Elections forecaster Nate Silver, who runs the website FiveThirtyEight.com, and conservative firebrand Dinesh D’Souza engaged in a bit of a back-and-forth on Twitter Sunday regarding the topic of how math works.
D’Souza sent a tweet out, citing an article from the Hill. The article detailed the chances of either major political party winning the House of Representatives following this Tuesday’s midterm elections.
Speaking on the “odds” that Democrats could win control, Silver pointed to his site’s methods of analysis. “The range of outcomes in the House is really wide,” he said in an interview on ABC’s This Week. “Our range, which covers 80 percent of outcomes, goes from, on the low end, about 15 Democratic pickups, all the way to low to mid 50s, 52 or 53.”
While Democrats had a much higher chance of winning — as of Sunday afternoon, FiveThirtyEight projects a 5-in-6 chance of a Democratic Party victory in the House — there was a small chance based on his models that the Republicans could retain control.
“[N]o one should be surprised if they only win 19 seats and no one should be surprised if they win 51 seats,” Silver explained. “Those are both extremely possible, based on how accurate polls are in the real world.”
Welcome to our Election Update for Sunday, Nov. 4! https://t.co/WYG9mh721u— FiveThirtyEight (@FiveThirtyEight) November 4, 2018
The Hill article from above, however, took some liberties in titling its post reporting on the interview with Silver. The article, entitled “Nate Silver says Dems could retake House, or not: ‘Both extremely possible,'” made it seem as though either outcome was equally possible.
Perhaps that’s how D’Souza took it as well. In his tweet, the far-right conservative took aim directly at Silver, describing past mistakes he allegedly made in making similar predictions in the past.
“And just like that, an 80 percent chance for Democratic takeover of the House goes to 50-50,” D’Souza wrongly stated in his tweet. “Nate Silver’s polling operation can’t survive a second embarrassment of the magnitude he suffered in 2016.”
In fact, FiveThirtyEight predicted in 2016 that Hillary Clinton would win the election with a 71 percent certainty. But that doesn’t mean the outside chance of a Trump win wasn’t possible — he had close to a 29 percent chance of winning the Electoral College, which he did end up doing.
The predictions by FiveThirtyEight in this regard didn’t mean that Trump was going to lose, but simply that he had a higher chance of losing than winning. The same is being predicted of Republicans’ chances of winning the House on Tuesday, that Democrats are more likely (but not with 100 percent certainty) to win.
Silver tweeted directly to D’Souza on the subject, pointedly suggesting that the commentator didn’t have any idea what he was talking about.
“I wish I could forgive you from not knowing how math works, but some things are truly unpardonable,” Silver wrote in his tweet.