PredictWise Blog

There are two questions to ask when evaluating a political prediction, whether it's from Nate Silver, a pollster, an academic or your favorite Yahoo News predictions blog:

A) How useful was the prediction the day before the election?

B) How useful was the prediction the day after the election?

A great deal of attention is devoted to scoring the performance of various seers and prognosticators on Point A. We went 50 for 51 in that regard, getting every state correct except Florida—of course it was Florida—in our last prediction before voters went to the polls. (We might humbly point out that our original prediction, announced in February, was precisely the same as the one we made on Nov. 5. And, predictions in February are a lot more useful to the multi-billion dollar campaign industry than predictions in November.)

Evaluating Point B is trickier. Have forecasters like Silver, who relies primarily on aggregating polls, taught us anything about how elections work and what motivates voters?

While polls do offer some insight into how public opinion responds to high-profile events—though always at a delay of at least a day—they're powerless to reveal the high-level factors, such as the economy, that influence elections months and even years ahead of time. That's why The Signal prefers to start with models, like the one we debuted in February: It teaches us which factors correlate with election results and which do not.

Click Here for the Full Text on Yahoo!'s The Signal

Wednesday Update (Syndicated n Yahoo!'s "The Signal" Blog)

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The senate is almost wrapped up with just one more race left to play out.

Last February, the Signal predicted that President Barack Obama would win reelection with 303 electoral votes to his opponent's 235--a prediction we made before the Republican party had chosen the identity of that challenger. This struck many people as absurd at the time: There were nine months of campaigning left, two conventions, several billion dollars worth of advertising, four debates, and untold bumps in the road for both sides.

As of 1 a.m. EST this morning, 50 of 51 of those predictions are correct, with about 60,000 votes separating the candidates in Florida. If Romney can win the state, the Signal will have gone a perfect 51 for 51.

February's Prediction

We point this out not to brag--mostly not to brag--but to say that it's a vindication for the broad view of presidential elections: That they are the product of a complex stew of social and economic forces, not a contest between candidates and campaigns. At the time, the Signal's prediction model included only one measure of public opinion: Obama's approval rating, which stood at just below 50 percent at the time. The rest of predictions were driven by a model of those macro-factors--incumbency, economic growth and contraction, and so forth--that exist independently of the names and faces on the tickets.

Anyone can average a bunch of polls and call the election a week before it happens. In the end, it's the models that tell us something about what forces influence election. We will talk in most depth over the coming days (with a minimum of gloating) about how our model maintained its consistency as it shifted to include more polls and prediction markets in the weeks and months that followed the initial take. But we are proud to have provided a consistant and correct message to our readers for the last few months.

Click Here for the Full Text on Yahoo!'s The Signal

Election Night Scoreboards (Syndicated on Yahoo's "The Signal" Blog)

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12:40 AM: Forecasting that same sex marriage will win in all 4 elections: MD, ME, and WA legalized and MN not criminalizing.

12:20 AM: 2 senate seats are now looking more Democratic: Montana and North Dakota.

11:30 PM: For comparison, here is the first tables from this afternoon (below).

11:10 PM: Obama is the next president. He has secured enough electoral votes. (Called on the Signal at 10:44 PM).

3:45 PM: We will be updating this chart regularly until the election is decided. I suggest you check back to this page for the quickest possible updates.

Below are the links to all of our updates:

As liftoff approaches Tuesday evening, the Signal will be focusing (like everyone else) on a small handful of states whose outcomes are not certain or nearly certain well before polls close. Here's a viewer's guide:

The no-drama states

There are 37 states, plus Washington, D.C., who we consider certain for one candidate or another. President Barack Obama controls 14 states and D.C., totaling 186 electoral votes. Gov. Mitt Romney controls 23 states, totaling 190 electoral votes. Virtually every news organization agrees on this list, with only minor variations. The only way Obama or Romney picks off one of these states is if the polls are wildly, wildly wrong and the entire country has shifted dramatically to one side.

The only-a-little-drama states

Seven more states are leaning hard toward one of the candidates (poll closing times in parentheses): Pennsylvania (8 PM ET), Michigan (8 PM and 9 PM ET), Minnesota (9 PM ET), New Mexico (9 PM ET), Wisconsin (9 PM ET), and Nevada (10 PM ET) are leaning heavily toward Obama, for a total of 67 electoral votes. North Carolina (7:30 PM ET), with 15 electoral votes, is leaning heavily toward Romney.

If there are no surprises there, that gets us to 253 electoral votes for Obama and 205 for Romney. Therein lies the central challenge that the Romney campaign has faced since the beginning.

The lots-of-drama states

Six states remain that will probably not be called for hours after the polls close. They are: Virginia (7 PM ET), Ohio (7:30 PM ET), New Hampshire (8 PM ET), Colorado (9 PM ET), and Iowa (10 PM ET) and Florida (7 or 8 PM, depending on county.)

Click Here for the Full Text on Yahoo!'s The Signal