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The Telegraph, one of the UK's better, if editorially right-of-centre, newspapers, has an interesting article about Nate Silver this morning:

Nate Silver, the geeky statistician who is singlehandedly dismantling the myth of Mitt-mentum

It's by Dan Hodges, a "Blairite cuckoo in the Miliband nest":

Where most political commentators output is the product of briefings, gossip and personal perception, Silver deals in cold, hard facts. And at the moment, Silver’s facts are being fired like bullets into the heart of the Romney campaign.

Over the past week Romney has had a clear strategy; give the impression of momentum. Demonstrate the post-debate surge is continuing. Get people talking about how the race is his to lose.

Nate Silver is Mitt Romney’s nemesis. Not intentionally; although he admits to being an Obama supporter, his whole career is predicated on getting his predictions right. Like he did in 2008, when "Poblano" accurately predicted the result of 49 of the 50 states, and all 35 senate races.

And it is that reputation for accuracy that is so damaging to the Romney campaign’s attempt to sustain their precious “momentum” narrative. People listen to Silver. And over the past 48 hours, the narrative is starting to shift. “Mitt-mentum? Not so fast” – US News & World report. “Romney’s Momentum Seems To Have Stopped.  “The momentum myth” – Washington Post.

Cheered me up this morning, anyway!  More cheering than the Guardian, which I normally read, and seems editorially too worried to let itself be too cheerful.

Sat Oct 27, 2012 at 04:43 AM PDT

Why the RAND poll is really good news

by Febble

The RAND presidential poll is an interesting one because it polls the same group of people week after week.  Each participant is polled once a week, and the total is averaged over the week.  There are two important limitations to this methodology that need to be borne in mind:

  1. The original sample has sampling error, like all polls, but that error is propagated throughout the poll, whereas if fresh samples are drawn, it will cancel out over time.  For this reason it is misleading to consider the absolute margin as a good indicator of the state of the race - the same non-representativeness of the original sample will be present in every total.  However, what this means is that its usefulness lies in the direction of the trends, which will tend to be far less noisy than when a new sample is drawn each day, whilst the opposite is true of conventional polls (sampling error cancels out over time, but makes the trends noisy).
  2. Polling people regularly will itself tend to focus their minds to the race - as a result, by now, this is probably a group of people that have shown an atypical degree of interest in the race. However, it occurs to me that in that sense it may mimic the opinions of those in swing states who have been much more heavily targetted with news, conventional polls, and ads.  So perhaps RAND may be regarded as a kind of proxy measure of attitudes in swing states.

So what I did was to plot the RAND margin, relative to its own baseline, i.e. with the margin artificially set to zero (in fact the Pollster model has Obama 1.4 points ahead on that date, which is what the RAND poll originally showed, so this is conservative), and simply tag a few key events.

And it seems to me (looking through my telescope from the UK) that a very clear pattern emerges (see below):
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BBC reporting:

Protesters angered by an anti-Islam film made in the US have stormed the grounds of the American embassy in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa.

Police opened fire in an attempt to hold back the crowds, but failed to prevent them gaining access to the compound and setting fire to vehicles.

A number of people were reported to have been injured.

I'll take this down if there's another thread, but there didn't seem to be.

Update 1: live updates on the Guardian here.

Update 2: Reuters:

Hundreds of Yemeni demonstrators stormed the U.S. embassy in Sanaa on Thursday in protest at a film they consider blasphemous to Islam, and security guards tried to hold them off by firing into the air.
Update 3: Telephone interview (Guardian) from Sana'a here

Update 4: from the Guardian live blog, statement from embassy:

Fortunately no casualties were reported from this chaotic incident. The government of Yemen will honour international obligations to ensure the safety of diplomats and will step up security presence around all foreign missions.

Sat Nov 04, 2006 at 11:48 AM PST

How to read exit polls: a primer

by Febble

(From the diaries - I was pleased to see how many posters here recognized an instant classic when they saw one - DemFromCT)

We will all be avidly watching the exit polls on Tuesday night.  Some of us will simply be avid to know what they can tell us about who won.  Others will be avid to parse them for evidence of skulduggery.  This is an attempt to sort out fact from fiction, and help all of us understand what is going on.

First of all: there will be more than one exit poll exercise on Tuesday, and some of the smaller independent exit polls will be specifically designed to shed light on the integrity (or otherwise) of the vote-counting process.  But the big one will be the Edison-Mitofsky poll for the NEP (National Election Pool], so this diary is about that.

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(with acknowledgements to Jane Jacobs).

I don't know New Orleans, hell, I don't know America, I'm a Brit. But being a European means that like most Europeans, I have a bit of a different perspective on the life and death of cities.  And I'm worried about New Orleans.

Disasters don't generally kill cities.  London was ravaged first by plague, then razed by fire, in 1666.  The fire not only burned the thatched, timber-framed houses to the ground, it destroyed the ancient cathedral of St Paul's.  And yet St. Paul's was rebuilt, mostly within Wren's lifetime, and its dome is iconic of the city.  Florence was devastated by flood in 1966, as was Venice, a city built over water.  Although loss of life was small, both cities lost priceless artworks, although many were painstakingly restored.  Both cities are as alive as ever today.

Dresden, Hamburg, Hiroshima, Nagasaki were all destroyed in the second world war.  All are thriving cities today. And Holland survives as a nation below sea-level by virtue of a constantly maintained system of levees and pumps.

So why am I worried about New Orleans?  

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[catastrophic technical glitches in original diary led to rapid deletion - hoping this re-post functions properly]

This is an exit poll story, about trying to get to the bottom of why the early exit polls in the 2004 US presidental election over-estimated Kerry's share of the vote, an especially painful overestimate because unlike an error of comparable magnitude in 1992, where the exit polls also over-stated the Democratic vote, the difference in 2004 was the difference between defeat and victory. It's a geeky story, because it's about a tiny mathematical piece of the puzzle - but a piece that may be crucial to interpreting the data.  And it's a blog story, because that tiny piece emerged from the collective networked wetware that is the blogosphere.

Read on....

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Mon Apr 11, 2005 at 02:37 PM PDT

Any one fancy a pint?

by Febble

Welshman's new snug bar is open for business!

Come and join us!  We're discussing the UK election.

Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have already got a drink....

...but there are still a few seats left near the fire.

Here it is

and recommend it when you get there, so's we can get a good fug going.

The Tory manifesto came out today - they want less immigration, cleaner hospitals, and stricter schools.  No sign of wanting to teach creationism as science, thank God. Howard looks like Dracula grinning from the inside cover (they don't want to risk putting him on the outside). Blair and Brown are pretending the Iraq war isn't happening, and that the country's blooming.  Charlie Kennedy's wife's about to have a baby.

Whose round is it?


Wed Apr 06, 2005 at 05:00 AM PDT

New: Snark-free Exit Poll analysis

by Febble

There is no doubt that Edison-Mitofsky's exit polls failed to predict successfully proportions of votes cast for the two presidential candidates in 2004. Because the candidates were so close, and because the exit poll deviated from the count in the loser's direction, this meant that a predicted Kerry win contrasted painfully with a Bush victory in the count.

The 64 million (or is it billion?) dollar questions is: which was wrong, the polls or the count?

"Fraudsters" claim it was the count.  Edison-Mitofsky (and the "anti-fraudsters") claim it was the exit polls.  In this diary I have a brand new analysis.  Bear with me, even if you find math icky.  There will be pictures, if not cookies.

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The UK election has just been announced for May 5th.

I just received this message from Tony Blair:

If you have been keeping up with the news, you may already know that I went to the Palace a few minutes ago to ask the Queen to dissolve Parliament.

More below:

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(This ran over a week ago, but on a weekend when many people missed out. With the British elections nearing, this is a great (and entertaining) primer on British government, elections, and the difference between "Britain", "England" and "UK" -- kos)

This is a primer for Welshman's promised series (with me, Febble, not Hebble) on the forthcoming general election in the UK. As there was quite a bit of interest shown in the series, it would be good to get some recommends so that this diary can stay up long enough for those interested to see it - thanks!

Britain, notoriously, and unlike most sensible countries, has an unwritten constitution. This, I am rapidly discovering, is because when you write it down it looks so bloody daft.

The Lord Chancellor presents the Queen with her speech (written by the prime minister), inscribed on goatskin.

However, here goes:

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Yes, you read that right.  I have just calculated that there is a one in 9,432,472,254 chance that the exit polls could have been wrong by chance.

And that is not working from screen-shots, that is working from the data presented in the Edison Mitofsky report.

Not only that, but it happened in 1996 too!  A one in 268 probability of occurring by chance!

And in 1992! A one in 5007 probability of being due to chance!

And in 1998! A one in 49,827 probability of being due to chance!

Er, that's funny, what happened in 2000?  Oh, here it is -  yes, polls were wrong again! Only 1 in 3 probability this time, though.

But get this - they all made the same error!  Yes, that's right, they all over estimated the Democratic vote!  Even in 2000.

So what can we conclude from this?

Read on.....

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Robin Cook, the British cabinet minister who resigned from the government over Iraq, is at his snarky best in today's Guardian.

He is offering some sympathy for Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general, who provided legal advice to the British government regarding the legality of the proposed war:

On Iraq he was expected to find a basis in international law for Downing Street to perform as the loyal ally of a Bush administration that consistently rejected even the concept of international law.

More below:

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