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Nate Silver: Race, Prediction and the US Election

Math whiz and baseball fan Nate Silver was mainly known for predicting outcomes in fantasy ballgames — until his technique hit a home run calling the outcome of the 2008 election primaries. He’s now a mainstream political pundit with two book deals.

Nate Silver on Prediction and Race at TED 2009

Nate starts off by talking about how big of a win Obama had in 2008’s US elections. He asks, “what’s the matter with Arkansas?” Wondering why it is that certain US states never vote for democrats.

We have negative connotations about Arkansas, typically it’s something like, “rednecks with guns“. We think it’s a problem of race, are we stigmatizing? Well, yes, and he sets out to prove that statistically it is.

One of the classic polling questions for the last couple presidential elections in the US has been:

“In deciding your vote for president today, was the race of the candidates a factor?”

The answers to this poll question have been indicative for which areas of the US tend to vote certain ways.

Is racism predictable? What is the deciding factor? Income, religion, education, etc…
Education is, so is the degree of rural vs urban setting you live in. So, yes, racism is predictable.

The General Social Survey, asks “Does anyone of the opposite race live in your neighborhood?” And, the answers to this are stratified upon density: In the city, yes. In the suburb, mainly yes. In rural areas, not nearly as much.

It turns out that people who live in monoracial areas are twice as less likely to approve multiracial marriages.

The goal is to facilitate interaction with people of other races. Nate is a big fan of cities, because they give a great opportunity for connecting with other cultures of other races. You end up having more tolerant communities. He also says that urban design is hugely important: grids vs the windy streets in many parts of suburbia, where grids are better. At the end of the day, he says cul de sacs lead to conservatives, which is a bad thing to him as well.

1 Comment

  1. Sorry Hash but Nate Silver not only nailed the primaries, HE WAS THE MOST ACCURATE IN PREDICTING THE 2008 ELECTION RESULT, and was recognized as one of only three reputable polling outfits that was able to do so…..www.fivethirtyeight.com…..is now the gold standard for political junkies.

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