US Insights

Nate Silver: Start embracing uncertainty

Ross Tucker

Executive Editor Kantar US Insights

Politics 11.15.2016 / 03:30


An increasingly fragmented society means getting comfortable with uncertainty.

If the election proved one thing to Nate Silver it's that people need to get more comfortable with uncertainty.

Silver, the founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight, presented the keynote address at Kantar's FragmentNation conference in New York City on November 15, offering an explanation of his election forecast and the broader ramifications of Trump's win.

"I've never seen so much polarization in terms of the reaction we got from people over the past week," said Silver. "On the one hand, we had Clinton as the favorite. On the other hand, most people wouldn't have given Trump a 30% chance to win."

This 30% chance of a Trump victory was, clearly, underestimated by almost everyone. More to the point, it was largley unexplained. Silver acknowledged it's difficult to assess exactly how people interpret a graphic like this from FiveThirtyEight:

Trumpclinton 538

What is clear, however, is that many discounted the amount of uncertainty in these and other numbers.

"People underestimate how much and how quickly the world can change, especially in politics," said Silver.

Polls are far from perfect, and Silver believes consumers should have been more prepared to consider the alternative possibilities those numbers suggested. And while polls will always be imperfect, the data clearly shows that "the conventional wisdom is worse than polls," he said.

Silver believes education level is the single most important differentiator between voters. Trump was able to capture the Midwest thanks largely to white voters without college degrees. Democrats rely heavily on African American turnout in those states to win, something that didn't happen for Clinton.

"The combination of those two things was quite harmful to Clinton in these states," said Silver of the Midwestern states.

The 2018 election cycle will also prove to be challenging for Democrats, particularly in the Senate. Silver believes the party will have to focus on Democratic races for the House and state governor races. This likely gives Trump a solid four years with his party in the driver's seat.

"You do have to hit rock bottom as a party, sometimes, before recovering," said Silver.


Source: Kantar

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