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Many of us -- myself included -- have made a pretty big deal about fivethirtyeight.com, Nate Silver's election projection website.

But, as some people pointed out, he doesn't really have a record of projecting national elections... until now.

So, I've crunched some numbers and compared Nate's projections to the projections from RealClearPolitics.com and Pollster.com, two other notable election projection websites.

Note that I'm only comparing their calculated margins of victory, not their actual numbers; RCP and Pollster don't allocate undecideds, so it wouldn't be fair to compare them to a site that does.

The results might surprise you.

StateNate(538)ErrorPollsterErrorRCPErrorWinner
Alabama0.70%0.80%1.70%Nate
Alaska11.10%8.90%10.80%Pollster
Arizona3.70%3.70%4.60%Nate/Pollster
Arkansas9.00%9.70%10.70%Nate
California3.40%5.00%0.40%RCP
Colorado0.10%0.90%1.20%Nate
Connecticut1.80%0.50%2.20%Pollster
Delaware0.40%1.70%2.70%Nate
Florida0.70%0.70%0.60%RCP
Georgia0.00%2.60%1.50%Nate
Hawaii17.70%14.50%Pollster
Idaho4.80%2.40%Pollster
Iowa2.40%3.60%6.00%Nate
Illinois2.90%2.40%0.00%RCP
Indiana2.50%2.10%2.30%Pollster
Kansas1.80%0.70%Pollster
Kentucky2.80%3.40%2.90%Nate
Louisiana8.80%8.10%Pollster
Maine3.00%1.80%1.90%Pollster
Maryland0.20%1.40%Nate
Massachusetts5.90%5.80%4.50%RCP
Michigan3.80%0.60%2.90%Pollster
Minnesota0.10%2.20%0.40%Nate
Mississippi2.40%3.20%2.30%RCP
Missouri0.10%1.40%0.40%Nate
Montana0.30%0.20%1.40%Pollster
Nebraska1.70%3.20%Nate
Nevada7.60%5.30%5.90%Pollster
New Hampshire0.30%1.80%0.50%Nate
New Jersey0.00%0.90%0.90%Nate
New Mexico5.30%6.10%7.70%Nate
New York0.00%0.00%4.30%Nate/Pollster
North Carolina0.70%0.10%0.70%Pollster
North Dakota6.00%8.00%Nate
Ohio0.50%0.80%1.40%Nate
Oklahoma5.60%6.80%Nate
Oregon1.60%0.90%0.80%RCP
Pennsylvania2.20%3.10%3.00%Nate
Rhode Island4.20%9.40%Nate
South Carolina0.90%0.30%1.20%Pollster
South Dakota0.30%0.40%0.10%RCP
Tennessee2.20%2.80%1.10%RCP
Texas0.90%1.40%1.30%Nate
Utah2.90%4.40%Nate
Vermont10.60%9.00%Pollster
Virginia1.20%1.10%0.10%RCP
Washington2.90%4.10%4.30%Nate
Washington, DC26.90%18.20%Pollster
West Virginia3.30%1.70%4.10%Pollster
Wisconsin2.40%1.90%2.90%Pollster
Wyoming7.20%1.70%Pollster
Average3.68%3.56%2.67%
Median2.40%2.20%1.80%
Best0.00%0.00%0.00%
Worst26.90%18.20%10.80%

Note RealClearPolitics' apparent good score is due to them not making projections on states where there wasn't a whole lot of polling done.  These states tended to be blowout states, and blowout states are where Nate and Pollster are most widely off the mark.  On the other hand, this possibly hurt RCP seriously in the rankings of who did best on each individual state.

Here are the results when those states are removed:

StateNate (538)PollsterRCP
Average2.35%2.46%2.67%
Median2.00%1.80%1.80%
Best0.00%0.00%0.00%
Worst11.10%9.70%10.80%

It begins to look better for Nate in this situation; he had the best average, and his other scores were very close to the others.  However, all of them did pretty good.

Also, Nate was closest to the mark on 24 of the 51 races.  Pollster was second with 20, and RealClearPolitics was third with 9.  (This adds up to 53 because Nate and Pollster shared the glory on two of the polls.)  It turns out that when Nate was right, he was often very right, and when he was very wrong, he was way off the mark.

Finally, Nate was the only one who had the, uhh, balls to call the tossup states for one candidate or the other before the election.  In fact, he accurately predicted the winner in 50 of the 51 races.  (He missed Indiana.)  Pollster and especially RealClearPolitics didn't speculate on any of the truly close states.

In conclusion, I think Nate Silver did a pretty good job.  He was closest on the most number of states, and he accurately called 50 of the 51 races.  Not bad for his first year doing this!

Originally posted to elchip on Fri Nov 07, 2008 at 07:32 AM PST.

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