Saturday, October 11, 2008


I can't believe I haven't mentioned this sooner!

If you love number-crunching, politics, statistical research, sociology, or any combination of the above, (or you're a big fan of Obama and want a joyful little reprieve from the woe of the stock market) you will love

There are a lot of polls out there. But any given poll will only survey a few hundred, maybe a few thousand, people at best. With something like 200 million Americans of voting age in this country, how much information can you get from a single poll?

Not much.

That's why a baseball statistician from Chicago named Nate Silver created this marvelous website. He combines polling data from all over the country, assigns a weighting to take into account factors like the number of people interviewed and how reliable a polling company is likely to be, and runs thousands of simulations. All this lets him make predictions about how each state will swing on November 4. (You can read more about the particulars on the FAQ.) These predictions are presented in various ways on the site, but my favorite is the at-a-glance map in the upper right corner.

That map is starting to look a little like my fantasyland map, and I'm tickled dark blue.

The most exciting part recently has been watching states turn white from pale pink, and then slowly, gradually, start turning the palest shade of sky blue... then a little more of a baby blue... and then all of a sudden Virginia is almost as blue as Vermont, Michigan is as blue as Minnesota, and it seems to be spreading from Pennsylvania to Ohio to Indiana.

There's more to the site than the presidential race -- you can read up on the Senate and House races as well. You'll have to sort through that for yourself, as I'm mostly paying attention to the big race (although I like checking the Senate map as well). Enjoy!

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