‘F*ck You, We Did a Good Job’: Nate Silver Says People ‘Have False Impressions About How Accurate Polls Are’


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FiveThirtyEight founder Nate Silver responded to critics who accused his site of missing the mark with its 2020 presidential election forecasts, declaring, “Fuck you, we did a good job!”

On the FiveThirtyEight podcast, Wednesday, after host Galen Druke pointed out that the “pitchforks are already coming for the pollsters and the prognosticators,” Silver replied, “If they’re coming after FiveThirtyEight, then the answer is fuck you, we did a good job!”

“The reason why is, look, we are here to provide guidance on how accurate the polls might or might not be, and the whole premise of why Joe Biden was a fairly heavy favorite is that he could withstand a 2016-style polling error or a bit larger,” Silver explained.

“You do want to wait and until states are fully counted, like Ohio got called correctly for Trump but the remaining vote there is going to make the margin lower, so if you do that it looks like the swing state polls will be off by about three points in the average swing state,” he said. “Ranging from some like Arizona where they’re right on and Minnesota, to others where there’s like a six or seven point error, and that’s kind of very similar to 2016.”

Silver argued, “I think it shows increased sophistication that people can say, ‘Okay, maybe you didn’t miscall that many winners,’ right? Like the only states where Biden led in the polling average that he has lost so far is Florida, and I think he’ll lose North Carolina. He might win Georgia, though.”

“On the one hand, you have the 2016 criticism, where maybe the polls were close but they were wrong directionally, and then in 2020 say, ‘Oh, well the polls, I mean they may have been the right call, except in one state, but the margins were off,'” Silver observed. “That’s the better criticism, but you have to pick one of those two. You can’t do both.”

Though Silver noted that he is “concerned about three out of four” election cycles — 2014, 2016, and 2020 — he concluded, “We told you this kind of thing is what happens. It’s not out of bounds. People have false impressions about how accurate polls are.”


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