Monday, October 06, 2008

Electoral Projections Done Right?

Nate Silver has a fascinating website, FiveThirtyEight, which attempts to do some creative analysis using poll data to get more accurate election predictions. Currently, he estimates Obama has an 84.4% chance of winning the election. (Compared to a 64.6% currently on Intrade.)
There are several principal ways that the FiveThityEight methodology differs from other poll compilations:

Firstly, we assign each poll a weighting based on that pollster's historical track record, the poll's sample size, and the recentness of the poll. More reliable polls are weighted more heavily in our averages.

Secondly, we include a regression estimate based on the demographics in each state among our 'polls', which helps to account for outlier polls and to keep the polling in its proper context.

Thirdly, we use an inferential process to compute a rolling trendline that allows us to adjust results in states that have not been polled recently and make them ‘current’.

Fourthly, we simulate the election 10,000 times for each site update in order to provide a probabilistic assessment of electoral outcomes based on a historical analysis of polling data since 1952. The simulation further accounts for the fact that similar states are likely to move together, e.g. future polling movement in states like Michigan and Ohio, or North and South Carolina, is likely to be in the same direction.
Follow the link to view a wealth of polling data. If you have any interest in understanding the mechanisms and difficulties in conducting polls, I highly recommend this informative podcast with Doug Rivers and Russ Roberts.

(HT Steven Levitt)

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