my lifetime.

You kind of have to harken back,I think, to the '60s, almost.

But everything we thoughtwe knew about politics,

um, was kind of wrongthis cycle.


We thought the Republicanshad fun, they would,

-you know, have a dancewith the Gingrich... -Uh-huh.

...for example,or the Herman Cain, um,

but in the end,they'd come back to their senses

and pick somerelatively-sensible

right-wing candidate, um,

and they were way crazierthan I imagined.

-(laughter)-Are there any numbers

that helped you understand why that happened,

or is thisa complete outlier situation?

Is... is Donald Trump justa parallel universe happening

-to us right now? -Well, I knowthat segment earlier about...

about politicians in Europe,so you do see, uh,

people like this in other placesaround the globe.

-Yeah. -And maybe, you know,one thing that surprised me

the most about Trumpis the whole kind of

what they callthe "three-legged stool,"

where you havefiscal conservatism

and family values and, um,

America's the leaderof the free world--

Trump doesn't careabout that stool.

He just cares aboutenraging people and, you know...

The strongest correlateof Trump support

that we've been able to find

is the number of racistGoogle searches in an area.

-Ah.-This is not all of it...

What are"racist Google searches"?

I mean, use your imagination.

-(laughter)-It's... Yeah.


-Um... but no, and there are-Ah, that's racist, yeah.

some people...People say, for example,

that, oh, Trump'sabout the working class.

We ran some numbers on this--Trump's median voter

is making about $72,000 a yearin household income.

Well, well, that's... that'sa really interesting point.

'Cause a lot of people do say,oh, Trump is appealing

to the working class,Trump is appealing to the man

at the bottom, the downtrodden,but a lot of wealthy people,

people who are above what peopleconsider as struggling,

-they're voting for Trump.-Look, they're not Kasich...

they're not Kasich votersor Rubio voters

-who are makinglots and lots of money, -Yes.

but they're peoplewho are, um...

who are upper-middle class,and I think feel as though

their moment is passing them by.

Um, and of course,it's overwhelmingly, um...

What is their moment,the Apocalypse?

What does that mean?Why would...

why would they votefor Trump, though?

I mean, it doesn' doesn't seem like...

You know,when you look at the polls,

which are always changing, whichare always moving around--

this is what you have to doall the time--

how do you make senseof the noise?

Because there's a Trumpthat says...

I mean, there's a pollthat says Trump is...

-six points or eight pointsaway from Hillary, -Yeah.

but then on the other hand,they go... but if you...

there's, like,a secret poll where people

don't talk to somebody, andif people don't have to speak

to somebody,then they support Trump.

-A strange... -So there's a...there's a theory that people...

Trump will beat his pollsbecause people don't want

to declaretheir support for him.

In the primaries,that wasn't really true.

He underperformedin some states, like Iowa,

over-performed in New Yorkand some other states,

-Yeah. -so it's not...And if you ever have met

a Trump supporter,not the quiet type necessarily.

So it's not the silent majority,it's the noisy plurality.

I love how you said thatlike you were picturing

the Trump supporter you met--that's how you said that.

But, look, I usedto play poker for a living,

and the phrase in poker is"a chip and a chair,"

which means thathe has one of two tickets

-Yes. -to the big dance,and a lot of things can happen.

Wars can happen.Recessions can happen.

You know, The Economist magazinehad the list

of the ten biggestglobal economic threats,

and number nine, I think,was a Donald Trump presidency.

-Right next to...?-Well... well, what if the polls

are close, and there'sa global financial panic,

and Trump wins becauseof the global financial panic

about Trump winning?

I'm, like,not entirely kidding about this.

Politics has a...There are feedback loops

and-and... I don't know.

-I mean, um... you know...-You look terrified.


I'm loving this.You are literally terrified.

I mean, you are the... you are the de facto data journalist,

and you are terrified right now.

Are you seeing something in thenumbers you're not telling us?

No. Look... it's May.

In May--Hillary's ahead right now.

If you held the electionright now, today,

Hillary Clinton would winalmost for sure.

But Michael Dukakis was leadingin 1998 in May,

Bill Clinton, um, was way behindin 1992, so things can shift.

I do think ultimatelyTrump is gonna face

demographic headwinds.

So if you lookat the Democratic base,

which means black people,Hispanic people,

increasingly Asian people,by the way,

plus whitecosmopolitan liberals,

-the kind of people in thisroom, probably, um... -Yeah.


That's you guys.The cool people. Yeah.

-(cheering, applause)-Yeah. Cool people.

That's what he was saying.Cool people.

The other half... the otherhalf, though, is women.

And that's, I think,the problem that Donald Trump

might have trouble getting over,is a 70% unfavorable rating

-among... among women...-But the women love him, though.

Well, certain types of women.

He's had several wivesthat, uh, you know...

That's not enough for amajority, though, unfortunately.


Let me ask you a question.

You have the numbers,you believe in the numbers--

if you knew it was ending,would you tell us,

or would you get a head startfor yourself?

-(laughter)-So, I wouldn't move to Canada.

-Um...-Why not?

-I'm a patriot, Trevor.-Oh, nice.

No, I might move to, like,Bellingham, Washington,

or something, because it's just,like, right over the border,

you don't have to renounce yourcitizenship, and, you know...

15-minute driveif anything goes awry.

-(laughter) -That's, uh...that's admirable of you.

I like that. Stillin the country but one foot out.

I enjoyed that. Thank youso much for being here, sir.

-Definitely. Thank you.-Thank you very much.

Nate Silver, everybody.We'll be right back.

-♪ -(cheering, applause)