274.5? 315? A U.S. election apéritif

Colby Cosh works to extract a signal from the noise while offering a lesson from the Alberta election


Mr. Overrated

I hope, though I doubt, that Nate Silver’s performance during the stretch drive of the Massachusetts special Senate election will finally lead to him being downgraded from “All-seeing HAL-9000-esque quantitative wizard” to “Just another guy with a computer”. Armed only with the traditional maxims of psephological interpretation, which teach that a late polling break away from the incumbent party is a very unfavourable omen, one could have figured out ten days ago that repulsive Democratic candidate Martha Coakley was in a heap of trouble. Silver, with his revolutionary disregard for everything but the polling numbers, was still arguing as late as Thursday afternoon that Coakley was the clear favourite; he changed his mind at midnight that evening and acknowledged that Scott Brown had a puncher’s chance.