The last stretch: Nate Silver, Sam Wang and Tom predict an Obama win!

What do these three individuals have in common? They use an aggregation of poll results to estimate the probability that Obama will win the election in November. They all focus on the electoral vote because in the US the states decide who wins the election, the popular vote, i.e. the percentage of people from the whole country who vote for one or the other candidate does not matter.

Tom uses straight-forward arithmetic and poll results including those from the right-leaning Real Clear Politics web site for his prediction. As of Nov 3rd, he predicts that Obama will win at least 303 electoral votes which are 33 more than he needs to win the election.

Nate Silver, who started as a blogger in Daily Kos and later established his own web site, uses a statistical model, to obtain his predictions. Silver’s latest projection, and they fluctuate continuously until election date, gives Obama an 85% likelihood of winning the election. Silver forecasts that the president will receive 307 electoral votes, 37 more than needed for victory.

Sam Wang is a neuroscientist and biophysicist who works at Princeton University and crunches numbers for fun.  Among those numbers are poll numbers of presidential elections. He has his own blog, the Princeton Election Consortium, and uses Bayesian statistics to compute the probability of an Obama win. As of today, he gives Obama a probability of 99.8% of winning reelection. He predicts Obama will get 318 electoral votes, 48 more than he needs to win the election.

What Sam and Nate have in common is that they are making right-wingers very upset with their predictions. Right-wingers call the predictions bogus, because, of course, the numbers are based on math and facts, something right-wingers fail to grasp. Something else they have in common is that both Sam and Nate have defended their predictions and placed bets on the table. Nate Silver bet conservative talk show host Joe Scarborough $2000 that his model is right and Obama will win. Sam Wang has offered to eat a bug, a really big bug if Romney wins either Minnesota or Pennsylvania.

So, Tom, what are you willing to do if your predictions don’t pan out?

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