Over recent days, rumors have circulated and articles have been shared on social media – with titles like “Nate Silver Predicts Bernie Sanders Nomination” on the Dan Kaufman blog, among others – when in fact, he does not appear to have made such a prediction, and the format the prediction was given in was noted as differing from “the way Silver generally presented his analyses,” as reported by Snopes.
Silver, known for his writing with FiveThirtyEight, a site that he founded, as a statistician and “poll-cruncher,” did appear to conclude that Sanders would win the seven, not eight, states after Arizona, and that Clinton would win Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, and Arizona.
— Daniel Kaufman (@iamdankaufman) March 23, 2016
Though Kaufman’s blog carries the title about a Nate Silver prediction of a Bernie Sanders nomination, the body of the post itself is the same material offered by Snopes. Many appear to be sharing articles with misleading titles before reading them, which may be partly responsible for the rumor gaining steam.
In 2008, New York Magazine described Nate Silver as a “number-crunching prodigy” and detailed his ascension from baseball game-picker to presidential election-guru and how he built a “better crystal ball.” The 38-year-old has developed a reputation for “looking at what’s already happened and using that information to predict what will happen next.”
Currently, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton has earned 1,675 delegates against Bernie Sanders‘ 904, as reported by Real Clear Politics. The total number needed to secure the nomination is reported to be 2,382. The Washington primary, scheduled for March 26, offers 101 delegates and 17 super delegates, but even if Silver’s models are correct and Sanders can win the next seven states, Clinton has a significant lead.
For the next 11 states, after the seven Silver has reportedly commented on, an image with Snopes indicates that his models indicate that Sanders will lose eight.
During the 2008 primaries, while still largely unknown, Silver predicted that Hillary Clinton would win in Indiana by two points and lose in South Carolina by 17, in stark contrast with prevailing thought among pollsters at the time. Clinton went on to win Indiana by a slim margin, and lose, like Silver’s models thought she would, by 15 points in South Carolina. Silver’s writing went from averaging 800 views per day to averaging 600,000.
The statistician went on to predict the winner in 49 out of 50 states in the 2008 U.S. presidential election and was named one of Time‘s 100 most influential people of 2009.
Silver continues to write about sports, but politics and global events appear to capture most of his attention at FiveThirtyEight today.
While he is widely followed, Nate Silver has not been without his detractors. The Washington Post has criticized the poll-cruncher for failing to make the code behind his polling models available for others to examine. The publication also noted accusations that Silver’s research is merely “repackaging and commercializing” data gleaned by other established pollsters that is already publicly available.
In August, 2014, Silver was the subject of criticism after tweeting with regard to his empathy for a pair of journalists who were arrested while covering the riots in Ferguson, Missouri. He described an incident where he was arrested near his home, handcuffed, and held in a cell a police station, where police officers, after treating him “pretty rough” finally relented and allowed him to eat a burrito in his cell, before being driven home, as reported by Talking Points Memo.
The following day, Silver followed-up on the tweets he had made comparing his own arrest with journalists covering rioting in Ferguson, calling his own story “trivial” and noting that he had “screwed up.”
2. My story was so trivial as compared to the really awful, unacceptable shit that's going down in Ferguson. I screwed up.
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) August 14, 2014
[Photo by George Frey/Getty Images]