Nate Silver - What FiveThirtyEight Couldn't Account For in the 2016 Election

November 14, 2016 - Nate Silver & Adrian Grenier 11/14/2016 Views: 16,567

FiveThirtyEight editor Nate Silver clarifies what his 2016 election forecast actually said about Donald Trump's chances of winning the presidency against Hillary Clinton. (5:13)

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Please welcome Nate Silver,

-everybody!-(applause and cheering)

-How are you?-Good, man.

You're good?

All right, let's, uh,make it really simple.

-Uh, heads or tails?-(laughter) -Tails.

-You're losing it, man.-Yeah. -(laughter)

You're losing it.

Let's-let's talk about polling.

-Because this entire race...this entire race, -Yeah.

as Nate Silver... I mean,you're not a pollster per se.

-You aggregate the polls.-Yeah.

All right? And you tryand figure out what they mean.

-This entire raceyou were wrong. -No.

And I know it's, like,not an easy

television explanation,but our job is to take...

You're sayingmy people are stupid, Nate?

-I am not...-(laughter)

I'm saying the medium.

-For television, it's veryelevated. -Okay. Okay.

-What I'm saying is that...-He said you guys were stupid,

-just so you know,but carry on. Yes. -(laughter)

We're taking...I mean, everyone could see

-that Hillary Clinton was aheadin the polls. -Yeah.

'Cause she was, right?

Our job is to take that dataand translate that

-into an estimate of risk.-But was she ahead, though?

Because there were polls...

-In the polls, she... I mean,the polls... -No, but which...

But which polls?That's the thing. Which polls?

Some of the best polls, in fact,and-and, you know...

No, no, no, but I mean,

do we still call them the bestpolls if they were wrong?

Why are people still lookingat the polls? Like, I'm gonna...

-Well, it's like...-Honestly, as a person

-who is experiencing thisfor the first time... -Yeah.

...I am confused by whypeople in America

are so obsessed by the polls.

Well, first of all,we would say

that if you havea bunch of polls

-that show the racewithin three points... -Yes.

...as they did on election day,

a bunch of swing statesthat are close,

people should characterizethat race

as being extremely competitive.

People should go out and vote,and, you know...

That's what we're trying to do.

We're trying to take that dataand translate that

into an estimate of probability.

-Our probability was 70% forClinton, 30% for Trump. -Yes.

Other people had Trumpat two percent.

And so, if we're sayingthere's a higher risk of rain,

higher risk of an earthquakethan you might think,

um, be wary.

At the very least,don't take anything for granted.

And then, Trump wins, then...

It is hard, right?

It's much easier to beon the right side of things.

But our whole thing is about,

there's uncertaintyin the world.

-The world...-But now, let me ask...

Let me ask you this.Let me ask you this.

One of the problems with polling

was they do not knowhow to poll Hispanic voters.

-Mm-hmm.-They struggle with that.

And I saw a lot of Hispanicjournalists saying no,

it's not that Hispanic votersare difficult.

You don't know howto speak to these people,

-Yeah.-you don't know how to engage

-Well, literally, in some sense,-with Hispanic voters.

is that there area lot of Spanish...

or Hispanic voters whosepreferred language is Spanish.

A lot of voters...a lot of polls

don't haveSpanish language interviewers.

And they're different thanEnglish-speaking Hispanics.

And by the way,people talk about the Midwest,

-where Clinton underperformedher polls. -Yeah.

There were also stateslike California and New Mexico

where she overperformedher polls.

-And so, you know, it definitelyis true... -But then I go back

to-- and forgive meif this sounds like

-the dumbest questionin the world. -Mm-hmm.

What is the point of the thing,what is the point

of the prediction ifthe prediction doesn't happen?

It's a forecast,not a prediction.

-It's a forecast?-It's an estimate of risk.

But then what is...what is the point of that?

What I'm trying to say,fundamentally,

like, you say with rain,you go like,

-there's a chance of rain.-So we would say if, you know,

if the news media had acted

like Trump hada 30% chance of winning,

-which is whatour forecast said, -Yes.

then I think they would haveacted very differently.

Frankly, if the Clinton campaignhad believed that Trump

had a 30% chance of winning,they might have spent more time

in Michigan and Wisconsin,and not Arizona and Ohio

and states like that.

So this isactionable intelligence

to prepare for, um,for different eventualities.

'Cause a 30% chanceis way different

-than a three percent chance.-I still find it weird

that it sounds-- this iswhat it sounds like to me.

Depending on who's gonna win

determines on who'sgonna go out and vote.

And yet, shouldn't it just beyou go out and vote

because you want the personto be president?

-(applause, whooping) -Thatsounds like a very strange world

to be living in.

Fundamentally,it doesn't make sense.

People... people don't vote

when they thinkthe race is a blowout,

-and that's why...-But it's a blowout

because theywere gonna vote that way.

Well, it can get circular, yeah.I mean, this is why...

this is why it's importantto be careful around...

I'm gonna choke you,Nate Silver.

And I really like you.I'm gonna choke you right now,

-Nate Silver.-Here's what I'd say.

I'd say that polling

is the least--it's like democracy,

the least worst systemever invented.

-There are lots of problemswith the polls, -Yes.

but if you want to tryand represent

all the different partsof America,

then, in theory at least,

and over the long run,in practice,

polling is a pretty good wayto have a representative sample

of the population in a way whereour media often doesn't do that.

That makes a lot of sense.

Let's do this--I've got to wrap this up.

Uh, Donald Trump,off the top of your head,

because, I mean, what's theworst that could happen here?

What are the chances thathe will follow through

on building a wall,locking Hillary up,

and draining a swamp?

I think, I'm not gonna makeany more predictions,

-I do think that Trump...-(laughter)

What's the worstthat can happen, Nate?

You're already at the bottom;you might as well go up.

-Get yelled up.-Just do it.

Come on, just throw it at me.What are the chances?

I think Trump'sgonna be very obsessed

with his polling numbers,ironically,

and his approval rating,in that,

if he detects public pushbackagainst his agenda,

he might abandon thingspretty quickly.

So just tell himthat numbers are low,

and then he'll go, he'll go--he'll be a better president.

If he, I mean, maybe...

No, I'm telling you, just tellhim the numbers are low.

And then he'll becomea better president.

-Nate Silver.-Thank you.

Thank you so much for beinghere, man.